Monday, January 23, 2017

Is There a Deep State (in the United States)?

Russia has one.  Vladmir Putin fronts for it.  Turkey has one.  After the failure of its coup attempt, Erodogan is trying to crush it.  Egypt is hard to call.  It certainly has the makings of a Deep State within it, but I'm not sure the overlayers a civil society are thick enough to bury the structure of a deep state--the institutions are too close to the surface.  Clearly in Latin America in the second half of the 20th century the instruments of what might otherwise have been a Deep State were too close the surface, and the glory of that region in the last two generation has been the growth of stronger civil societies and middle classes, Fujimorismo and FARC to the contrary notwithstanding.

So what is a Deep State?  Sounds appealing to anyone with a taste for conspiracy theories.  I don't personally have that appetite, so I'll tread lightly.  First, though, a couple of things that a Deep State is not.   It is not The Establishment.  The Establishment was a wonderful British concept, the Powers that Be, Church and State, For King and Country, the Imperial Ruling Class, a whole bundle of institutions and ideas that reflected the late Victorian/Edwardian gesalt, but transformed in World War One into something for the 20th century, so that bishops and brigadiers, dons and mandarins, could feel like part of something big.  Then, of course, the Establishment crossed the Atlantic, became an adjective, as in the term 'Establishment Pigs' (not complimentary), meant for lackeys of the Military Industrial Complex and running dogs of the Foreign Policy/Defense/National Security Complex.

Nor is the Deep State a career civil service empowered by expertise and the rule of law.  Whatever the Eurocrats of Brussels or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may be, they aren't a Deep State.

I would say, for a Deep State to exist, there must be more or less coherent groups within the existing institutions of government willing to act in violation of existing law, regulation and procedures in pursuit of policies perceived to be in defense of the nation or in pursuit of the national interest.  These groups need to be positioned in the security organs (to give them the ability to act--the U.S. National Park Service or the staff of The Louvre don't count), they need to have sufficient seniority, status and authority (so they can control the resources and personnel to be effective--disgruntled junior officers in a Third World barracks don't count, either), and, finally, they need to reflect of reasonably broad consensus within the security organs of the state and within the broader civil society (Yukio Mishima was certainly an interesting character, but not a representative of a Japanese Deep State).

So, does the United States have a Deep State within its security organs?  Hasta manana.

(This is the first post in a four part sequence.  The other posts are dated January 25,2017, February 2, 2017 and February 13, 2017)

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