by Brynn Smith ’19
Americans have been asking for months whether Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election. It has been the focus of investigations, a number of which are still ongoing. Whatever the level of Russia’s actual infiltration of computer systems, there is no question that the country had an influence on last year’s election. Americans’ outrage over Russia’s meddling is justified; however, it is somewhat hypocritical considering the amount of American interference in other countries’ political processes over the years.
The United States is no stranger to meddling in various foreign affairs, as it has occurred “as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000” according to a database compiled by political scientist Dov Levin. This number does not include coups and regime changes backed by the United States military.
Some attempts were more successful than others. One of the first, during the 1946-2000 time period, was the CIA-assisted coup of the Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddeq, in 1953. As soon as he came to power, Mosaddeq called for the nationalization, or the transfer of private to state ownership, of Iran’s many oil fields. To prevent the action from transpiring, the United States aided in reinstating a monarchy by bringing the Shah of Iran to power. The government put in with the help of the United States government was eventually toppled in 1979. Militants seized the United States embassy, thus proving themselves to be a major cause for concern for the United States government.
A more recent example is the Haitian election in August of 2015. For years, the United States government has undermined Haiti’s democracy by, first, leading a coup against their first democratically-elected president in 2004 and, second, by rubber-stamping the results of Haiti’s political processes, no matter how flawed. The 2015 Haitian election was characterized by disorganization, violence, and major voter fraud.
United States interference in other countries’ electoral processes may, or may not, have benefitted United States interests. Rarely has it benefitted the other countries involved. Almost every time the United States has hindered the election process by supporting an uprising, the result is violence (i.e. Guatemala, Congo, Chile). United States interference in Iran resulted in years of brutal rule, followed by a revolution that installed a fundamentalist theocracy that is violently opposed to the United States in every possible way.
Now, no one is saying that what Russia did is even remotely okay, and the country may end up suffering from it by virtue of worsened relations with the United States and other countries, but the United States can learn a valuable lesson from this incident. Interfering in other countries’ political processes never ends well for anybody.