Trump is unusual in that he seems untouched by wilderness, by the awe and humility that comes from the encounter with nature. He only drives around golf courses, which, though sometimes lovely, are dominated, artificial forms of nature.
.. According to one type, character was forged by tilling the land; according to another it was forged by being tested by the land; and in another it was formed by being cleansed by the land. These types wove together to form the American mythos.
- .. The second ideal was the Pioneer. This is the person who pushes against the wilderness and develops skill, courage and virility. This is the daring innovator who ushers progress by venturing to the edge of the known.
- .. The third ideal was the Elevated Spirit. This is the person who slips off the conformist materialism of commercial society and is both purified and enlarged by nature’s grandeur. This is John Muir in Yosemite, Ansel Adams in the Grand Canyon... Most people say that most of America’s problems are pre-political. What’s needed is a revival of values, fraternity and a binding American story.
I fear we’re seeing the end of ‘truth’ — that we simply can’t agree any more on basic facts. And I fear that we’re becoming Sunnis and Shiites — we call them ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans,’ but the sectarianism that has destroyed nation-states in the Middle East is now infecting us.”
.. Seidman argued, “then there is no legitimate authority and no unifying basis for our continued association.”
The starkest aspect of Comey’s prepared statement was the president’s lack of curiosity about the long-running, deep-reaching, well-executed and terrifyingly effective Russian attack on American democracy. This was raised more than once in the hearing — that after Trump was briefed in January on the intelligence community’s report, which emphasized ongoing activity directed by the Kremlin against the United States, he has not subsequently evinced any interest in what can be done to protect us from another Russian assault. The president is interested in his own innocence, or the potential guilt of others around him — but not at all in the culpability of a foreign adversary, or what it meant. This is utterly astonishing.
.. Even if the president and his team were correct, and the Comey testimony definitively cleared the president of potential obstruction of justice or collusion charges — even if that were true, that does not also exonerate Russia. Nonetheless, this is a line the president seems to want drawn.
1. No matter what is true or not, we have moved toward the fractured, inward-looking, weakened America that President Putin wants to see.
.. The Russian narrative is increasingly being echoed by far right media, and finding its way into mainstream conservative media. Episodes of violent unrest, and the potential for wider chaos, don’t seem far off.
.. Meanwhile, no one seems to be watching what Russia is still doing to us. No one is systematically speaking about the tactics of Russian hybrid warfare, and that these go beyond “fake news” and “hacking” into far-reaching intelligence operations and initiatives to destabilize Western countries, economies and societies. No one is talking about how Russia provides training for militants and terrorists in Europe, even as U.S. generals say it is supporting the Taliban as it attacks American forces in Afghanistan. No one is leading a unified effort to roll back Russian influence in Europe or Asia or the Middle East. No one is commenting on Russia’s new efforts to entrench its presence near eastern Ukraine, escalate the fighting there and destabilize the government in Kyiv.
.. Even behind closed doors, Trump reportedly did not once mention Russia to the NATO heads of state — not to discuss Russian attacks against our allies, and not to discuss Russia’s menacing of NATO skies, seas and borders. Instead, he browbeat our allies. Maybe it’s news to the White House — but it was Russia’s aggression, not Trump’s hectoring, that inspired the alliance to boost national military spending.
.. the president’s tirades against countries hosting our men and military assets — Qatar, South Korea, Germany, etc. — complicate our ability to execute on-task.
.. A constantly misunderstood narrative was revisited during the Comey hearing — questions about whether Russian actions “changed” the vote. The focus on whether this means Russia physically changed votes is the greatest diversion tactic of all. Ironically, D.C.’s political class — whose existence is based upon the ability to deploy narratives that get some people to vote, and others not to — refuses to admit that outside interests could change a small percentage of votes in the Rust Belt.
.. If the Trump campaign itself has openly discussed its use of data-backed information operations to conduct targeted voter-suppression campaigns, possibly at the individual level — why would we believe the Russians wouldn’t be experimenting with the same tools and tactics?
.. In fact, you can track the radical changes in the belief of certain narratives during the time period Comey identified as when the most intensive Kremlin-led activities were underway (beginning in summer 2015 through present day). During this time frame, Republican views on free trade agreements dropped 30 points, from roughly the same as Democrats to radically divergent (Democratic views remained relatively steady). Putin’s favorability rating increased
.. An isolationist America that is softer on Russia and more in favor of authoritarian traits in leaders fits right into the narratives that the Kremlin nurtures and spends billions to promote. And if views changed so dramatically on these aspects of Russian narratives — why is it we believe their efforts didn’t change any votes?
.. This tactic works because it prays on doubts and grievances that are already present — as the best information warfare does. Truth doesn’t matter. Once we know how we feel about something, who cares what the truth is? And information is just one act of Russia’s shadow war.
.. And yet the most concise encapsulation of the Russian concept of hybrid warfare — the chart depicting the “Gerasimov doctrine,” developed by the Russian chief of the general staff — shows that information warfare is the constant through all phases, and that the ideal ratio of nonmilitary to military activities is 4:1. The more important war is, by far, the shadow war.
In 1898, as you point out, the United States burst from being a continental empire, if you want to call it that, within North America to taking territory overseas for the first time in those countries that you mentioned. This was a huge turning point for the United States, and everybody that studies American history is aware of this episode.
.. As for Andrew Carnegie, he was a great believer in the principles of America. And in his famous article denouncing American expansion, he wrote, with what face shall we hang in the school houses of the Philippines our own Declaration of Independence and yet deny independence to them? The United States paid $20 million to Spain to buy the Philippines.
Andrew Carnegie offered to pay the U.S. Treasury $20 million to buy the Philippines so he could set the Philippines free and give them independence.
.. Teddy Roosevelt definitely believed that war was the only condition of life that was worth living, that peace was only for (unintelligible) jellyfish who had no place in the great American nation.
He wanted to go out and fight. Even when he sent his sons to fight in World War I, he wrote that he hoped they’d come back missing a few limbs. The business factor was also huge back in 1898 and has continued to be.
.. We’ve twisted ourselves into pretzel-like shapes over many years trying to explain what is Puerto Rico and what is Guam compared to the United States? And we do this because we can’t use the word colony. We can’t call them colonies, so they have to be dependencies, territories, commonwealth, free-associated state. We’ve gone through a whole vocabulary – a whole lexicon of vocabulary in order to get through this difficult minefield.