With the entire “Russia interfered in US democracy” story collapsing, Jimmy Dore reminded us which country is the undisputed champion in election meddling. The Carnegie Mellon University study does NOT even include coups and attempts at régime change. The study just counts when the USA tried directly to influence an election for one of the sides. Imagine the results if we added coups, régime change operations, invasions, sanctions, and bombings to the final tally. Here’s a transcript of an NPR interview on the matter:
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This is hardly the first time a country tried to influence the outcome of another country’s election. By one expert’s count, the USA did it, too, more than 80 times worldwide between 1946 and 2000. That expert is Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University. I asked him to tell me about one election where US intervention likely affected the outcome.
One example of that was our intervention in Serbia (then, Yugoslavia), in the 2000 election there. Slobodan Milošević was running for re-election, and we didn’t want him to stay in power due to his tendency to disrupt the Balkans and his human rights violations (sic). Therefore, we intervened in various ways for the opposition candidate, Vojislav Koštunica. Moreover, we gave funding to the opposition, and we gave them training and campaigning aide. In addition, according to my estimate, that assistance was crucial in enabling the opposition to win.
How often are these interventions public versus covert?
Basically, about one-third of them are public and two-thirds of them are covert. In other words, the voters in the target don’t know before the election.
Your count doesn’t include coups or attempts at régime change. Depending on the definitions, it sounds like the tally could actually be much higher.
You’re right. I didn’t count and discounted covert coup d’états like the USA did in Iran in 1953 or in Guatemala in 1954. I only counted when the USA tried directly to influence an election for one of the sides. I didn’t discuss other types of interventions. However, if we include those, then, of course, the number could be larger.
For example, how often do other countries like Russia try to alter the outcome of elections as compared to the USA?
Well, for my dataset, the USA is the most common user of this technique. Since 1945, Russia or the USSR used it half as much. My estimate is 36 cases between 1946 to 2000. We know that the Chinese used this technique; the Venezuelans used it when the late Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was in power, and other countries used it, too.
Arguably, the USA is more vocal than any other country about promoting democracy and democratic values around the world. Does this strike you as conflicting with that message?
It depends upon if we help the pro-democratic side (sic), as in the case of Milošević that I talked about earlier. I believe that’d be helpful for democracy. If it helps less-nicer candidates or parties, then, naturally, it can be less helpful.
Obviously, your examination of 20th-century attempts to influence elections doesn’t involve hacking because computers weren’t widespread until recently.
In your view, is technology dramatically changing the game… as we saw in the November election? On the other hand, is this just the latest evolution of an effort that always used whatever tools are available?
I’d say it’s more the latter. Before, without cyber-hacking tools, I’d say that the Russians or the Soviets infrequently did these types of intervention because one had to use old-style methods such as people meeting in the park in secret giving out and getting information and things like that.
23 April 2017