Let me see if I get this straight. Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans who are looking for jobs, but doesn’t mind if Russia tampers in American elections?
What exactly does he think border security is? A country that can’t secure its elections can’t really be called a country.
Let’s look at the big picture.
In 2001, America was attacked by a ragtag band of international terrorists, and we responded with a disastrous overextension of our military into two distant, hostile regions where we seized and held territory for over a decade.
These wars helped destabilize an already complicated world. Those who mean to do America harm — or who are enemies of things America stands for like democracy, an open society and pluralism — were emboldened, because they thrive on chaos.
There’s no evidence that the Islamic State actually has cells in place in the U.S., but people who are not part of actual Islamic State cells have obviously been inspired to commit attacks in the name of a caliphate, much in the way people who have never met Trump or his campaign staff have used his presidency as a justification for hate crimes. To the extent that we don’t blame Trump for the later, we shouldn’t give the Islamic State credit for the former. Although we must recognize that, in either case, sustained barrages of hateful messages can have human consequences.
One person who recognizes those consequences is Vladimir Putin. It is a matter of record that the Russian government has actively propped up hate groups across Europe, and those groups are now in contact with hate groups in the U.S.
It is exactly the model the Soviets tried to use to infiltrate and support leftist groups in the U.S. during the ‘60s and ‘70s — provide funding and connections to groups who will be a destabilizing influence on the societies they’re in because, and I can’t say this enough, the enemies of democracy, open societies and pluralism thrive in chaos.
The Soviet Union’s efforts were never very successful in America, no thanks to America’s liberals, who for too long bought Soviet propaganda hook, line and sinker. Now Russia is trying to use America’s conservatives as useful idiots. We will all find out, beginning in 2017, how successful this will be.
Make no mistake, American values and interests are under attack by Russia every bit as much as they are by the Islamic State. Where the Islamic State is attempting to radicalize American Muslims and largely failing, Russia is attempting to weaponize America’s white supremacists. Groups like neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan who are already comfortable with violence as a political tactic.
To the extent American white supremacist groups coordinate with other Moscow-funded groups in Europe and have a friendly White House and state houses. They represent a potentially terrifying assault on American institutions.
Russian influence in the U.S. should be taken every bit as seriously as that of drug cartels and al-Qaida. Russian funds should be tracked, and groups that coordinate with Moscow directly or through intermediaries should be carefully monitored and arrested if they appear to be engaged in acts that threaten our electoral processes.
Because that’s what we do, right? We take threats to our security seriously, whether they’re committed by brown people or white people, communists or fascists. Right?
Meanwhile, we must set ourselves to the task of building communities where hate groups cannot find purchase. Because, and this is the new mantra of the world we live in, our enemies thrive on chaos. The more we refuse to fight each other, the more we support each other, the more we create a normal life where nobody has to live in fear, the less power they have over us. The more we say no — a vigorous, clear no — to hate groups being normalized, the less influence the enemies of democracy have on our world.
Going the other direction, refusing to be America’s best self to one another creates less stability in the world and, just like the war in Iraq created the Islamic State, it will come back around to hurt us.
The best way to secure our borders is to look out for the rights of our fellow Americans. America’s future depends on whether we do.