With investigations continuing regarding Russian interference in American elections, Hancock (Unidentified: The National Intelligence Problem of UFOs, 2017, etc.) provides context dating back to Machiavelli.
A veteran analyst of covert actions, the author doesn’t judge according to right or wrong, let alone good or evil. He works under the assumption that this is the way that power sustains, defends, and extends itself, and he generally sees the Russian intelligence initiatives in the wake of the Cold War and the Soviet breakup as the mirror image of America’s perspective after World War II. The United States feared that communism was destabilizing relations around the world, encroaching on America’s domain and establishing beachheads (such as Cuba) within striking distance of its adversary. And now? “Russia would become the champion of stability and the United States would be viewed as the existential threat, the covert sponsor of revolution and regime change,” he writes. In other words, role reversal but business as usual. Hancock shows how age-old tactics have moved into new forms of cybertechnology as governments on both sides have sown disinformation in order to create chaos, as the book’s title puts it. The author also puts suspicions about Russian collusion in the election of Donald Trump into context, showing how such Russian efforts long predated the 2016 election and that they have continued well after. “In short, what we are describing is not meddling in a single election nor positioning one candidate over another,” he writes. “It is a destabilization effort with the overall goal of fragmenting the American public and inserting chaos into the political system…the same sort of campaign that Russia had consistently accused Western democracies of conducting against the independent republics and Russia itself.” Though some might find some of the charges startling, the plodding prose and matter-of-fact tone never veer toward sensationalism.
All is fair in war, as this straightforward history demonstrates, even when that war is undeclared and everyone denies everything.