David R. Henderson  

Is Russia's Government Hostile?

PRINT
Varys, Tyrion and limited gove... Enough to Buy Back the Product...

One of the things that I think affects people's view about the Trump administration vis a vis Russia is their view of Russia. In a recent article, my friend Steve Chapman, columnist at the Chicago Tribune, writes:

If this was not collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it was a conscious attempt at collusion with a hostile government on the part of the candidate's son. No wonder Donald Jr. lied about it until his emails were exposed.

So Steve sees the Russian government as hostile. Hostile to whom? He doesn't say, but it seems from context that he means that it's hostile to Americans. Interestingly, he didn't provide even a lick of evidence for that claim.

Usually the term is used to refer to a government that is at war with, or has threatened war with, the United States. The Russian government has done no such thing and, in fact, President Trump and Vladimir Putin have discussed working together to settle things in Syria. That's not what we would normally think of governments doing when they're hostile to each other. (I don't defend their actions. I would have Trump--and Putin--stay the heck out of the Middle East altogether.)

What about spying? Certainly, the Russian government has many spies here. Does one government spying on another mean the spying government is hostile? If so, then one would have to refer to Israel's government as one that is hostile to the United States. I think that misuses language.

Of course the Russian government is hostile to its own citizens in many ways, and the U.S. government is hostile to its own citizens in many ways. Have you been in a TSA line lately? No, this is not "equivalence." It's a simple statement of fact. Would I rather face the U.S. government's hostility to me as a U.S. citizen than the Russian government's hostility to me if I were a Russian citizen? Of course. Which has nothing to do with my point.

Two people I admired greatly, George Orwell and Thomas Szasz, emphasized that words matter. We should use our words carefully. Calling Russia hostile without providing strong evidence does not advance any rational discussion.


Comments and Sharing


CATEGORIES: Foreign Policy




COMMENTS (58 to date)
bill writes:

We do have sanctions against Russia. That doesn't seem friendly. We do have NATO which is at least somewhat still aimed at Russia - I'm guessing that the Russians view that as hostile.

David R. Henderson writes:

@bill,
Good points. So we do have evidence of U.S. government hostility to Russia.

E Smiley writes:

To invoke a Vietnam-era sentiment: "No Russian ever taxed me."

Alex writes:

I'm not referring to this particular case, of which I don't know much, but are you ok with a foreign entity or person giving millions to a presidential candidate for his political campaign, or do you think that should be regulated in some way?

Personally, I'm not sure.

Ryan Murphy writes:

What about Crimea? My memory, which may not be perfect, is that Russia has also committed something close to acts of war against the Baltic States. Treaties the U.S. has signed would demand that America would go to war if Russia actually invaded. That seems pretty enemy-ish to me.

Post Soviet Union Russia has not always had an antagonistic relationship with NATO, and while we can quibble here and there, the reasons why the relations went south were primarily Russia's fault (the war with Georgia). That and the other aggressive actions by Russia are why NATO is now pointed at them.

I'm nothing close to a foreign relations expert, and I prefer a very dovish foreign policy, but "Russia is the enemy and that is Russia's/Putin's fault" seems like the most reasonable reading of events here.

Derek writes:

Russia should be classified as hostile to the United States and its interests as they currently stand. Whether the U.S. should change its interests is something up for debate. By any measure, Russia trying to influence the outcome of the recent election, by helping create leaks hurting one candidate specifically, counts as a hostile act. Russia, along with China, is constantly hostile to our interests on the U.N. Security Council in that they purposefully obstruct many U.S. initiatives: the recent one being the North Korea sanctions for their recent missile test. In Syria, Russia has purposefully undermined the U.S. position by, among other things, continuing to prop up Assad, something the U.S. government has long opposed. They also frequently support state-sponsored cyber attacks on the U.S. and U.S. based companies.
Furthermore, their invasion of Ukraine was considered a hostile act against a nominally neutral nation, something the U.S. viewed as hostile. They often leverage control over their gas supplies to modulate the behavior of other European countries, many of them allies to the U.S., or ones seeking to become allies. I’m sure there are many that I am missing from this list as well. None of this says that the U.S. interests are correct, or that current U.S. interests are not hostile to Russia, as NATO clearly is, however, the fact remains that Russia should be treated as acting hostile to U.S. interests.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Derek,
You’ve given many instances of the Russians doing things that the U.S. government doesn’t like. That doesn’t make Russia hostile to the United States.
As for being hostile to “U.S. interests,” that term is too fuzzy.
@Ryan Murphy,
See my answers to Derek.

JoshPak writes:

David,

your position hinges on the definition of hostile. So if I spit in your face i hope that you can laugh with me and see that my sense of humor my not be the same as yours. My comical interests my not be the same as yours, however.

JoshPak out.

David R. Henderson writes:

@JoshPak,
your position hinges on the definition of hostile.
True.
So if I spit in your face i hope that you can laugh with me and see that my sense of humor my not be the same as yours.
I’m not sure what your point is. Clearly, your spitting in my face is a hostile act towards me.
If you’re saying that the Russian government has done some version of spitting in the U.S. government’s face, you need to specify what it has done to the U.S. government. You haven’t.

Derek writes:

Professor Henderson, while there is certainly a distinction between Russia being hostile to the United States and Russia being hostile to the United States government (the Assad example might be one), there are cases where the two overlap, including several examples I mentioned previously. While Russia does launch cyber operations against the U.S. government, they also do this against private businesses as well. This would make them hostile to the United States. While some, and maybe even most, U.N. Security Council measures do not interest or concern the vast majority of Americans, the North Korea one is pertinent. North Korea having nuclear weapons, specifically ones with a range that can reach the U.S. certainly endangers our own citizens. Russia blocking measures, and not for the first time, that could help alleviate the situation might be considered acting hostile toward the U.S. Trying to manipulate the outcome of a presidential elections I think could be construed as hostile toward the U.S. as well (At least a lot of Hilary supporters presumably think so)
While the other examples do not to a first order seem to affect the average citizen, there are still higher order effects. Russia threatening Baltic States to stop further economic integration with the E.U. could conceivably decrease trade to our country from the Baltic countries. This would be a loss for U.S. citizens. Russia’s actions in Crimea and their leverage over other European states are tricky. The majority of the country views NATO as a benefit for the U.S. and the E.U. is our single largest trading partner. Given this it is not a stretch to say trying to undermine NATO and trying to coerce our largest trading partner are hostile acts to the U.S. though I concede that the last points are up for debate.

Ryan Murphy writes:

Is Russia hostile to the US if it nukes the UK?

I suppose that depends on your definition of "hostile to the US," but if your definition of "hostile to the US" precludes that, I do not think that is a useful definition.

Locke writes:

[Comment removed. Please consult our comment policies and check your email for explanation.--Econlib Ed.]

Thaomas writes:

Hostile to the values of liberal democracy? Yes? Willing to try to influence our politics to further this hostility? Yes.

Shane L writes:

"One of the things that I think affects people's view about the Trump administration vis a vis Russia is their view of Russia."

I tend to think it is the other way around. Attitudes towards Putin among Republicans and Democrats flipped in 2016 as Trump's warmth towards Russia became apparent.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CzpklkoWEAA8J5o.jpg

This suggests that it is tribal loyalty to whoever is in charge in the party that may be driving things. The Republicans had a long-standing concern about Russia as a former Cold War rival, which almost vanished over the course of a few months as Trump aired some pro-Putin views.

Brian writes:

David,

You are absolutely correct in your analysis. Words matter and Chapman doesn't present any evidence that Russia qualifies as a hostile nation.

The reason is obvious--Chapman is making a rhetorical point here, not a factual one. He's basically saying that if collusion with Russia doesn't get you upset, substitute in the words "hostile government" and you should see things his way. It's an emotional argument only. That's kind of disappointing for a magazine like Reason.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Ryan Murphy

Is Russia hostile to the US if it nukes the UK? I suppose that depends on your definition of "hostile to the US," but if your definition of "hostile to the US" precludes that, I do not think that is a useful definition.

Why? Is the UK the US? It seems to me to be the opposite: that if your definition does include the UK, it's not a useful definition. It could, conceivably, be expanded indefinitely.

Hostility to the US should mean hostility to the US, not hostility to those the US is friends with (an exception to this would be interference with a friend for the purpose of causing damage to the other party. For example, a proxy war).

Let me explain by way of example: Assume you live in a neighborhood with two other people: the neighborhood consists of Ryan, Joe, and Jack. Ryan is friends with Joe and Jack. However, Joe and Jack are hostile to each other (but friendly with Ryan). Could one reasonably say that because Jack is hostile to Joe, but Joe and Ryan are friends, Jack must therefore be hostile to Ryan? Such a conclusion is impossible; it's a contradiction. Thus why I think your argument, as highlighted at the beginning on my comment, doesn't make sense.

Antischiff writes:

Dr. Henderson,

I think one problem with many conversations about the Russia threat is that many of us with a realist orientation in foreign policy are exasperated that many others aren't seeing what is obvious.
We see the many Republicans, libertarians, and Bernie supporters as being extraordinarily naive about foreign policy.

As we see it, there is prima facie an international contest to shape balances of power in the favor of specific state actors, alliances, and non-state actors. In this global competition, gains and losses in power and influence are largely fungible across regions and contexts. Hence, losses of influence in Europe or the middle east, for example, hurt the negotiating position of the US in many other regions and contexts.

We see modern diplomacy beginning with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and see the US as having taken over the UK's role in maintaining peace through management of global balances of power after their failures that culminated in two world wars and the loss of their super power status.

For those of us who are realists or neo-realists, the study of international relations centers on power relations between global actors and how they're managed. That means game theory is applied, along with borrowing cartel theory and similar theories of cooperation and competitionfrom economics (think of NATO or OPEC as cartels, for example).

Many with our orientation see Russia as having 2 primary goals on the international stage, and they are related. The first goal is to rebuild the Russian empire, not in the image of the Soviet Union, but more in line with the Czars. Putin is much closer to right-wing fascist than communist. The second goal is to undermine democracy and republican government around the world, replacing it with reactionary authoritarian kleptocracies, enhancing opportunities for Putin's style of plunder globally while helping grow his power and influence.

The reason many Republicans are okay with Putin is ideological, I think. They see him as a strong right-wing reactionary leader who got the best of Bush and Obama, and who opposed equal rights for gays and lesbians, for example, and has little tolerance for dissent. Putin did make fools of Bush and Obama on some fronts, and the US hasn't had great foreign policy leadership in a very long time. Trump, however, in my view, is increasingly looking like an outright traitor, probably for nothing more than personal gain. He's the type of kleptocrat Putin likes, if he'll be as pliable as Putin hoped.

Tom DeMeo writes:

Perhaps he doesn't make a case because Russia and the US have been geopolitical rivals for a few generations now and he sees their hostility as blatantly obvious.

I have to say, your comment about President Trump and Vladimir Putin discussing working together to settle things in Syria was odd, in the same way Trump wondering why we couldn't have worked things out instead of having a Civil War was odd. Syria is an example of how hostility between the US and Russia actually manifests itself.

Of course we can work things out in Syria, as soon as we figure out how to resolve that pesky autocratic regime vs pluralistic democracy thing.

No we don't have wars with Russia. We have proxy wars instead.

Antischiff writes:

Tom DeMeo,

Good comments. We should frankly be killing as many Russians and their proxies as possible in Syria and Ukraine. We are at war with Russia. Most Americans simply don't seem to realize it.

They are directly and indirectly attacking our entire philosophy and system of government in a cynical effort to expand their national and personal financial power. We can't fear this war, but must win it.

Jon Murphy writes:

@antischiff & Tom DeMeo:

I don't understand the points your making. How does having differing goals from the US necessarily mean that Russia is hostile? Individuals have opposing goals all the time and yet few are obviously hostile. A simple example: my grocer wants as much money out of me as possible. I want to pay as little as possible. Our relationship, however, is anything but hostile. In fact, it is symbiotic!

Yes, Russia wants regional power. So does any other country. That in and of itself does not mean Russia is hostile to the US.

The question before us is this: is Russia hostile to the US. We have evidence of US hostility to Russia, Russian hostility to its neighbors, but none thus far in this comments section of Russian hostility to the US. Show me where it's obvious.

Antischiff writes:

Jon Murphy,

Putin overthrew democracy in Russia and has tried to do the same in Ukraine and other countries around the world, including now the US. A world with more Democratic republican governments is a better world generally and one more aligned with our interests. A loss of our influence in Russia's near abroad is the loss of our bargaining leverage, a loss of buffer states in Europe, and hence a commensurate loss in our ability to contain Russia. Putin supports corruption at the top of every world government, because it makes easier for him to buy influence and opportunities to expand his network of grift.

Putin is a thug and a thief and wants every government to emulate his. He is fundamentally opposed to meritocratic government and free trade.

Tom DeMeo writes:

@Jon Murphy

In your analogy with the grocer, he notices a small farm stand at the side of the road along your way home from work, and a series of unfortunate events occur to that farm stand. Was the grocer hostile to you?

I'm not quite buying into the more aggressive point of view described by Antischiff. I'm just saying that the Russia/US relationship perhaps can't be described by a strictly literal interpretation of hostility, but it seems silly to pretend there is none. Lots of people do die in the proxy conflicts.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Tom DeMeo:

In your analogy with the grocer, he notices a small farm stand at the side of the road along your way home from work, and a series of unfortunate events occur to that farm stand. Was the grocer hostile to you?

I'd say no, he was hostile to the farm stand. Now, if he was doing it with the intention of harming me, I'd agree. But that'd require some more evidence than just the fact "some unfortunate events happened."

I get the point you're making; it's clearer now than your original comment. Thank you for that. Now I think we're just discussing standards of evidence.

@antischiff

Like with Tom DeMeo, I think I have a clearer idea of what you're saying. Thank you for that. However, at times it sounds like you're making the case Russia is responding to US hostility, not the other way around.

Brian writes:

Tom DeMeo,

I think the answer to your question is obvious--unless I own the roadside stand, the grocer is not being hostile to me. The grocer is being hostile to the farmer only. Any other interpretation is imagining an intention for harm that does not exist.

Tom DeMeo writes:

@Jon Murphy, Brian

Wow! If you guys insist on this being a game of checkers, then I'm unlikely to change your minds. I will say that the world does have some people, and some nations that play chess...

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

Why wrangle over the word "hostile?"

Why not focus on whether there was a quest for **information** rather than seeking for **participation**?

Are there ADVERSARIAL interests? absolutely.

Go back to the Sankt Petersburg troika headed by Anatoly Sobchak; the quests for power stuctures (to which I had some exposure during the period leading up to the events of 19 years ago yesterday- 7/17); the disposition of Sobchak as power shifted a couple of years later.

In those quests is the "Restoration" of "Russian Greatness" as an objective to support and extend those power structures. The internal resources for "Restoration" have been "seized" or "applied" for one part (oligarchies) of those structures; leaving "Greatness" to become "comparative," leading to the diminution or disruptions of others. Russia should appear "stable" while others are in disarray, insurrections and political malfunctions. As others "lessen" Russia is shown to its people as "Great" again.

In those latter efforts those in the power structures become adversarial through positive actions.

But, we must consider: adversarial to what?
What are we doing "with" our own interests, our own politics, economics and the ways we look upon one another within our own society?

Hazel Meade writes:

In think you are mincing words, especially in the comments here. Russia's interests are opposed to the US in certain ways, and it has done certain things that harm US interests, especially with respect to the Ukraine and the Baltic states. If left unopposed, there is good reason to think that Russia would invade an annex at least parts of the Baltics, who are part of NATO.

It seems to me that "hostile" is as good a word as any to use.

TMC writes:

The relationship is complex. Sometimes our interests coincides with each other, and sometimes they are opposed. Many times these issues are at the same time. Russia is hostile to us at the same time it is helpful in other areas.

As to Trump's email situation, it seems the attorney used the prospect of inside information to get Trump's ear for her cause, but delivered nothing. No hostility there. Even if they did deliver, as long as the information was valid, would that be an 'attack'? Is there a derivative of the whistleblowers law that would be in effect?

Phil N writes:

[Comment removed. Please consult our comment policies and check your email for explanation.--Econlib Ed.]

Andrew Horsman writes:

[Comment removed. Please consult our comment policies and check your email for explanation.--Econlib Ed.]

Jon Murphy writes:

@Hazel Meade

It seems to me that "hostile" is as good a word as any to use.

Aye, but hostile to whom? In your situation, hostile to the Baltic, hostile to Ukraine, but not to the United States.

If you (and Tom DeMeo, for that matter) want to make the argument that the US should intervene to prevent this hostility to the Baltic and Ukraine, that's fine. Make that argument. But to say such hostility is directed at the United States is incorrect.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Jon Murphy,
If you (and Tom DeMeo, for that matter) want to make the argument that the US should intervene to prevent this hostility to the Baltic and Ukraine, that's fine. Make that argument. But to say such hostility is directed at the United States is incorrect.
Well said.

Mark Bahner writes:

It seems pretty clear that Russia's government is hostile...to Republicans anyway. After all, they worked to get Donald Trump elected.

Tanstaafl writes:

@David Henderson,
"Of course the Russian government is hostile to its own citizens in many ways, and the U.S. government is hostile to its own citizens in many ways. Have you been in a TSA line lately?"

So, you are prepared to call the TSA hostile, but not a superpower pointing enough nuclear weapons at the US to destroy life on earth?

You know as well as everybody else that US and Russian interests collide and both sides act on that knowledge. Hostility IS usually mutual. To pretend otherwise seems a bit disingenious, and your friend Steve Chapman has reason to complain about your nitpick

Tom DeMeo writes:

@ Jon Murphy,

Twice you have explicitly associated my name to the arguments of other posters. I have inferred no connection to either.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Tom Demeo

Twice you have explicitly associated my name to the arguments of other posters.

Indeed I have. The reason is because they make the same mistake you make, namely associating hostility with a friend or desired partner of an agent with hostility against the agent itself.

If I have erred, then please correct me, but that is how I understood your "roadside farmer" example.

Jon Murphy writes:

@tanstaafl

You know as well as everybody else that US and Russian interests collide and both sides act on that knowledge.

As I mentioned above, just because interests are in conflict does not necessarily mean there is hostility. Your statement is, ultimately, irrelevant.

Hostility IS usually mutual.

Fine. Than give evidence of Russian hostility against the US. I've had multiple people tell me it's "obvious," but no one, not a single person, in this comments section has shown such obviousness to me. I hope you'll be the one to break the trend. If there is evidence that Russia is hostile against the US, and exactly the US, then present it. That's all I want. That's all Prof. Henderson wants.

Tanstaafl writes:

Jon Murphy,
you don't get to decide what people want to argue. I have defended Steve Chapman's quoted statement -- which is what David Henderson originally objected to. Surely this is relevant.

I might say that deep-diving into a narrow interpretation of the semantics of "hostile" is a sign you may be closing your eyes to a substantial argument. Surely my quote of David Henderson's use of hostile (re: TSA) is relevant.

However, if you can't be bothered to google for 30 seconds for the example I did give of Russian hostility to the USA directly, I'll do it for you. Here's google's first hit:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/world/middleeast/russia-syria.html

Hazel Meade writes:

Aye, but hostile to whom? In your situation, hostile to the Baltic, hostile to Ukraine, but not to the United States.

In geopolitical terms, the Baltics are part of the American sphere of influence. They used to be part of the USSR - Russia's sphere of influence. The Ukraine is part of Russia sphere of influence and they are asserting control over it against American efforts to push it into the US sphere of influence. In a geopolitical sense, that Baltics are "American territory" and the Ukraine is "Russian territory". Russia wants to take such territory away from America, and America and to take territory away from Russia. Russia wants to rebuild it's status as a great power, and it wants to do so by enlarging it's sphere of influence at the expense of the US. While the US continues to expand it's sphere of influence into Eastern Europe at the expense of Russia. We are geopolitical opponents. That makes us hostile to eachother on the geopolitical stage.


Jon Murphy writes:

@Hazel Meade:

With respect, as I said to Ryan Murphy (no relation to me...probably) above, such reasoning is rather weak. It could conceivably be extended indefinitely and arbitrarily. It makes the concept of hostility against an agent meaningless.

Tanstaafl writes:

Jon Murphy,
how did we get from "hostile" to "engaged in hostilities"? Bit of an escalation, this

The former is a disposition, the latter consists in actions. Hint: whenever "plausible deniability is a thing, we're probably past the threshold for "hostile"

Hazel Meade writes:

Again, I think this is mincing words. We are in an oppositional relationship over a number of significant issues.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hostile

Including: "opposed in feeling, action, or character; antagonistic"

That's close enough as far as I'm concerned. Why make a stink over sematics?


Jeremy writes:

Russia (allegedly, though I'm convinced) interfered in our elections.

Interfering in a country's election is violating that country's sovereignty.

Violating a country's sovereignty is hostile.

And this is before we get to the part where Russia has decided to treat US assets in Syria as targets, which, you know, is hostile.

And all of Russia's shenanigans on the UN Security Council, and Moscow's funding of groups to undermine democracy worldwide (don't the anti-GMO and anti-fracking movements get some funding from the Kremlin?).

Yeah, I would say Russia is hostile. The Russian government is against everything America was built on. And they used their power to (probably) help get Trump elected.

As a libertarian, posts like this make me shake my head, as they're examples of why people don't take us seriously.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Hazel Meade

The quibble is not over the word "hostile." It is over whom the hostility is directed against.

@tanstaafl

you don't get to decide what people want to argue.

You're right. I don't. Which is why I quoted you and said that merely pointing out that interests are in conflict (which is what you quoted) does not mean, ipso facto, that the two parties are hostile. The fact that interests conflict is irrelevant to whether or not hostilities exist. If I have misrepresented your arguments, then please correct me, but as I understand your comments, I have made no error in judgment.

Going back to an earlier example, my grocer wants as much money as possible from me. I want to pay as little as possible. But our relationship is quite friendly. No hostility whatsoever. In fact, most human and organizational relationships are this way. It makes it strange to claim that, internationally and for governments, interest conflicts must, ipso facto, lead to hostility (especially when you consider things like trade deals and alliances and mutual travel exist).

Merely pointing out that interests conflict is meaningless in this situation.

However, if you can't be bothered to google for 30 seconds for the example I did give of Russian hostility to the USA directly, I'll do it for you. Here's google's [sic] first hit:

Thanks for the article. It's interesting as it undermines your point: it's Russian response to US hostility, not US response to Russian hostility (plus, the timing doesn't work for Chapman's point). Indeed, the article indicates a rather non-hostile agreement between the US and Russia prior to this incident: a hotline was established and there was lots of work to avoid mid-air clashes. Indeed, it looks like there was a lot of effort to avoid being hostile.

So, you'll forgive me if I don't see this as quite the smoking gun you do.

Tanstaafl writes:

Jon Murphy,
as I wrote, I object to replacing "hostile" with "hostilities"; that's quite a slight of hand, really:

I am certainly not claiming that hostilities are underway; it is also true that both sides would rather avoid a shooting war -- which does not stop them from a certain amount of brinkmanship.

This may be ultimately fruitless semantics: I'd define 'engaging in brinkmanship' as a subset of 'being hostile', but YMMV.

Note that friendly coutry (even with some conflicting interest) don't do stuff like this (that's one criticism of Trump). Note also that if I noticed that my local grocer engaged in price gouging whenever I do late shopping and the competition is closed I'd see this as quite the unfriendly act. Hostile is the wrong word here (words matter), but betrayal of trust fits. (Btw, I'm quite libertarian and am strictly against price gouging laws; I see the above example as breach of an unspoken contract, to be litigated by future boycott.)

Anyway, that such brinkmanship happens (stopping short of shooting so far) is shown by the NYT article. On the Russian side, it's 'painting' US planes with their air defense radar, and cutting the hotline.

Btw, that arrangements exist to prevent the start of actual hostilities is a dead giveaway that the sides are hostile to each other.

'Who started it' is quite irrelevant (for establishing a hostile attitude; not for moral judgement). I'd say Ukraine is hostile to Russia for being invaded, though they can't afford to start hostilities outside a proxy war.

Brian writes:

"Note also that if I noticed that my local grocer engaged in price gouging whenever I do late shopping and the competition is closed I'd see this as quite the unfriendly act."

Tanstaafl,

This statement of yours is precisely why some of us are left scratching our heads. If the grocer gouges his customers late at night, it's certainly not a hostile act (or a "betrayal of trust") toward you specifically. The grocer is probably an equal-opportunity jerk. Likewise, if we and Russia are pursuing contradictory things, it doesn't mean that either of us has animosity for the other.

That said, I'll reiterate what I said earlier. Chapman uses "hostile" as a strictly rhetorical, not factual, device. He really wants to accuse Trump Jr. of treason (a ridiculous charge by everyone who makes it). That this is his intention is clear from his mention of impeachment in the very last sentence of the article. You and everyone else should give pause about defending a word that is being used to slyly argue for something that's legally absurd. It's just a dishonest use of speech on Chapman's part. Don't fall for it.

Brian writes:

"Interfering in a country's election is violating that country's sovereignty.

Violating a country's sovereignty is hostile."

Jeremy,

So when Obama interfered in the Israeli elections, it meant the U.S. was hostile to Israel? I think we can agree that it meant Obama was hostile to Netanyahu, but I don't think it says anything about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

So, if Putin tried to make Clinton look bad, no doubt we can agree that Putin was hostile to Mrs. Clinton. Personally, I would see that as doing the U.S. a favor. But either way, it tells us nothing about the relationship of Russia to the U.S.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Jeremy,
As a libertarian, posts like this make me shake my head, as they're examples of why people don't take us seriously.
I find that libertarians are often taken seriously. One indicator of that is just how often non-libertarians try to take us down. And specifically, since this is about my post, I find that I’m taken seriously most of the time. Indeed, the number and quality of comments suggests that many people take this seriously.
I think it’s important always to be true to yourself. So that means that even if you think you will face ridicule for saying that you think is true and important, you shouldn’t let that stop you.
@Brian,
So when Obama interfered in the Israeli elections, it meant the U.S. was hostile to Israel? I think we can agree that it meant Obama was hostile to Netanyahu, but I don't think it says anything about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
I was trying to think of a good example to answer Jeremy’s point, and you have come up with one. Thanks.

Jon Murphy writes:

@tanstaafl

I object to replacing "hostile" with "hostilities"

I didn't. If it was read that way, I apologize. But I am still looking for examples of Russian hostility against the US. The example you gave was rather weak (indeed, I'd say undermined your case strongly).

. Note also that if I noticed that my local grocer engaged in price gouging whenever I do late shopping and the competition is closed I'd see this as quite the unfriendly act. Hostile is the wrong word here (words matter), but betrayal of trust fits.

Agreed, but now I'm confused. What separates "hostile" from "unfriendly"? It's confusing. Words do matter (that's the whole point of this post. Y'all are using "hostile" in a rather imprecise, and I'd even say lackadaisical, manner). So, define for me precisely what you mean by "hostile."

Mark Bahner writes:
Again, I think this is mincing words. We are in an oppositional relationship over a number of significant issues.

Was the Russian government a hostile government in July 2001?

G.W. Bush gets a sense of Putin's soul

Do you think G.W. Bush would have characterized the Russian government as a hostile government in July 2001?

Sebastian H writes:

"Usually the term is used to refer to a government that is at war with, or has threatened war with, the United States."

You're being led astray by this sentence. I would be surprised if most people use "hostile" to mean "at a minimum is at war or threatened war".

So if you are using that unusual definition, you are correct that you won't find evidence of it. But that isn't how most people use it. Consider that it contrasts well with "friendly".

David R. Henderson writes:

@Sebastian H
You're being led astray by this sentence. I would be surprised if most people use "hostile" to mean "at a minimum is at war or threatened war".
I was looking for some kind of objective evidence. If we say they don’t like us, or our government doesn’t like what they do, it can get awfully vague.
So if you are using that unusual definition, you are correct that you won't find evidence of it. But that isn't how most people use it. Consider that it contrasts well with "friendly".
For purposes of argument, let’s go with that. It seems to me that Putin and Trump are fairly friendly. And Trump is the head of one of the 3 branches of the federal government.

Mark Bahner writes:
That said, I'll reiterate what I said earlier. Chapman uses "hostile" as a strictly rhetorical, not factual, device. He really wants to accuse Trump Jr. of treason (a ridiculous charge by everyone who makes it).

Yes, does anyone here disagree that Chapman is accusing Trump Jr. of violating the law?

Tanstaafl writes:

Jon Murphy,

What separates "hostile" from "unfriendly"? ... Y'all are using "hostile" in a rather imprecise, and I'd even say lackadaisical, manner. So, define for me precisely what you mean by "hostile."
You have a point that Chapman -- and your opponents, me included -- use it in a 'lackadaisical' way. So does David Henderson

"Of course the Russian government is hostile to its own citizens in many ways, and the U.S. government is hostile to its own citizens in many ways. Have you been in a TSA line lately?"
If you read Chapman as arguing a case for treason charges (or even impeachment of the President), this is a problem. I honestly don't think that flies.

(Brian is right on that)

But David Henderson and you object to calling the Russian government hostile to the US as a matter of course -- not just in the context of litigating treason charges, right? I think this is misguided, and I wonder if we can have an honest discussion on that.

I'll start a new comment for it

Jon Murphy writes:

@tanstaafl

All this depends on your definition of "hostile." Precisely define for me what you mean by it. Henderson's use of "hostile" makes perfect sense, especially given Hazel Meade's provided definition. Trampling all over people's rights certainly fits the definition in my eyes. As the article you linked to highlights, it seems to me the Russian government's attitude toward the US was quite cooperative toward the US prior to the US attacking Russian-made aircraft. It was anything but "antagonistic." But, that's just how I see it.

When I say "lackadaisical" I mean to the point of adding so much to the definition as so it no longer makes sense. The others that I highlighted use it to include hostile actions against a friend as hostile action against the agent itself (for example, see Ryan Murphy's comment). I object to that kind of expansion to that term (as does Prof. Henderson, I should think).

I think I'm going to treat this comment as my "closing argument" in this matter. I don't think I can add anything more productive to the conversation. I welcome 9and will read) responses, but please do not be offended if I do not respond (although if you have questions I am happy to answer them).

Mark Bahner writes:

Hi,

If you read Chapman as arguing a case for treason charges (or even impeachment of the President), this is a problem. I honestly don't think that flies.

How can the article be read any other way? Chapman wrote:

If this was not collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it was a conscious attempt at collusion with a hostile government on the part of the candidate's son. No wonder Donald Jr. lied about it until his emails were exposed.

That the Russian failed to produce what she promised doesn't make the meeting any less incriminating for Trump. If you give money to someone you believe is a hit man to kill your spouse, you can't claim innocence when he disappears without doing the job.

Why would Chapman use the phrases "hostile government" and "doesn't make the meeting any less incriminating" unless he meant to imply Donald Trump Jr. committed a crime? And why would he use the analogy of a man paying to have his wife murdered if he didn't mean to imply Donald Trump Jr. committed a crime?

As far as impeachment goes, Chapman closes with, "It may not be clear to them that Trump should be impeached."

Why would anyone write a statement like that unless the writer thought that President Trump should be impeached?

Mark Bahner writes:
But David Henderson and you object to calling the Russian government hostile to the US as a matter of course -- not just in the context of litigating treason charges, right? I think this is misguided, and I wonder if we can have an honest discussion on that.

I'll start a new comment for it.

I wasn't invited into the discussion (which has never stopped me before ;-)), but...

I agree with David Henderson. It's bad to accuse people of "collusion with a hostile government" unless one provides some definitive list of which governments are hostile and which aren't.

Brian writes:

Since the definition of "hostile" continues to be an issue in this thread, and the dictionary definition seems hard to apply to countries/governments, I will offer what I understand the term to mean. Hopefully everyone will agree that it fits our intuitive understanding of the term.

Hostile means disliking someone or something enough to do them harm.

It is not enough to dislike someone or to have conflicting goals or values or even to harm them unintentionally as part of advancing your own agenda. You have to desire to harm them because of your dislike for them.

So now we can ask whether Russia's meddling in our election constitutes a hostile act toward the U.S. It might, depending on what they did. Acts aimed at favoring one candidate over another would merely be supporting their own advantage and not about harm to the country as a whole. Acts intended to cause general havoc or to attack the voting system might be seen as harmful to the U.S. in general. If so, those would be hostile acts toward the U.S.

We know that people in Russia, possibly connected with the government, hacked or tried to hack U.S. election systems. Whether that indicates hostile intent depends on the goals of the hack. Certainly a case can be made for hostile intent. But unless these acts were clear to or enabled by the Trump campaign, no reasonable argument can be made that Trump was colluding with a hostile government. To Trump, Russia's government is just another party with which one can make a deal. And deals don't involve hostile intent, just good old competition.

As far as I can see, the charges of "collusion" are simply made up as a pretext for attacking Trump. They are the liberal equivalent of the silly "birther" campaign aimed at Obama. The only difference is that the collusion campaign is not a fringe movement, largely because the media is fully engaged in it.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top