Quick Take: Russian cyber attacks, the Electoral College & Dr. Jill Biden

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody, Ian Bremmer here. Yet another week of your Quick Take. What the hell is going on?

Well, first, I mean, the news that we really didn't want to hear, these massive cyber attacks, almost certainly from Russia against the Department of Treasury, Department of Commerce and other places. So what do we make of this? Well first of all, this is not about timing to hit right before Biden becomes president. These attacks have been going on for months, we only just found out about them so they've been engaged. We could have found out after the election, before. The Russians were, in this case, they didn't know if Trump was going to win or not. They did it anyway. I think what's more relevant is that there are just an enormous number of vulnerabilities that the United States has in all of its critical infrastructure.

There's all sorts of attacks and espionage that are going on at the hands of the Russians, the Chinese to a lesser degree, Iran and some other actors, and we just don't find out about many of them. And that's a problem, that's an enormous vulnerability. Now, I guess the good news is that the U.S. has offensive capabilities that are every bit as robust as what the Russians and Chinese have. So even though we don't know how to deter, and we don't really know how to defend, the presumption is we also are engaging in these attacks ourselves. So, one thing that I think is relevant, I mean, this will be a serious issue, even a crisis that will be on incoming President Elect Biden's to do list as soon as he takes over, but that doesn't mean that he's going to take very serious action, and I think there are a bunch of reasons for that. One is because historically the Americans have not had very good ideas of what to do in response to cyber attacks when they're hard to identify, when there's a lot that's going on.

And when escalation is comparatively easy, you don't necessarily want to take a large measure that could lead to a major conflict. Furthermore, if the Americans are doing same, the potential that you could end up with a serious amount of mutual exposure of massive assets on both sides, that could lead to a lot of people being outed that are working in classified situations, that could have their lives ruined, their families ruined, maybe even get killed, something that you're reluctant to do, so it's not mutually assured destruction. It's not like the nuclear balance the Americans and the Russians have, but it is important to understand that we hear about few of the Russian and Chinese acts because we don't know about them. We hear about virtually none of the American cyber attacks on Russia and China because they're authoritarian states and they don't want to tell anyone that they have those vulnerabilities. So, the fact that we only have limited news here doesn't mean that we understand the full extent of the engagement.

Okay. That's one point. Secondly, today, big day today, we've got the electoral college actually making the President Elect, certifying, if you will, closing that election. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which has been pretty consistently very pro-Trump, has come out and said, okay, it's it. It's over. You're done. Come on, concede now, President Trump. He's not going to do that. He's not going to do that because he sees no reason. He's raising a lot of money, he has the biggest megaphone in the Republican Parties, the most powerful person, and his ability to continue to have that influence after the elections are over grows if his story is the election was stolen against me, and a majority of Republicans who voted for him actually believe it. And they do.

That's a major problem for U.S. democracy. It's a major problem for the erosion of U.S. political institutions and for the divisions inside the United States politically, and of course, socially and economically. But there's no reason politically why Trump would change a strategy that is working, I mean, unless you think that he has some broader motive that he cares about, the sustainability of U.S. democracy or the wellbeing of the citizens as a whole, and I don't think anyone really buys that. So, this is a challenge, and it's going to continue to be a challenge, even though it's very clear that come January 20th, President Elect Biden becomes President Biden. And a final point, just something that I think I felt like weighing in on. I was sort of bemused, since we're talking about the Wall Street Journal, by this op-ed that got a massive amount of attention from this guy, Joe Epstein, that was quite disparaging and pretty misogynistic saying, Jill Biden, why don't you not call yourself a doctor?

And I say that because it was disparaging to her, referred to her as kiddo. I don't know why the editorial types would allow that to go through. It only talked about; it was disparaging about what she wrote her doctorate education on as opposed to other folks that could have easily been called out on that on the Republican side. I mean, why not say it's also wrong for Dr. Kissinger? Why not say it's wrong for Dr. Sebastian Gorka, who has a pretty silly PhD and always demands that you refer to him as that? But I will also say that I do personally feel like there are a lot of people out there that use credentials in ways that are kind of off-putting and disparaging. And I see it a lot in academe, especially with folks that haven't necessarily done a lot in their field, that they want everyone to call them doctor.

And it's kind of like the guy that you see at a party who immediately has to tell you how important they are, what they've accomplished in life, real blowhard and you try to avoid those people at all means. And I kind of feel like if you can do it, you don't necessarily need to show it. Having said that, there's a real issue of gender and race that is going on, which is that, I mean, when you are in an environment, especially academe, which is largely white and male dominated, and a society in the United States that's largely white male dominated, and you have an advanced degree and a lot of people are already finding ways to disparage you and put you down, that you definitely want to use that degree to force yourself into the dialogue, make it harder for people to say that you don't necessarily matter.

So, in other words, it's very easy for me to say, you don't have to call me doctor, and I don't like it when my students do it. And Ian is just fine, because I'm a white guy with a company and a job. But if you aren't necessarily in that situation, I'm a little bit more sympathetic. In fact, a lot more sympathetic. So anyway, those are my views. I think it's a complicated topic. And it was unfortunate that Epstein wrote such a stupid piece, because it's a piece that actually deserves a broader real conversation in lots of its manifestations. What I will say is that if you have a degree, or Lord knows a peerage, or a knighthood, or some other title, and you don't really need to be using it to stuff it in people's faces all the time, maybe take a step back. I think that generally speaking, anything we can do to create a greater sense of community and kinship is probably something that makes this world slightly better right now. A little bit less crazy, we always like that.

Anyway, good to talk to everybody. Hope everyone has a good week. It's Christmas coming up, and let's be well and avoid people. Talk to you soon.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?