|The surfacing of the “deep state"??
By Daniel M. Ryan
Ever since Gen Michael T. Flynn’s resignation more than a week ago, there’s been a lot of talk about the so-called deep state. His resignation was triggered by the leaking of a private phone call he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.; in his resignation letter, he confessed to telling Vice-President Pence an untruth. He going was a good idea, as keeping him on would have set a bad example.
The leak was only one of two that’s been endured by the Trump administration. As for the one that torpedoed Gen. Flynn, Glenn Greenwald said that there were several major crimes – several felonies – committed by the entire chain of leakage. He, being the sponsor/guardian of Edward Snowdon, naturally said these crimes were justified. Even though he was not naive enough to ascribe the leakers hero status – he freely stipulated that it was probably a hatchet job – he still said that this was a case in which the People deserved to know.
Other commentators, more focused on the infighting aspect, said that the leaking was a job undertaken by the so-called shadow state, or Deep State. A government-within-a-government, now visible because of President Trump’s anti-Establishment cred, it can upset or even derail a new Administration. Some of the more excited commentators, the ones that are implying that President Trump will be gone well before his first term is over, are implying that this Deep State can even shaft an elected President if it gins up the will to.
Had these times been more normal, which they definitely are not, the Deep-State theory would have been pegged as yet another conspiracy theory. It certainly has the earmarks, most notably the transference of the history of a completely different country to American politics.
The factual origin of the Deep State is post-Ataturk Turkey. Ataturk and his Young Turks, when they took over Turkey and brought an end to the doddering Ottoman regime, launched a program of modernization. At the heart of this moderation was secularization. Ataturk decided that an Islamist government was a dead weight that would hold the country backwards, so the government he put in place was explicitly secular. From his rule onward, Turkish Islam would be the “house-broken"? Islam that neoconservatives and secularists are wishing for.
(As a cautionary note, Ataturk’s rule also featured the worst genocide of the pre-totalitarian age: the genocide of the Armenians. Sad to say, nation-building democratization has all-too-often been a blood-drenched affair. Even the “success stories"? of Japan and Germany required the A-bomb or the equivalent in TNT tonnage, if not in deaths.)
Since Ataturk became Turkey’s first President, there have been three successful military coups. Each coup ensconced a military dictatorship, albeit temporarily. The failed one of last summer, which Erdogan beat back, was launched to checkmate his Islamization of the government.
It’s this kind of country for which the “Deep State"? label was coined: a country wherein the military, paramilitary organizations, and so on, make up a State within a State. In this context, as applied to a country with a history like Turkey’s, the concept makes sense. After all – particularly in the case of fighting Islamization – the Deep-State actors can claim truthfully that they’re acting in the name of Ataturk, Turkey’s Founding Father.
When applied to the United States, that sensibleness vanishes. Even during all-out war, America’s elections have never been cancelled or even postponed. Even when Abraham Lincoln assumed martial-law powers during the Civil War, he did not interfere with the elections. In this regard, America’s Constitutional Republic has a more resilient democracy than a typical Parliamentary democracy: the custom of the latter during war is to suspend elections for the duration and assemble a National Government in which all major parties have at least one Cabinet post.
So, to put it unobtrusively, claiming that America has a Deep State is a bit of a stretch. Unlike Turkey, there is no customary basis for one in the United States. George Washington served his two terms, did not assume dictatorial powers, and gracefully retired when his second term was up. He handed over power to John Adams peaceably and without a fuss. His example being followed, including by Abraham Lincoln with respect to unmolested elections, means that there is no fertile ground in the American soil of custom for a Deep State to arise (let alone function.)
When viewed from this perspective, the claim of an American Deep State is up there with the Red-Scare claim that Bolsheviks were poised to take over the U.S. government “just like Lenin took over Russia."?
It would, that is, if it took the standard conspiracy-theory form of alarmism. If it did, it could be dismissed as the political answer to silly Saturday. If we were reading angry claims that a Deep State was wrecking American democracy, then we could safely ignore it. How would you react to an old guy who insisted that a cabal of senior bureaucrats bumped off Nixon in 1973-4 as revenge against him winning his landslide in 1972? A fellow who insists that the Deep State treats American elected officials like puppets on strings?
But weirdly, though consistent with the counter-revolution against the Trump Revolution, a lot of the folks who mention the Deep State want one! Imagine bumping into a character who avers that Washington is controlled by a cabal of rich and powerful Jews – and ends with, “I’m glad they’re doing it."? Myself, I’d find that creepy. And yet, the foregoing is not unlike Sarah Silverman publicly wishing for a military coup to oust President Trump.
Much Ado About Weirdness
Unnerving as that talk is, it is similar to a conspiracy theory: it’s a lot of hot air signifying little. Exciting but wild talk aside, we’re seeing nothing more than the growing pains of a new kind of Administration. We’re just seeing the initial bumps along the next railway route of the Trump Train. If you’re a Trump supporter, you already know what’s going on. You already know that Donald Trump, as an entrepreneur, has made some mistakes along the way; you also know that making the occasional mistake is an indissoluble part of the learning process of the practical-minded person. You know too that Trump has a solid track record in learning from his mistakes.
That’s really all we’re seeing right now. A new President made a mistake with one of his picks: he’s rectified it by accepting Gen. Flynn’s resignation, and you can bet money that he’s learned from it. Just like he learned from his mistakes in his business career. You’ll see so with his next National Security Advisor.
There’s really nothing to last week’s wild blasts of hot air. The only disquieting part is the fact that some progs – and at least one Never-Trump die-hard - seem willing to egg on appointed bureaucrats to do something that has never, ever been done in the two-hundred and forty years of the United States: rip up the duly-certified result of a Presidential election.
Now, that’s something to worry about.
Daniel M. Ryan, as Nxtblg, is shepherding the independently-run Open Audi Initiative Prediction Market Shadowing Project. He has stubbornly assumed all the responsibility and blame for the workings and outcome of the project.