Dienstag, September 02, 2008

An Effective Strategy...

Intelligence work isn't limited to simply finding out what the other guy is doing.

It can be significantly more subtle than that, but also much harder to actually do.

While most intelligence work is based on finding out, indeed, what the other guy is doing (and counterintelligence work is not letting him do so easily...), there are other areas of work: influencing foreign governments and public opinion by, for instance, spreading stories that try to bend public opinion in one or another direction to gain influence on public policies, as well as what are called "agents of influence" that actively work to help make those opinions.

The key is to do this behind the scenes, using pre-existing loyalties, prejudices and antipathies to generate enthusiasm for your country's positions, ideally without the people being influenced being even able to determine that indeed they are being manipulated.

This article brought this back to mind, and back to one aspect of the Cold War that really has continued largely without pause.

Now, when looking at intelligence work and this kind of "dark" operations, the role of strategic operations comes into play. This isn't about, say, identifying a specific target, but rather a very generalized one of creating and/or reinforcing opinions and antipathies, invariably based on the ignorance of the person or group being targeted. This can work very well for the relatively incurious or those whose native intelligence is not equaled by the quality of their critical facilities (which is a nice way of saying that someone may be smart, but can't effectively judge whether the information they are working on is actually "true" or has been manipulated in such a way to lead one to a conclusion).

This is highly political work, and you need a cadre of people who are dedicated and committed to manipulating public opinion and who see absolutely nothing wrong in doing so, since it is indeed, after all, the Party who determines what is "true" and what is not.

The problem is when democracy is based on the expectation that while everyone tries to put the best light on their position, no one actually uses outright lies deliberately.

I think it is safe to say that socialism of all kinds is, in this day and age, effectively dead. The "true" proponents of this failed system of economics and politics - of the state ownership of the means of production and the absolute irreversibility of the historical process, coupled with the need for the masses to be led by an elite - led to the mass deaths in Russia and China, as well as the ruin of their respective economies. And let's not even get started on the ecological catastrophes of Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as the ongoing catastrophe of the Chinese ecology: socialism simply doesn't function, because it can't. That should have been the lesson of the Cold War, at the very least. It has always led to a worsening of economic development, always. It does not, cannot develop otherwise. There is no socialism with a human face, just socialism that isn't as immediately destructive.

But the lesson hasn't been learned: too many people made it too much a part of their lives and are simply incapable of changing. This is the true legacy of the Cold War, the Socialist Residue. It's a poisonous residue for society and the economy as a whole, but there are those who thrive by propagating the old lies and by reviving and stoking the old hopes of something for nothing and that everyone deserves some sort of government largesse.

But let's get back to agents of influence and strategic intelligence work.

To paraphrase Lenin: Who benefits?

Indeed, looking at that article, who benefits from a Germany that does not pull its own weight, but rather is increasingly the weak link in NATO and that loose group of political alliances and expediencies called "The West"?

Who benefits from a severely pacifistic Germany that is incapable not only of fielding meaningful troops but also incapable of partaking on the international political arena in a way anywhere near the role it should play based on the size of its economy?

The Russians. Neutralizing Germany as a part of the West was a long-term goal for the KGB.

Well, it seems that their work is slowly, every so slowly, coming to fruition.

This has been an effective strategy, but one that has literally taken decades to work. This is what stymied the Soviets: they tried to force the transition of Germany to a pacifistic country, one that could be persuaded to become dependent on Soviet supplies of energy - and if you do not think that this whole aspect was not deliberately planned, then you know nothing of the history of the 1970s and 1980s and the Cold War - and one where public opinion could be relatively easily manipulated and turned against the US.

It's been an effective strategy, it just took longer than anyone thought. The apologists for Russia's march into Georgia are very much part of the German Social Democrats, who were carefully and deliberately targeted by the KGB during the Cold War. The influence is obvious, as is also shown in the article I link to above:

Former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder successfully tapped into anti-American feelings when he disagreed with Washington's Iraq policy and tried to sabotage it. Mr. Schröder also pushed for closer ties with Russia while insisting on toothless diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear program.

His successor, Angela Merkel, has had only limited success in reversing those polices. After all, Mr. Schröder's former chief of staff, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is her foreign minister.

It's not so much that the KGB has been so successful, but rather that the memes of anti-American KGB propaganda have flourished among the disaffected, amongst the losers of the death of socialism: I put forth the proposal that anyone supporting socialism cannot do so honestly and intelligently without recognizing the abysmal failure of the same, and that to continue to support such a failed policy is a combination of cynical opportunism with a fundamental dishonesty, of deliberately leading a new generation onto a path of failure and poverty in the plain and simple name of power.

There are no real upsides to any sort of rebirth of socialism in Germany or anywhere else for that matter: there are only downsides.

But as we increasingly see, the core of Russian foreign policy is a zero-sum game. Black and white, without nuances, a pure power struggle in a day and age that should have put such naked aggressions and blatant dishonesties on the garbage pile of history. Where they belong.

It is an effective strategy for Russia to actively and deliberately interfere with its neighbors and competitors in order to weaken them and prevent them from being strong: it is, of course, for those involved, the worst possible outcome. Recognizing this is critical in order to be able to work against such agents of influence.

And Russian apologists for Georgia are clearly such. The problem is: they have become part and parcel of the German political scene, and it is fundamentally up to the conservative parties in Germany to fight them. But that is a fight that they wish to avoid, as it is one that, in the short term, is damaging in a way that makes it hard work. The German national passion for consensus is a hindrance here.

Like I said, it is an effective strategy...

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