Russian media coverage of the fall of Aleppo and its aftermath is examined by Ilya Lozovksy in the Atlantic Monthly. She notes that the subsequent assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey seemed to have a message for Moscow. His shouted motivation – ‘Don’t forget Aleppo!’ and ‘We die in Aleppo, you die here’ – featured prominently in Western accounts of the incident.
‘But it was conspicuously absent in the Russian press’, says Lozovksy. ‘One segment on Russia’s state-run Vesti news program included interviews with witnesses and even showed footage of the gunman yelling at the cameras, but provided no audio or translation. Another investigation into the killer’s background, in which the anchor noted that “there are many versions” of what may have driven him and that “all must be investigated”, cited theories advanced by Turkish officials that he had been associated with the anti-government Gülen movement, but failed to mention Aleppo’.
Lozovksy writes that these and other stories about the assassination never failed to echo the line set by Putin and other senior officials: that the attack was a cowardly blow against Russia for taking on international terrorism, a savage response to a mission whose righteousness was self-evident.
‘Don’t blame technology’ is the heading over an analysis of Russian hacking by Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov for Suddeutsche Zeitung, which appears in an English translation on the Eurozine website.
‘Western intelligence agencies and security firms suspect the Russian hacker groups Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear of being behind the breach of
the network of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign and the publication of internal documents’, the authors write. ‘They clearly have the latest (often expensive) technologies at their disposal; they are not working in pursuit of financial interests, instead concentrating on politically relevant information that is in line with the Kremlin's aims. In the past both groups had successfully hacked government institutions, technology and energy companies and research institutions (among others) in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia’.
But this time, they argue, one thing was different: ordinary Americans had grown accustomed to seeing the Democrats as the country's elitist establishment, not just a political party. ‘Thus the leaks added another layer to the picture of the alleged corruptness of their country's existing political system (including the mainstream media) that many ordinary Americans already had in their minds’.
Donald Trump’s unexpected victory prompted Vivian Gornick to take a book off the shelves that had sat unread there for some 25 years. ‘As I believe we read the books we read when we need to read them’, Gornick writes in the Boston Review, ‘I felt as though this one had been waiting for me all these years. Finally its moment had come’. The title of the book was ‘The Honey and the Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia in Ancient Athens and Modern America’ (1991) by cultural anthropologist Eli Sagan.
Gornick writes: ‘In this book, Sagan argues that while ancient Athens is remarkable for having enjoyed two centuries of thriving democracy, it also provides a naked example of the various corruptions the system could sustain, including slavery, poverty, endless warfare, and the ever-threatening “fickleness, arbitrariness, and irrationality” of the demos itself. In short, democracy was no safeguard against the pain humanity remained capable of inflicting on itself’.
An extraordinarily bleak forecast of the Trump presidency appears in the new edition of American Prospect by Professor Jeremi Suri of the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. It is headed ‘Blustering Towards Armageddon: How Donald Trump will take America to war’.
Suri’s case is that Trump is not interested in policy detail, expertise, or experience. ‘He bases his personal power on the very kinds of blustering rhetoric and muscular posturing that have caused so many problems for American policy in the past. Although Trump’s positions on various international issues remain uncertain, his attitude toward foreign policy is clear and consistent: He will act unilaterally, using threats to intimidate allies and adversaries, and he will make deals with other tough guys, particularly Putin. Trump believes that by displaying strength he will deter challengers abroad as he has at home, and he expects that he can control the crises he creates to cow opponents and prevent war. He will use bluff, bluster, and even a little “madness” to keep others off balance, to control the
international agenda, and, ultimately, to extort maximum benefits for
the United States’.
Suri believes that Trump will quickly and irretrievably lose control, finding himself pressured to pursue unwanted wars to preserve the very image of toughness that will get him into trouble in the first place. ‘We are witnessing the rapid demise of the American-led world order that for 70 years averted war among the largest states’, he writes. ‘The next few years, perhaps just the first year of the Trump presidency, will bring us to a dangerous new precipice in multiple parts of the globe. America doesn’t face the risk of war in just one theater of conflict. Under President Trump, the United States faces that risk in at least four separate theaters’. Suri names Europe as one of them.