Of M.I.C.E. And Men

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues, so far thirty-four people and three companies have been indicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges.  Five of the six advisers to Mr. Donald J. Trump that are on that list have submitted guilty pleas.  Only time will tell how many more people close to Mr. Trump may be indicted as the investigation comes to a close.  I will not venture a guess as to who, or when those indictments will come down (I thought it would have happened long before now) but I have no doubt that others — some very close to the president — will be charged.

Whether those charges are directly connected to working with the Russians to throw the election in Mr. Trump’s direction is hard to say for sure.  However, of those indicted by Mr. Mueller to date, twenty-six are Russian nationals.

As the investigation continues to unfold, keep in the back of your mind the reasons why people spy on their own country or cooperate with foreign governments to undermine their home government.  What could motivate a person to betray their country?  There is an old acronym that summarizes those reasons.  It is M.I.C.E. and breaks down as follows.

  • M — Money.  This can take many forms.  Money to become rich.  Money because the individual needs it for personal or family reasons.  Money “owed” to them but because of “bad breaks” that they fault their own government for creating they never got what they felt they deserved.  And so on.
  • I — Ideology.  This was the motivator for some in the early days of the Cold War or for those that cooperated with the Soviet Union in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  It is often an idealistic view of a particular ideology, such as communism being good for the poor and blue-collar workers.
  • C– Compromised.  This is otherwise known as good old-fashioned blackmail.
  • E — Ego.  This is one’s own sense of self-worth.  It can be the result of trying to increase one’s own sense of self-importance or it can be a result of having the ability to sabotage someone else’s sense of self-importance for pure spite.  Egos take many forms but the knowledge that you can do something and then did do something of great import is a significant motivator.  It can also be the ego boost of doing something daring or forbidden that no one else has the nerve to do.

In the current era, the two biggest motivators are money and ego.  And of course, some combination of two or more of these factors may play a part in getting someone to betray their fellow citizens.  For example, having compromising information on a potential asset may not be enough to bring them over to your side.  Sweetening the deal with substantial cash or some other fiduciary reward gets you there.  It could be that the potential asset is severely in debt and about to be embarrassed or financially ruined should that information become known.  That individual would be compromised by the release of that information. They are also further compromised if the “recruiter” offers to solve the indebtedness problem, which of course, further compromises the potential asset once they take the money or the debt is resolved.

Of those advisers to Mr. Trump indicted thus far, money and ego seem to be the driving factors.  We will see what happens as the investigation continues.  I for one will be curious as to their motivation.


Absurd

Mr. Donald J. Trump held his first cabinet meeting of the year on 2 January.  In keeping with his reality show background, the meeting was televised.  The meeting was really a 90 minute monologue on just about everything that Mr. Trump stewed about over the holidays.  There were many newsworthy elements to be found in the transcript ranging from the border wall to the economy.  Many of the statements were provably wrong or misleading.  The list of falsehoods is too long to go through here.

Among the many untruths from the meeting perhaps the most troubling, at least in terms of asking oneself “where the heck did that come from?” were his comments on Afghanistan.  In a discussion about a continued U.S. military presence there, he launched into a bizarre statement full of previously unknown “facts”.  In addition to slandering our allies that have fought and died alongside US troops there he said,

“Russia is there.  Russia used to be the Soviet Union.  Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan.  Russia.  So you take a look at other countries.  Pakistan is there; they should be fighting.  But Russia should be fighting.

The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.  They were right to be there.  The problem is it was a tough fight.  And literally, they went bankrupt.  They went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union.  You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer a part of Russia because of Afghanistan.”

No one.  No one, on the left, the right or the respective wing nuts of either side have ever said or believed that the Russians went into Afghanistan to fight terrorists or because they had a “right” to invade them.  Bipartisan efforts during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush worked to isolate and punish the USSR for that invasion.

The real reason the Soviets invaded was the Brezhnev Doctrine.  In 1968 Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union put forth as a basic tenet of Soviet foreign policy the right to interfere in the affairs of any communist country anywhere in the world.  The Afghan government was communist when the Soviets invaded in 1979 and they occupied the country until their withdrawal in 1989.  While true that the occupation was a drain on the Soviet military and the occupation became unpopular with the Soviet people, it did not bankrupt them or otherwise lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain.  There were numerous reasons for the fall, but Afghanistan was more of a symptom of all that was wrong with the Soviet system rather than the cause.  They definitely did not enter Afghanistan to fight “terrorists.”

Only one person is pushing the narrative that the Soviet Union had a “right” to invade Afghanistan to stop “terrorism.”  That one person is Vladimir Putin.  He is pushing a new revisionist history that is pure propaganda and is designed to restore his view of the glory of the Soviet empire in order to stoke nationalist sentiment in Russia, entrench his own power, and provide the basis for his adventurism in Ukraine, the Baltic states, and elsewhere in the hope of restoring that empire.

And now I guess there are two people pushing that line, one of which is the President of the United States.

As the Wall Street Journal put it in part in an editorial,

“Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government.

The invasion was condemned throughout the non-communist world. The Soviets justified the invasion as an extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserting their right to prevent countries from leaving the communist sphere. They stayed until 1989.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat. Mr. Trump’s cracked history can’t alter that reality.”

Is the president ignorant of history or is someone feeding him propaganda that he willingly repeats?  I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this should raise alarm bells.  Either the president really is ignorant of important world events that continue to shape international relations today, or he is willingly repeating Mr. Putin’s revisionist history meant to restore the luster of the former Soviet Union.  Either answer is deeply troubling.

What are we to make of this?  In the continued chaos of this administration it is easy to lose track of the multitude of “absurd” statements and actions coming out of the White House.  However, given the president’s propensity to support and defend all things Putin, one must ask again, “what is going on?”  The answer may be even more troubling than we can imagine.