When I buy books, I tend to buy used - on the cheap. At the moment I'm working my way through an autobiography of Frederick Douglas, the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Darwin's "The Origin of Species" and a third century text, a field manual on the proper recruiting, training, equipping and deployment of a Roman legion. A bit obscure, perhaps, but easily had for just a few bucks a volume on the used market.
Breaking with my parsimonious pattern I dipped into my lunch money to buy a copy of Michael Isikoff and David Corn's new book, Russian Roulette, The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.
I've only made it through the first two chapters but, overall, I find the book pretty helpful. By now we've been inundated with leaks and news reports about Donald Trump, Vlad Putin, Obama and Clinton and all the bit players. Isikoff and Corn are rehashing a lot of stuff we've already read but they're presenting it collated, organized chronologically. The authors don't connect the dots so much as they present them in a manner in which the reader, with perhaps a better understanding of their meaning, can then connect for him/herself. What might have been a collection of anecdotal curiosities turns into a coherent narrative. Patterns emerge with somewhat greater clarity.
And then there's information such as the following excerpt that puts Russia's hacking effort into perspective:
"In February 2013, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of Russia's armed forces, published an article in an obscure Russian military journal advocating that Russia adapt its military strategies to the modern world. The piece initially received little attention within the U.S. national security establishment. But after Radio Liberty published a translation, US officials took notice. Here was a Russian military leader proposing a new doctrine that could shape how Russia would engage - and do battle - with the United States.
"In the article, Gerasimov explored how social media had fueled the Arab Spring. He noted in the internet-dominated world there were new means for waging war: 'political, economic, informational.' And these measures could involve 'the protest potential of the population.' In other words, information warfare could be used to weaponize political divisions within another nation. Gerasimov was crafting a doctrine of 'hybrid warfare' - a new form of conflict in which 'frontal engagements' by army battalions and fighter aircraft would become ;a thing of the past,' replaced by hackers and skilled propagandists trained to exploit existing rifts within the ranks of the adversary.
"'The very 'rules of war' have changed,' Gerasimov wrote. 'The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the force of weapons in their effectiveness... Long-distance, contactless actions against the enemy are becoming the main means of achieving combat and operational goals.' Gerasimov did not spell out what 'contactless actions' would replace ground troops. But it was not hard to figure out what he was talking about.
"The Russian intelligence services had become increasingly aggressive and sophisticated in their cyber hacks, penetrating government, business, and media networks all over the world. Russian hackers showed their might in 2007 when they blitzed Estonia. After the Estonian government removed a statue of a Soviet soldier, a massive cyberattack shut down the country's banking system, the sanitation system, and the websites of government agencies and news organizations. The country was paralyzed for days. And in 2008, Russian cyber warriors broke into the computers of the US Central Command - which oversaw US military actions throughout the Middle East - with an ingenious trick. Their operatives seeded bazaars in Kabul, where US soldiers shopped, with thumb drives for sale that were embedded with malware. All it took was one soldier with one infected thumb drive, plugged into a laptop hooked up to the US Central Command network, for the Russians to secretly obtain US military battle plans.
"Russia's cyberattacks were only one page in the Gerasimov playbook. Another was a revival of the old Soviet tactic of dirty tricks. And the Kremlin would soon deploy one against a high-level target: a senior US diplomat."
Interesting stuff and I'm pretty safe in saying it's worth a read.