All statecraft and politics is notoriously deceptive and duplicitous to a degree. It's part of the Machiavellian game and even at times, arguably, can be paradoxically key to success for good outcomes.
But Washington's current problem is on an altogether different scale. Its rampant duplicity seems to be spinning itself into an ominous credibility crisis. A crisis that conveys historic existential consequences for American democracy and political function. Perhaps even a harbinger of world war.
Take CIA director Mike Pompeo. Last week, he gave a big interview to Britain's state broadcaster, the BBC, in which he reiterated serious claims that Russia hacked into the American presidential election in 2016.
Further, he forewarned that Russian state agents were planning to repeat their alleged meddling in the forthcoming mid-term Congressional elections later this year.
However, within days of making such dire accusations against the Kremlin, the American spymaster was reportedly holding meetings in Washington DC with two senior Russian intelligence figures -- Alexander Bortnikov and Sergei Naryshkin. The two men represent Russia's federal and foreign intelligence services, the FSB and SVR, respectively.
There was apparently nothing untoward about the top-level meeting. The American and Russian spy chiefs were reportedly exchanging views on counter-terrorism, which arguably is a positive thing. After all, a foiled terror attack in St Petersburg recently was thwarted by Russian security services reportedly following up on a tip-off from the American CIA.
But here's the thing. Doesn't it seem a bit strange that the chief of the CIA is warning in very public media interviews that the Kremlin is meddling in US democracy through underhand means, yet virtually his next appointment involves hosting Russia's top spies?
Not only that, but the two Russian intelligence chiefs in question have been put on an American government sanctions list and travel ban purportedly over Russia's "annexation" of Crimea and "aggression" in Eastern Ukraine.
So, if American official concerns about alleged Russian subversion in the US and abroad are as vexed as they are made out to be in public announcements, then how does that square with Mike Pompeo greeting his Russian counterparts in a convivial professional setting?
When the CIA director was challenged by Congressional Democrats about his meeting with the Russians he responded by claiming there was nothing incongruous about their cooperation in Washington, and, he said, it was tough-talking encounter.
"You and the American people should rest assured that we covered very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align," stated Pompeo in a written reply to lawmakers.
"We vigorously defend America in these encounters and pull no punches," he added.
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