The Corner


Foreign Meddling, Ours and Theirs

Our government has frequently intervened in other countries’ politics. Scott Shane reviews the record. What does this history imply about Russian meddling in American elections, and American complaints about that meddling?

Not much, I think. Countries pursue their interests, which include safeguarding their political processes from foreign interference and can include interfering in foreign political processes. Our pursuit of our interests is partly justified by our government’s being freer and more decent than most. But it’s partly justified just by their being our interests.

If our interference abroad is exposed and other countries resent it, we should generally try to smooth things over, minimizing any blowback without forever forswearing future interference.

If other countries, particularly countries that mean us harm, interfere in our elections, we should not be outraged by their violation of a principle of sovereignty. We should be mad that they succeeded in violating our sovereignty, and take actions to punish that violation and prevent future ones. It’s a matter of self-interest and self-respect.

People would have less trouble seeing that “we do it too!” is not a good reason to take a laidback attitude toward foreign intervention in our country if it took a more aggressive form. We have bombed other countries; we should not rule out bombing other countries in the future; and neither fact would or should stop us from being pretty alarmed if another country bombed us.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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