A Tale of Two Coups: Moscow 1991 and Washington 2016
The other day, I received an email from a schoolgirl in Moscow: New Year's salutations, thanks for a gift, and a request that read:
"Get your troops out of Poland; love, your Russky niece."
I laughed at her presumption about my influence on U.S. troop movements. At the same time, I couldn't help but think of her mother, Tatyana Arkadyevna Malkina, "the girlfriend of Russian democracy." Apparently, true grit is genetic, that rare courage of a few to speak truth to power.
Malkina was the sole journalist who, at age 24, had the courage to defy the Kremlin establishment, recidivist coup-plotters who would have undone the Russian elections, that "revolution without guns," in 1991; those Gorbachev, then Yeltsin, reforms. The ancien régime, totalitarian Communists, were humiliated by a girl who had the courage to face down the old guard and ask: "Could you please say whether or not you understand that last night you carried out a coup d'état?"
Faced with an accusation of sedition and treason, the coup-plotters slunk back into the dustbin of history. The long dark night of totalitarian Communism was over in Russia.
Since 1991, Tanya Malkina pursued a distinguished career in Russian arts and letters, reporting on social issues, editing a culture magazine, and hosting a thoughtful TV weekly.
Tanya later married an American. She now has two children, two cats, and a vintage tortoise. Although Malkina was once a fixture of the Yeltsin, then Putin, press entourage; she has never been a knee-jerk echo of Kremlin cant nor any party line.
Hot flashes of déjà vu
The events of 1991 and Malkina's brass got me to thinking about American coup-plotting in Washington circa 2016 – the efforts of Beltway establishment totalitarians to cook the primaries, undo an election, and discredit a new president, all under a smokescreen of dissent and fake news.
The parallels between Moscow in 1991 and Washington in 2016 are a tale of two coups, the first a clear failure and the latter still playing out.
Alas, the Trump revolution has no "girlfriend of American democracy." Not yet, anyway.
The feminist American left now whines and protests in Washington, captive to a bimbo's tantrum over a flawed heroine who lost badly in November. Sexist hysteria, hypocrisy, childish pique, misandry, and sour grapes are now regularly conflated with principled dissent. Geriatric Hollywood matrons like Madonna Ciccone say they are thinking about "blowing up the White House."
Hysteria, indeed! American feminists have few adult profiles in courage like Malkina today.
And the CIA, unlike the late KGB, also stages public rebukes to the new POTUS and erstwhile notions of American democracy. For good or ill, Russian intelligence operatives at home, unlike their American counterparts, seem to be under civilian control.
Ironically, some of the best political analysis on these matters comes out of the Kremlin these days. Sergei Lavrov, contrasted with John Kerry, seems to know the difference between an Islamic terrorist and a freedom-fighter. And Vladimir Putin is perceptive enough to observe that Obama's political party, and an American press corps that calls itself "democratic," is giving democracy a bad name.
And when Obama's intelligence sycophants are called out by Donald Trump for partisanship during the recent primaries and the election, CIA director John Brennan (pictured) plays the victim, openly attacking the president-elect before and after the inauguration. Prior to the election, Brennan's colleagues, James Clapper (DCI), Michael Morrel (CIA), and Michael Hayden (NSA), were all on the hustings for Hillary Clinton right up to her November defeat.
Clearly, the CIA is signaling the 15 other intelligence satraps that the "dump Trump" campaign should continue into 2017. Brennan has cooked the books on the Islamic threat for eight years. Small wonder that he seeks to torpedo the realpolitik of Mike Flynn and Donald Trump.
CIA partisans, unlike Caesar's wife, are not above reproach.
Washington, D.C. voted for Clinton in November by wide margins. A demographic of hostile federal apparatchiks, including intelligence officers and FBI agents, are digging in as Donald Trump takes office.
Beltway national security nabobs, inveterate regime change aficionados, are now on the wrong side of world history. With any luck, the coup-plotters are also on the wrong side of Donald Trump – and in the crosshairs.
If the president intends to drain the swamp, he could do worse than start with sedition in the intelligence community and the Justice Department. The first great political struggle of 2017 may be with a partisan, D.C.-based Fifth Column inside the Beltway.
The losers' revolt is not confined to the intelligence community. State Department and Department of Defense fixers have done their level best to paint Trump into a corner at the U.N. and in Eastern Europe. That U.N. vote against Israel and those 11th-hour tank deployments to Poland come to mind.
I do not have an answer for Malkina's daughter, Agatha, in Moscow, or her prescient observation about the stupidity of U.S. tanks in Poland. Was it my choice to make, I would send troops to Chicago, Illinois or Langley, Virginia sooner than send them to the Russian frontier.
After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, John Kennedy is alleged to have expressed a desire to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces." After Kennedy was assassinated, such sentiments were seconded by Harry Truman. Indeed, Truman expressed profound regret about the rogue agency he had created. The Truman warning, like later Eisenhower cautions, were early symptoms of national "security" corruption, clandestine cowboys, and regime change fiascos.
The Chicago threat is existential, especially to black Americans. Pervasive sedition in the American intelligence community may be existential, too, especially to democracy in America. The Russian threat, at best, is a ploy to ignore the Islamist threat; Putin, on his worst day, is a U.S. DOD budget emolument.
Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Truman must be rolling in their graves today. Coup vultures have come home to roost inside the Beltway.
As new American policy unfolds in 2017, let's hope that Trump has adults calling domestic and foreign policy shots. Withal, we might hope that America finds its own girlfriend of democracy, too.
Sooner is better.
G. Murphy Donovan is a former USAF intelligence officer who writes about the politics of national security. The "girlfriend of Russian democracy," circa 1991, can be seen in action here.