Part4 – Mental escalators of violence in US policy and media makers

Part 4A. An Introduction to the Frame of Mind  of Those Forever Leading US Foreign Policy

False Bias #1. We Can Understand and Judge Other People Without Meeting Them, Without Engaging in Cooperative Dialogue, and Without Hearing Their Side of the Story. In these latest group of essays, we’ve been discussing the second category of the Roots of Violence, Power and Freedom, according to the model, Paradigm for Peace. We continuously hear in US mainstream media the claim that Russia, specifically Putin, is a threat to Ukrainian, Russian, US, and worldwide sovereignty, democracy, and freedom. It’s important in cooperative dialogue non-violent conflict resolution to examine the validity or invalidity of this claim. Yet it’s also important to examine the ways in which US policymakers threaten the sovereignty, democracy, and freedom of the people of Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the world.

According to Putin, Russia is a democracy. But is it really? Doesn’t democracy include the concept of human rights and freedom of speech? Yet reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are replete with accounts of tremendous cruelty within Russia towards prisoners and peaceful protestors. And what about the US? Can that which exists within the US beneath the shallow surface of the vote even be called democracy?

Do US and Russian policymakers promote democracy abroad or thwart it? Do they promote “government of the people, by the people, for the people”? Of “caring equally for all”? Or do they promote a society in which the goals and perspectives of certain social and business circles are elevated above all the rest?

The question really is, to what extent and in what ways do Russia and the US promote democracy within themselves, within other nations, and in their relationships with other nations? The same must be asked of Ukraine’s government. What suggestions do they have for themselves and for one another?

In the next several essays, I’ll be combining the topic of Power and Freedom with another aspect of the Paradigm for Peace model: the Mental Escalators of Violence. The model includes Mental, Legal, and Physical Escalators of Violence, and these are factors that make it more likely a person, group, or nation will choose violence as the means by which to protect itself or to get what it wants.

Mental Escalators are extremely numerous and, like the vast bulk of the Roots and Escalators of Violence, they can be addressed only with non-violent, non-hostile solutions. Mental Escalators include qualities of the heart and mind, such as knowledge, ignorance, biases, competitiveness, patience, compassion, empathy, rivalry, greed, selfishness, and love, that can make the decision to choose violence more or less likely.

In a full review, we’d examine the Mental Escalators on all sides of conflict and the effect of Mental Escalators on promoting violence within this conflict. However, I’ll be especially focusing on Mental Escalators within the US foreign policy and media maker establishment, Escalators that make these influential, powerful individuals more likely to have falsely exaggerated perceptions of enemy threats to US government power and freedom and thus choose and advocate unnecessarily hostile, violent foreign policy, such as the arming of Ukraine since 2014 with billions of dollars in weapons and also the promotion of the expansion of the military organization, NATO. In particular, I’ll be examining the writing and statements of sample individuals from these groups in order to examine three Mental Escalators in particular: 1. psychological patterns, 2. lies and ignorance, and 3. lack of reading comprehension skills.

A discussion of these Mental Escalators is absolutely crucial so that these psychological patterns and lies can be recognized, addressed, and contained so as to no longer have significant influence on the creation of US foreign policy. Perhaps those more closely familiar with the statements of various Russian and Ukrainian policy and media makers can apply these ideas to a study of Mental Escalators of Violence in Russia and Ukraine.

We’ve discussed in an earlier essay, Part 3C, the reported coup-promoting activities of the National Endowment for “Democracy” (NED), labeled by some as the “second CIA.” In this next batch of essays, I’d like to study these Mental Escalators by examining the words of NED’s current president, Damon Wilson, and the words of Derek Mitchell, the president of one of NED’s core institutes, the National Democratic Institute, and former US Ambassador to Myanmar. This will help us to better grasp NED’s psychological worldview, its attitude towards Russia, its capability for promoting democracy, and its capability for publicizing impartial, unbiased truth.

I’ll also be including the words of various other policymaking “think tank” members and journalists, such as Daniel Fried of the Atlantic Council; Peter Dickinson, a British media professional of the Atlantic Council and its Business Ukraine Magazine; Kurt Volker, former Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former US Ambassador to NATO; James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations; Ivo Daalder of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former US Ambassador to NATO; National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan; the Atlantic’s staff writer Yasmeen Serhan; and the New Yorker’s staff writer Isaac Chotiner.

These individuals are samples of numerous members of the particular breed within the foreign policy and media establishment who hold similar views. Hopefully their statements can help elucidate clues as to their psychological patterns and their capacity for disseminating impartial, truthful information.

Many of these so-called “experts” purport to know Putin’s words, his attitude, and his goals. From their influential positions as policymakers, think tank thinkers, and journalists, they tell Americans and the world what Putin has said. The problem is, these experts are either withholding all pieces of evidence to support their views, or they’re deliberately lying about Putin’s words and goals, or they have weak reading comprehension skills, perhaps encumbered by their own heavy biases. Therefore, as a rebuttal to the claims of many of these US “experts,” I’ll be including the words of Putin himself, words from his 2007 Munich speech, his July 2021 essay, and his February 21 and 24, 2022 speeches, which, in my perspective, have been libeled heavily by US experts.

Some may say that it doesn’t matter if they’ve misunderstood or lied about his speeches. One local critic of my writing in the newspaper about the interpretation of Putin’s essay told me I’m missing the forest for the trees. But actually, I am writing about the trees that make up the forest, and the entire US propaganda campaign against Russia, the entire stew of hatred being brewed against Putin, is the forest made up of these trees that we will be discussing in these essays. If these trees are all figments of the imagination or lies, then there really is no forest.

The topic of these US policy and media maker “experts” libeling Putin, defaming his image through the spreading of false statements about what he said and wrote is actually a matter of central importance to US foreign policy, for if US policymakers’ case against Putin were solid, why would they feel the need to lie? Is it because US policymaker motives are actually aggressive, and so they hide these aggressive, avaricious goals amidst the false mud-slinging against Putin? And if they are not deliberately lying but only unintentionally misunderstanding his words or thoughtlessly parroting one another, to what extent is the entire hostile US foreign policy stance against Putin based upon such misunderstanding, misunderstanding of both Putin’s words and his actions in Ukraine, Crimea, and Georgia?

To what extent are US policymakers inaccurately assuming, as they did with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and Soviet leaders during the Cold War, that leaders who uphold undemocratic behaviors within their countries have intentions of spreading these behaviors abroad? To what extent do US policymakers inaccurately assume that if the US government is relatively benign towards the American public, that US behavior abroad will automatically be benign, democratic, and just?

It’s a terrible shame that a Russian leader with valid grievances and thoughtful observations is so falsely misrepresented by US policy and media makers, whose serve only to egg on violence of the rabble against him.

Before we turn to the statements of NED’s leaders and other experts, keep in mind, it was President Ronald Reagan who first proposed the idea of NED one year before its creation in 1983, when he asked for the US “to foster the infrastructure of democracy” abroad.[1] This is the very same Reagan whose prejudice caused him to label the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire,” the same Reagan who shifted the tax burden onto non-wealthy Americans, who cut social programs, who initiated a massively expensive US arms buildup that enriched weapon industry CEOs, and who fueled atrocious Latin American violence on the part of right-wing rebels and on the part of right-wing governments, allegedly in the name of rescuing freedom and democracy.

Reagan called the US-supported contras in Nicaragua “freedom fighters,” even though they waged war and committed atrocities in their undemocratic attempt to overthrow a popular, reform-minded government seeking to reduce poverty and landlessness. If Reagan set the tone for NED, you can be sure it would be in the direction of his prejudiced, undemocratic view that freedom and democracy categorically equate to right-wing policies.

NED has four core institutes, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. As Gerald Sussman points out in the socialist Monthly Review, backgrounds and connections of the NDI and IRI are closely tied with the right-wing American Enterprise Institute and Fortune 500 energy, weapons, media, and automobile companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco. Sussman adds: “In the IRI worldview, freedom equates to ‘free enterprise’; those who resist open-door economic policies are ipso facto undemocratic.”[2]

This type of background is important for explaining the social and business circles behind the NDI and IRI, for, while this is only a theory and perhaps members of these circles would disagree, these circles are likely to have the biases of their social upbringing: biases that may view life and life’s goals in terms of pecuniary success and maintaining one’s status on top of the hierarchy of power, wealth, and status; biases that view human relations in dry, competitive terms of control, domination, obedience, superiority, and inferiority. These are the same biases that likely reside in the circles of the Rockefeller and Morgan families, which are the circles that have allowed themselves to run our government for more than a century. When you’re born and raised to view life, success, and human dynamics in certain ways, once you become a foreign policy maker, you may likely automatically juxtapose those views and priorities upon foreign policy and international relations as natural and sensible.

On January 29, 2019, Damon Wilson, before he became NED’s President and while he was Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council (2011-2021), presented testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee for the Senate Hearing of the National Defense Strategy. This committee had been recently chaired (2015-2018) by Senator John McCain, a proponent of sending US weapons to Ukraine after the 2014 US-promoted coup and an advocate of numerous US invasions including the 2003 invasion of Iraq which he believed would liberate Iraqis. Clearly, he was a man who believed that weapons have the power to make positive transformations in society. Significantly, McCain had also been a former leader of the International Republican Institute, one of the four core institutes within NED. This should be another red flag that NED may not promote impartial versions of democracy.

It’s also illuminating to consider Wilson’s background at the Atlantic Council, a “think tank” whose website indicates a good guy vs. bad guy view of world circumstances, in which North America and Europe, not including Russia, are the good guys, and in which intimidating power and physical confrontation, not understanding and caring, are the keys to relating to the enemy. The Atlantic Council advocates for “Atlanticism”—close military, economic, and cultural relations between North America and Europe. NATO is perhaps the supreme embodiment of these close relations.

The Atlantic Council was founded in 1961 by Paul Drennan Cravath, a lawyer of a law firm for the elite, Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, who, like many people allowed to influence US foreign policy, worked for railroads, J. P. Morgan, and companies interested in mergers and acquisitions. He was also a founding member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an elite group of lawyers, bankers, businessmen, and policymakers in the Rockefeller and Morgan circles that—based on what I’ve read about their activities—works to ensure that government foreign policy supports the goals of elite businessmen.[3] I don’t know whether or not this mission has evolved, but it certainly seemed to be the mission at least in past decades.

With that background of Paul Cravath, I wonder to what extent a big-business-comes-first and democracy-means-capitalism-not-equality worldview predominates in the Atlantic Council, for with that worldview would come a very competitive view of international affairs, where the goal is not peace, justice, and harmony, but economic victory over the others, which in turn requires political and military victory.

For people living in that habitually competitive state of mind, it would be impossible to view Putin and Russia as anything more than enemies because they threaten to obstruct US businessmen obsessed with climbing to the peak of what they deem “success”: growth of profits and access to markets, resources, and cheap labor. Whether or not profits and economic competitiveness are primary drives in the Atlantic Council, NED’s own connection to the Atlantic Council through Wilson should send up yet another red flag, or at least a giant question mark, as to the nature of this “democracy” that NED promotes.

In actual cooperative dialogue, NED’s Wilson and NDI’s Mitchell and others whom I quote would be here to clarify their views and the attitudes of their social and business circles. This is an extremely important point, because often misunderstandings can occur when you only read somebody’s words. Even in oral communication, miscommunication and misunderstanding occurs frequently. Moreover, in direct dialogue, it’s possible for people to respond to one another’s concerns and misunderstandings. It’s possible for them to recognize the humanity and kindness in one another and even not feel so harshly towards one another. Perhaps these individuals have much more information they could communicate to support their positions. At the same time, sometimes people can be bamboozled in actual personal meetings where they’re convinced to appreciate and go along with a kind-hearted personality but then are not hard-headed enough to seriously evaluate and criticize the words of that person.

One of the four major elements of the Paradigm for Peace model is what I call a Cooperative “Quest” Attitude of Thought and Dialogue. In analyzing the Roots and Escalators of Violence of all sides of conflict, in creating solutions for peace, peacemakers ideally should sustain this attitude of bold amiability and open-mindedness in their thoughts, words, and actions, so that they’re neither afraid to speak their own thoughts nor accustomed to deafening their ears’ to others’ points of view, others’ goals, and others’ fears, whether those others are across the ocean in a foreign “enemy” land, or within a policymaking meeting in the White House.

It’s not as if our own thoughts and convictions should be easily blown about by others’ ideas so that we’re just fluttering leaves. It’s more like our thoughts and spirits are homes made of solid oak but with oaken doors that, while strong, are open and hospitable to considering others’ ways of understanding and to learning all the facets of truth. So, keeping in mind that these individuals are not here to defend themselves or to correct any of my possible misinterpretations of their thoughts, let’s take a look at several parts of Wilson’s testimony and the others’ quotes, which are likely representative of the mentalities of many who dominate the US foreign policymaking establishment.

I would like to emphasize an equally important point: just as I acknowledge that I may be misinterpreting or somehow unintentionally skewing the ideas of these experts since they’re not here in dialogue with me, these experts themselves should not pretend to describe Putin’s words or intentions without also publicly allowing for the fact that they may be misinterpreting or misunderstanding him. Ideally, Putin himself would be in discussion with these so-called “experts” to clarify his views, especially for those who may likely be misreading his essay and speeches. I realize he could lie to them in dialogue, but I also realize that they could lie to me in dialogue. The fact that someone could lie should not and does not deny the value of sincerely considering the perspective they offer. Instead of blocking off communication from Russia, US experts should be jumping—not to grill Putin with questions and taunts—but to better understand his perspective and the perspective of Russia’s government and people. That is the surest pathway to peace.

Kristin Christman has been independently researching US foreign policy and peace since 9/11. Her channel focuses on US-Russian relations at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuNEw9-10lk-CwU-5vAElcg. Kristin graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a BA in Russian, and she holds Master’s degrees in Slavic languages from Brown University and public administration from SUNY Albany. She has been a guest with former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter and UNAC coordinator Joe Lombardo on Cynthia Pooler’s program, Issues that Matter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDlaLNJih7U. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice recently published her article on suicide, culture, and peace in their special edition on suicide, Vol. 33 No. 4.  kristinchristman956@gmail.com

[1] Jeet Heer, “Trump’s Disdain for Democracy Promotion,” New Republic, Mar. 6, 2018, https://newrepublic.com.

[2] Gerald Sussman, “The Myths of Democracy Assistance: US Political Intervention in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe, Monthly Review, Dec. 1, 2006, https://monthlyreview.org.

[3] Stephen Kinzer, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War” (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013), 56.


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