The election of US presidents serves as a proxy for the Syrian conflict and we may never know the full truth about who’s behind Assad’s atrocities
5. In US politics, Russian interference isn’t about whether a crime has been committed; it’s about who committed it
The Trump administration can pretend that Vladimir Putin doesn’t hate America, but American politics is about a reckoning. Will the fact that Putin backed Trump in the electoral process define future relations between the two nations?
The US’s dependence on Russia as a reliable partner in Afghanistan meant that Putin’s interest in keeping an elected US leader in power was immediately clear. Whatever misgivings some former secretaries of state have about Trump’s economic policies or foreign policy, they aren’t worried about his “warm” ties with the Russian president. In many ways, though, Trump is his own worst enemy, given his own record of business and personal transgressions and ties to multiple national security organisations.
When she spoke, Biden said that Russia’s attacks on American elections, its interference in Ukraine and Crimea and its attacks on democracy worldwide, “completely ignore the fact that Putin had to be absolutely certain that Trump would take the Republican Party line” in order to back his candidate.
Just as importantly, much of what has been pointed out in the press about why Putin backed Trump, such as his position on Nato and the idea that his election victory was due to racism and misogyny, makes no sense. America’s voting system doesn’t have any way of indicating whether Trump received the majority of votes cast for the Republican party. The election of American presidents serves as a proxy for the Syrian conflict and we may never know the full truth about who’s behind Assad’s atrocities.
4. Money and a free press are still the world’s greatest tools for bringing change
Just because you can’t see what happens in Washington, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen
A sombre moment followed Biden’s remarks, as Trump was being sworn in. A group of photographers gathered in the White House press room, worried their official media credentials were going to be revoked. Should Trump or any future president decide that these press photographers, or any other news organization, will no longer have access to the White House, the consequences would be severe.
Reporters in the White House press room: ‘it’s gotten to be so bad’ Read more
In a 2014 World Press Freedom Day speech, Obama addressed the issue. “For too long in the US, some commentators have tried to marginalize the importance of media to our democracy, but the truth is that the power of a free and independent press is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to hold government accountable,” he said. “When a terrorist tries to keep the press in the dark, it undermines our ability to keep our communities safe.”
It may not be possible to hold a leader accountable for his or her actions by means of direct public outcry. The US is very fortunate that the electoral process doesn’t make it the primary means of doing so. It’s also fortunate that America’s free press keeps the government in check, but to fully rely on that is to totally overestimate the impact of an electoral process of which many are so proud.
3. The only way to take down a dictator like Assad is with a fully functioning democracy
“Syria has been in a mess for many years, a big mess,” Biden said. Assad’s is a regime composed of military strongmen who uphold a military dictatorship, which has consistently accused the US of backing terrorism. The US has a strong interest in a democracy, but the longer Assad’s regime remains in power, the greater the risk that a violent dictator who may even be more barbaric than Assad might emerge.
Biden argued that it is much easier to topple a political dictator than it is to bring a country like Syria, a dictatorship united by a traditional dictatorship, to a functional democracy. “Russia did not go into Ukraine and kill 20,000 people in 30 days,” he said.
Successful democracy requires the consent of the governed. If Washington weren’t able to effectively challenge Putin and the oligarchs, we wouldn’t have seen Egypt or, to a lesser extent, Vietnam overturned through non-violent protests.
The solution? Staying focused on the liberal principles enshrined in the US constitution, while building a broad-based movement to bring about a just society.