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Our most severe National Security threat is our failure to protect our true National Identity
Hyper-partisanship and extremism = loss of our Republic, as our Founders envisioned it
Today’s piece in the Atlantic by Brian Klaas is very much worth the read. Well done, Brian. Although Brian discusses the absolutely lunacy of current far-right movements and their extremism, I will build on his content and express what I believe to be a far more insidious and dangerous threat. For the record, this topic will also be a recurring theme on TAT for the near future, or until we as a nation, move past this foundational threat.
The threat is not just extremism, which is merely the most prominent symptom of the threat. The threat is mass manipulation of audiences. The current far-right wave of extremism could just as easily be far-left, communist, nationalist, populist or any other of the types of mass movements, but at the moment, they are not." The bottom line here is that the US and many other like-minded allies and partners, are just as threatened as we are. At the moment, the US national security community is impotent to protect us and our allies/ partners. We are unarmed on the battlefield of influence.
This threat is every bit as complicated as it is dysfunctional at the national security level. I have written on it extensively in the past. The link at the end of the last paragraph is one example. When there is a somewhat Pavlovian dynamic over huge segments of our society by adversarial and immoral influencers, it is by default, a severe threat.
I will not get into the details of how today’s Republican party became subservient to a MAGA/ extremist movement today. This would require a book series. Let’s just assume for the sake of today’s article that this is accurate. As evidence, I offer the content that Brian has contributed to his Atlantic Magazine article: “Conspiratorial Thinking Is an American Disease.” My only disagreement with Brian’s work is that today’s “Conspiratorial Thinking” is global, not uniquely American. The evidence of this is the global wave of populism and extreme nationalism over the past decade or so. Trump, Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Orban’, Meloni etc. All have one primary factor connecting them, Putin’s Russia.
Now, as an experienced practitioner of influence and a long-time teacher, mentor and author on this topic, I am raising this warning, in this manner, because national security leadership refuses to act on modern, cutting-edge knowledge and innovation. Our adversaries have not made this mistake. Before anyone loses their mind over the mention of Trump and Putin in the same sentence, I will remind everyone that his connectivity to Putin dates back decades and extends through his presidency. Putin though, does not get all of the credit, it's been a hallmark objective of Soviet and Russian operations for decades, to undermine western, liberal democracy.
They have done this for the simple reason, that it’s an ancient and accurate military axiom that weakening your enemy is a critical element of your success. NATO and related organizations have been the most significant deterrent to an aggressive Soviet Union and Putin’s Russia. Still, Putin is not the only aspect of the manipulation of audiences. It’s our own lack of national resilience. We have domestic actors and political leadership who are capitalizing on this threat for their own selfish, anti-American reasons. Kowtowing to Putin for the past 7 years by the Trump administration is the perfect example of how dangerous this lack of resilience is.
We have one set of American values, which constitute the core of our resilience, if tended, like a farmer tends crops in the field. We do not do this from a national security perspective. Our NSS, National Security Strategy is a narrative of those values required to mitigate our threats, but severe polarization and the redefining of those values by the far-right have obstructed the unity of our nation over our true values. Divide and conquer, another ancient military axiom is the key here. Putin and other adversaries have co-opted the current version of the Republican party to divide the nation, for their good, not America’s.
There’s nothing political about this. This is fact, not some unsupported political assault on Republicans. The current party is not led nor dominated by “principled conservatives.” It is led by and subserviently followed by Pavlovian political identities, cultivated by our adversaries. When I say “cultivated” I am talking about how Putin, US billionaires and their political benefactors have for the 26+ of FOX News years, planted the seeds of an unauthentic American identity in the party and tended those crops to maturity. It actually goes back as far as the Goldwater presidential campaign of 1964, that adopted the “Southern Strategy.” The far right is extremist because the defining characteristics of their identity are precisely those “seeds” planted and tended over the past decades.
That the national security community has been unwilling to address this critical vulnerability is beyond unconscionable. This is a topic for another day though, due to its requirement for a very long explanation.
If we are to recover the resilience key to our national security, our values, we must all work towards unifying around our actual values. We must elect leaders that don’t undermine us with false narratives of fake values. We must stop what Brian Klaas has so thoughtfully identified in his article; the normalization of crazy by fake leaders with fake values doing our adversaries work for them.
We must also have a national security community that stops ignoring the requisite for engaging the American people in a narrator/ narrative relationship. Frustratingly, most don’t even understand Narrative Warfare and refuse to learn. This is not just about our leaders in Washington but about every leader from your local pulpit and mayor to the White House. Talking at the people is not the same as honestly talking with them.
Everything I have said in this article is based on my decades of service to the nation and a lifetime of study and observation. Influence is my core competency, and my assertion is that; not only is the US losing on this critical battlefield but, we are barely even on the battlefield in any meaningful way.
Being partisan is NOT an American value. None other than George Washington said so, and I concur.