In December 1941, Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. After the subsequent declaration of war, within three days, the Japanese had sunk the British warships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and the rapid Japanese attack led to the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 and the fall of Singapore only two months after Pearl Harbor. These were the opening blows in the long war of the Pacific that cost over 30,000,000 lives and was only ended with the detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"History doesn't often repeat itself, but it rhymes" is an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain, and in a way it seems quite appropriate when we survey the current scene.
In 1941, Imperial Japan, knowing its own weakness, chose a non-conventional form of war, the surprise attack. Since the end of his first Presidential term, Vladimir Putin, knowing Russia's weakness, has also chosen non-conventional ways to promote his domestic power- standing down as President to re-emerge as Prime Minister- as well as projecting Russian power overseas. Russia continues military occupations in Moldova and Georgia that predate Putin's accession, and has launched new ones in Ukraine and Syria. Moreover, the scope of operations of Russia's hybrid command has grown ever more ambitious. suborning former Western leaders to promote Russian interests proved surprisingly easy. Cyberattacks have grown more damaging and more numerous. On a daily basis Russia marks out Western interests as inimical to its own and seeks to subvert and damage, wherever and whenever it can.
It is now a matter of public indictment that Russian leaders have been conspiring to subvert democracy in the United States. It is a matter of public investigation that Russia has interfered, through illegal finance, blackmail and other means in the democratic process in Europe, including the United Kingdom. In particular the financing of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum is now under serious investigation, although sadly not in the UK itself, but in the United States.
Many, including this blog, have warned about Russian subversion in increasingly blunt terms. There is now substantial evidence of Russian involvement in the election of Donald Trump, and equally compelling evidence of Russian intervention in the Brexit vote.
The problem in fighting back is that we cannot use the Russian methods against their work in our own societies. Disinformatsya is a Russian tactic of lies, yet the only way to confront the Russians, and other corrupt governments that wish to subvert Liberal Democracy is to fight with truth and the rule of law. This is why Robert Mueller is now the most important man in the world. His commitment to the rule of law and legal ways to confront the attack that has been launched on American democracy is the only way the West can defeat the hybrid war without being itself corrupted and therefore defeated. It is a moral battle as much as a legal one. Morally compromised figures, such as Donald Trump, can only be removed in legal and moral ways. Robert Mueller has given every sign that he understands that his country must be a country of law and due process if it is to overcome the hybrid attack of corruption that has launched against it.
What then of the United Kingdom?
As evidence mounts that the Leave campaign received illegal funding, money laundered from Russian sources, there has been a steady rise in those who would challenge both the disastrous extremist polices that the Conservatives have adopted in response to the vote and indeed the legitimacy of the vote itself. Public supporters of Vladimir Putin, such as Arron Banks were also the largest donors to Leave, and in the world of Russian hybrid war, suspicion is itself suspicious. The judicial investigation that is now said to be under consideration, must now be launched
If there are any doubts about the referendum then the UK must do what the US cannot do with its Presidential election: that is to re-run it. Meanwhile as public understanding of the Russian attack on the West grows, then we must strengthen our own institutions, challenge the media that not only failed to warn, but was itself corrupted by the hybrid attack, and hold the political system to higher standards. This is not to insist on perfection, in fact the exact reverse. Western liberalism is built on the idea that human beings are weak and corruptible and provides checks and balances to make sure that even if it is attacked that rule of law and due process will prevail.
This requires a less shrill media and a more discerning attitude towards both political parties and political people. Nationalism and a closed society, like the Russian model, can only be weaker than globalism and an open society, but for globalism to prevail, it must be built on strict foundations of the rule of law.
If the moral fight for freedom is built on justice, not on greed, then globalism, so long under attack, can still prevail against the corrupt and the closed societies that are ranged against the West.
The Hybrid war is a battle of lies versus truth and of corruption versus justice.
It is a war that we can win by making the right moral, ethical and political choices.
It is a war as significant and as dangerous as the War in the Pacific launched nearly 80 years ago.