Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Deep State USA, Part Two

(This is the second post in a four part sequence.  The other posts are dated January 23,2017, February 2, 2017 and February 13, 2017)  

In my politically aware lifetime (roughly the last half century) there have been two different times when an American Deep State seemed to be a distinct possibility.  I'm ignoring frivolous stupidity like Oliver North's guns for oil shenanigans under Ronald Reagan in the Iran Contra scandal.  In the late 80s what the Soviets used to call the correlation of forces just wasn't right.  I'm talking about when the correlation of forces was right.

The first came in the 1960s and early 1970s.  It built upon a pre-existing professional national security establishment prone to covert operations and a federal approach to national policing with a muted but real political agenda.  The locus of the first was the Central Intelligence Agency, for the second it was the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They responded to the public outrage over a failed war of colonial intervention in Vietnam (sold to the public as a defense of the Free World under something called the 'Domino Theory'), and general atmosphere of cultural and social upheaval epitomized but hardly limited to the Civil Rights movement.  All of this occurred against the backdrop of a Cold War with the Soviet Union in which internal subversion (think Italian and French communist parties, perceived in the United States as direct descendants of Comintern) was an acknowledged weapon.

This led to a fair amount of internal surveillance.  In turn, that internal surveillance was outed, to public outrage.  Meanwhile, covert operations as a component of an aggressive foreign policy had been discredited by failure in French Indochina, the general mess created in Latin America (nobody decent had anything good to say about Pinochet or the Argentine generals and their Dirty War), the embarrassment of disclosures in Western Europe about which editors of prestigious publications had been on the CIA payroll and which royals had been taking bribes from American defense contractors, and so on.

So, Congress held hearings (thank you, Frank Church).  Right there in tandem with Watergate and the disgrace of a sitting President (thank you, Richard Nixon), they were pretty devastating.  A generation of CIA case officers retired.  The FBI found itself in a newly depoliticized structure.  The Civil Rights movement, the social upheaval, and the cultural shifts that seemed so threatening to established interests in the 1960s turned out to be susceptible to being accommodated, rather than repressed.  Martin Luther King wasn't a commie, he was a national hero.  And those FBI tapes, well, maybe they're of interest to Mrs. King, but not to the rest of us, and they shouldn't have been made in the first place.

The country, as a whole, turned its back in the whole idea of a Deep State.  And a rather strong lesson was infused through the national security bureaucracy, a culture shifting lesson, about how things were done, what was permitted, what was forbidden, and so on.

And that's it for today.  Stay tuned, in the next day or so, for America's next chance to kiss the Deep State pig.

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