Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Is Progress?

The last time a Republican took office as Presidenct without the formality of winning a majority of the popular vote, he surrounded himself with a group of people (the ‘Neocons’) with a positively 19th century Mahan and MacKinder world view.  The geopolitical consequences were a bad joke in written in buckets of blood.  The Afghanistan War was not the Greatest Game, Redux, and the Neo Cons either forgot, or more likely never knew, that Julian the Apostate met his end inside what is today known as the Sunni Triangle.  I guess those over-educated twits weren't as culturally literate as the American soldier who scrawled SPQR on a wall in Afghanistan.

This time, again taking office without the formality of winning the vote, the new President has started his project of building a Wall along the Mexican Border.  Now, walls in history—the Great Wall, the Athenian Long Walls, the Berlin Wall—have been, not to be too ugly, fairly limited in their success.  When they work, they work generally as deterrents, not physical obstacles.  

But, apparently we’re gonna have a Wall. And what Trump's Wall brings to mind is the Maginot Line.  I guess we’ve moved from the 19th to the 20th century.  The Maginot Line, as you may recall, was an enormous investment of French military resources and psychological capital throughout the 1930s that foiled the German invasion of France in 1940 when, as scripted, the Nazis futilely threw division after division of the flower of Wehrmacht at it in a repeat of Verdun (NOT).

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Madonna and Newt, Rosa and Horst

The woman needs to learn how to fight.

At the Woman’s March, in front of a crowd much larger than the one the President had addressed the day before at his inauguration, a celebrity named Madonna said sometimes she wanted to burn down (blow up?) the White House.   Newt Gingrich, a TV commentator (too mentally feeble to be called a pundit), responded by calling her a left wing fascist who should be jailed for inciting violence.   She responded, not even by defending herself, but by defending her remarks, saying that had been taken out of context (which they had been, but so what--all's fair . . . ).

The woman needs to learn how to fight.

A better response would have been.  ‘Really?  He said that?  Well, that’s the sort of drivel you should expect from a decaying sycophant of the American oligarchy.'  Then, if so inclined, she might go on:   'Hard to believe the man once had what it took to get a Ph.D. in history.  But, just to give him a history lesson, back in the 20th century the fascists were on the right wing and the communists were to the left.  I may have Rosa Luxemburg in my past, but Horst Wessel was playing for his team.’

Set the SOB back on his heels.  Then close in.  Your turn.

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)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Defiling the Office

An early stage in all of this has to involve defiling the office of the presidency and degrading the institutions of government.  It's a precondition to what will follow.  I'm not sure exactly how the destruction of the effectiveness, coherence and resilience of governing institutions will proceed (though I have my suspicions).  But El Caudillo has gotten a good start on defiling his office:

Point 1.  The silly lies over crowd size.   Fewer citizens turned out for his installation than women turned out the next day to protest it.  A fact.  Then he shifts gears and claims, well, those people should have voted.  In point of fact, they did.  Almost 3 million more voted for his opponent than for him.  That may not matter in an oligarchy, but it's foolish to draw attention to it.

Point 2.  The symbolic first executive order.  Nothing wrong with inaugural symbolism, but something so transparently toothless as ordering federal agencies to make getting health insurance hurt less borders on the bizarre.

Point 3.  Going to the CIA and making a fool of himself in front of a pretty important group of people.  That is, unless show casing weakness and stupidity will be his survival strategy.  I don't know if American has a Deep State, but if it does, he went into the lion's den and gave off a prey vibe.