The American Answer To A Questioned Democracy

During this year's Democratic National Convention, GOP candidate Donald Trump stood in front of reporters and asked Russia to hack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's email servers in order to recover 30,000 personal and non-work related emails. The emails, which are of no interest to U.S. security officials, strike a common nerve among many GOP and Donald Trump supporters.

But I don't want to make this political. Rather, I want to draw attention to the idea behind Trump's request. Breaking it down, he asked a foreign state to intervene in United States elections and increase the transparency he claims has been marred by Clinton's actions.

The substance behind Trump's claim doesn't hold water when scrutinized, and I want to make abundantly clear that I do not support what he asked. However, the principle behind his request relies on the claim that we have been deceived by a public official. The result, an appeal to a foreign power to help correct this deception.

Heard in this context, it might seem eerily familiar to some people.

How many times has a foreign faction requested our assistance to in the name of increasing state transparency or undermining secretive efforts of the incumbent regime? This is something we have made an all too common characteristic of our foreign policy. Just google Operation Condor for several examples of the U.S. influencing Latin American political processes.

The idea of an external power intervening in our presidential elections terrified average citizens and the security officials alike. It has been made continually worse as we continue to find out Russian-linked hackers and entities have infiltrated other Democratic Party entities such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Clinton campaign software.

It seems Americans, like most people, are naturally against foreign state interventions or manipulation, especially when the outcome has significant consequences for the future of our nation and international arena.

But we have been more than giddy while standing behind good and bad guys alike. Supporting freedom fighters in Syria and death squads in Cambodia, helping clean up elections in Venezuela and overturning their results in Iran. So when Donald Trump suggested something similar happen here, we all jumped.

How can you allow a foreign state to influence the outcome of our elections, they asked? It didn't feel good to have our domestic integrity questioned nor allow a foreign entity to affect the path we take. Especially when that entity is Putin-led Russia. We felt betrayed, angry, and insulted.

It is a similar feeling surely the citizens of the entire world, from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus who have known it all too well. Political manipulations and destabilization, as Russia is notorious for in those parts and apparently in this year's U.S. presidential election, is a continuation of Cold War strategies we are no strangers to.

Though we have matured enough over the last two decades and a half to scale back these activities - but not entirely eliminate them - the threat of our own medicine threw us into a fervor and drew an immediate rebuke toward Russia and Trump.

Donald Trump has since distanced himself from his remarks, saying that he was clearly being "sarcastic." But we should hold onto the idea he proposed, however uncomfortable it may be. Often, it is these moments of discomfort that prove to be the most helpful for national growth and maturity.

Few times have we had to deal with our government obscuring their work in order to elude law enforcement or a punishing electorate. And when they have emerged, the public outcry for information has been resounding, stirring domestic sentiments so much that the problem is dealt with internally.

Yet if the U.S. ever found itself in a situation where the release of personal or classified documents was in the public or national interest, such as the 2012 NSA Leak or the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers, would we be comfortable asking someone else to work against our government and obtain the information?

Or would we hide behind the banner of nationalist sentiments? Where what we do is our business and no other state should influence a domestic matter. Until we're forced to deal with the situation, let's believe us to be good enough citizens to call for action.