Silence as a public virtue

Enter the US elite and see how incredible inadequate it is to deal with a political development emerging from its own creativity.

The past week has been full of militant commentaries from every ideological persuasion about the press conference between Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and President Donald Trump of the United States. To many commentators, President Trump handed a fully wrapped US to the Russian strongman. To others he was just taking a different route to create a new balance of power (these is an elaboration from what was said by President Trump supporters who do not seem to be very fluid in geopolitics given their nationalistic credentials).  None seem to understand the value of silence. Thus they are embroiled in a rhetoric fight that deepens the US political divide while opening new avenues for intervention by foreign powers including but not limited to Russia.

Given that most commentators are baby boomers they completely ignore the new realities of power that thrive through cyberspace. Needless to remind them that Mr. Putin foresaw these realities when drawing the strategy to preserve and enhance the power base inherited from Boris Yeltsin. To him both Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin had engaged in high treason by handing over to the West the power base of the USSR built through communism. It was thus essential to reverse course and to find the levers that would guarantee a strong comeback into world affairs. This demanded the creation of a contemporary power base, which Mr. Putin brilliantly found in the energy and cyberspace dimensions. To him (according to people who have had the pleasure of discussing world affairs with the Russian leader) cyberspace is to be equated to the territory of the Americas in 1492 but better because cyberspace is not populated by people. According to this thinking, the takeover of territory in cyberspace not only is essential but simpler and less conflicting than territorial occupations (remember Crimea whose support and defense is currently costing an arm and a leg to Russia). Energy, on the other hand, is the tool to create economic dependence. And One must admit that Mr. Putin has masterfully played both power-building weapons.

Enter the US elite and see how incredible inadequate it is to deal with a political development emerging from its own creativity. To be sure, at the end of the day it was the US that created the Internet thereby giving rise to the cyber landscape. The US also developed technologies to fully exploit natural gas. But like the sorcerer’s apprentice that could not control his own spell, the US elite fails to see the power properties of cyberspace and energy. These two are essential assets to successfully compete in a world that has broken loose with the institutional framework created after WWII. As a consequence, they engage in an avalanche of public debates, which were appropriate for the TV era but completely useless and self-defeating to fight an opponent like Mr. Putin.

They should perhaps remember that silence has a power value that clearly is being fully exploited by Mr. Putin. He put an offer on the table to President Trump and has ever since remained silent. The US leadership should perhaps take lead from Winston Churchill who got to be Prime Minister by wisely managing silence when Chamberlain offered him to be the deputy to Lord Halifax. Should silence not be revalued in America the country could face a situation by which a lame ducking POTUS is taken advantage from Mr. Putin and other rivals while not been able to create public policies that truly address the challenge. Shhhhss!!!

*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*