“Come at the king, you best not miss.” – Omar
President Trump came into office, promising:
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
It isn’t too hard to interpret his inaugural speech and his first flurry of appointments, executive orders and memoranda as an attack on the current regime, deep state, shadow government or whatever you want to call that combination of oligarchs, lobbyists, bureaucrats, media and spooks that run the government behind the scenes, and enjoys the lion’s share of the spoils.
Trump may think he is the king, but his close staff has to know that they are coming at the deep state, and can’t afford to look weak. Likewise, the deep state has to know that they aren’t going to get that many shots at Trump. They have one now, but is it good enough?
Trump lost in the courts, which may have been expected, but has had to ask Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, to resign, which he probably did not expect. Bill Moyers wants the government to investigate all Trump’s connections with Russia, as he writes in, We Must Know the Truth:
Why was nothing done until the media broke the story? And why did Trump lie? As the National Lampoon joked back during the Watergate era, rephrasing the crucial questions aimed at Richard Nixon: “What did the president know and when did he STOP knowing it?”
Is it possible Trump and Flynn had been talking all along and keeping it to themselves? Who authorized Flynn to speak with the Russian ambassador on Trump’s behalf in the first place? The president himself or chief strategist Steve Bannon? Or someone else? Was Flynn a lone gun? Who can tell with all the lies?
And another thing: if the White House has known what was going on for weeks, why was Flynn still attending intelligence briefings as late as Monday? …
Cenk Uygur thinks taking down Flynn is just a warning shot, and that it all boils down to that 500 billion dollar oil deal with Russia that was put on hold after Obama’s sanctions. Another theory is that Trump was forced to borrow from shady lenders with ties to Russia. In any case, the media is hitting the Russian connection hard, and we can expect to see Beck Bennett’s bare-chested Putin on SNL next weekend.
I ran across John Robb’s blog, Global Guerrilla, a few days ago. Robb is an Air Force Academy graduate, who has specialized in social networking and the future of warfare. “I spent last year working for the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff on his vision for how AGI (artificial general intelligence) and robotics would transform how the Joint Force fights in 2035.”
In a post called, Political Networking (how social networking is changing politics forever), Robb notes that Trump’s team leveraged what he calls an open source insurgency to win the election, but is having trouble adapting it to govern. The resistance (or what he calls the Orthodoxy) however, is well-positioned to attack Trump with it’s own open source insurgency, which:
- arose out of the ashes of the political parties and is growing without any formal leadership.
- is ALREADY firmly in control of nearly all public forums.
- enforces opposition to Trump
- uses social networking to exert pressure on people to accept the orthodox position (in this case: #resistance to Trump).
- grows through peer pressure and disconnecting deviants from the network. It doesn’t innovate. It rejects, cajoles, and pillories.
- is growing at an accelerated pace because Trump feeds the outrage that fuels it.
I can already see the peer pressure on Facebook and some blogs, but I also see it hardening support from Trump’s followers and increasing divisions between working and technocratic classes. Robb hopes for some sort of participatory network arising to overcome both sides, but believes we are actually prepping for a civil war.
In previous posts I have included some quotes about what an American Deep State might look like. Many thanks to Felicity for linking to DONALD J. TRUMP AND THE DEEP STATE by Peter Dale Scott on Who.What.Why. Part 1 is mostly about what constitutes the Deep State, and how at least two factions are in opposition:
… those who saw the election as a contest between outsider Trump and a “deep state” tended to give two different meanings to this new term. On the one hand were those who saw the deep state as “a conglomerate of insiders” incorporating all those, outside and inside the traditional state, who “run the country no matter who is in the White House…and without the consent of voters.” On the other were those who, like Chris Hedges, limited the “deep state” to those perverting constitutional American politics from the margin of the Washington Beltway — “the security and surveillance apparatus, the war machine.”
But both of these simplistic definitions, suitable for campaign rhetoric, omit the commanding role played by big money — what used to be referred to as Wall Street, but now includes an increasingly powerful number of maverick non-financial billionaires like the Koch brothers. All serious studies of the deep state, including Mike Lofgren’s The Deep State and Philip Giraldi’s Deep State America as well as this book, acknowledge the importance of big money.
It is important to recognize moreover, that the current division between “red” and “blue” America is overshadowed by a corresponding division at the level of big money, one that contributed greatly to the ugliness of the 2016 campaign. In The American Deep State (p. 30), I mention, albeit very briefly, the opposition of right-wing oilmen and the John Birch Society “to the relative internationalism of Wall Street.” That opposition has become more powerful, and better financed, than ever before.
It has also evolved. As I noted in The American Deep State, (p. 14), the deep state “is not a structure but a system, as difficult to define, but also as real and powerful, as a weather system.” A vigorous deep state, like America, encompasses dynamic processes continuously generating new forces within it like the Internet — just as a weather system is not fixed but changes from day to day.
In Part 2, Scott links the often-bankrupted Trump to lenders with ties to Russian financial interests, making a better case for Russian hacking of the recent election than I have seen elsewhere.
The existence of a Deep State is dispiriting, and makes me feel like a rat in a cage. It is one thing to talk about opposing conservatives, or electing progressives, but that seems like throwing rocks while the apparatchiks of the deep state are targeting drone strikes.
This ain’t no fooling around.
It seems so long ago I dismissed Trump as a would-be strongman, but now he has been sworn into office. Explanations for his surprise election have ranged from white supremacy and misogny to economic anxiety of the formerly privileged to failure of the party in power to respect or serve their working class base. All of these are true to a point, but I think the latter two made the largest impact.
Many of my friends are concerned for their health, safety or legitimacy under the new administration. Today some of them are out marching against him. In a recent piece, John Michael Greer dismisses them:
I don’t think reasonable differences of opinion on the one hand, and the ordinary hypocrisy of partisan politics on the other, explain the extraordinarily stridency, the venom, and the hatred being flung at the incoming administration by its enemies. There may be many factors involved, to be sure, but I’d like to suggest that one factor in particular plays a massive role here.
To be precise, I think a lot of what we’re seeing is the product of class bigotry.
I part company with JMG here. I think there is real anxiety on the part of the class under attack. And they should be anxious, even for their livelihoods, because everything that relies on federal funding or grants could be on the block.
Charles Hugh Smith, who I quoted previously on the Deep State, proposes that Trump has the support of a Progressive subset of the Deep State which is in opposition to the Neoliberal Deep State. On his blog, Smith explains away why a populist like Trump has nominated so many establishment insiders:
To get anything done in a culture of entrenched interests, one must either have an overwhelming political mandate to dismantle the entire machine–Trump does not–or you need Insiders who know the pressure points of the system and its key players–in effect, Insiders who know how to slip a political stiletto into the kidneys of key players and twist the blade to get done what would otherwise be impossible.
But what I see is that Trump has appointed both insiders and outsiders. Insiders like banker Wilbur Ross and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis will head the Departments of Commerce and Defense – each of which Trump values. Outsiders like Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry and Ben Carson have been tapped to head the Departments of Education, Energy and Housing and Urban Development – which Trump intends to cripple. Rex Tillerson is an oil insider, which indicates that Trump is more interested in foreign oil than foreign borders.
In, Trump’s Declaration of War, Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, also sees Trump as a bulwark against neoliberalism:
Trump made it abundantly clear that Americans’ enemies are right here at home: globalists, neoliberal economists, neoconservatives and other unilateralists accustomed to imposing the US on the world and involving us in endless and expensive wars, politicians who serve the Ruling Establishment rather than the American people, indeed, the entire canopy of private interests that have run America into the ground while getting rich in the process.
But other than possibly avoiding another war, I wonder if dismantling the neoliberal regime will be of any particular benefit to the average citizen. In an article on The Intercept, Anything at All Can Happen in the Age of Trump, Jon Schwarz writes:
… while nothing is certain, some alarming things are more likely than others. The path the new administration hopes to take may be discernible in a 2016 report (PDF) by the conservative Heritage Foundation. According to The Hill on Thursday, Trump transition staffers – including a vice president at Heritage’s grassroots arm Action for America – are using the Heritage document as the basis for Trump’s first proposed budget.
The Heritage Foundation’s plan for balancing the budget savages Medicaid, Non-Defense Discretionary spending, Medicare and Social Security, in that order, to the tune of some 10.4 trillion dollars.
Just a small sample of what is on the Heritage chopping block includes the National School Lunch Program, Violence Against Women Act grants, all Non-Combat Defense Research, about a dozen DOE programs, about a dozen EPA programs, Public Broadcasting (to be privatized), Job Corps, Planned Parenthood, subsidies for Amtrak and DC Metro, and all Greenhouse Gas regulations.
Trump may posture as a populist, but this is not a populist list of cuts.
I’ve recently read a few articles that allude to a Deep State in the United States of America. That term seems to be derived from a collusion between drug traffickers and the military in Turkey, but has been expanded to describe organized behind-the-scenes political activity in other countries, including the US.
Essentially, outside observers suspect that some combination of the military–industrial complex, intelligence community, too-big-to-fail bankers, monopolistic corporations, lobbyists, plutocrats, oligarchs and sometimes the mainstream media, secretly and effectively determine public policy. The more conspiratorially-inclined think the deep state is a very organized secret Politburo; others think it is loose and factional like the rest of the government, but responds only to the desires of the wealthy and influential. I tend towards the latter view.
In, Trump Aims to Cut the Neocon Deep State Off at the Knees, Charles Hugh Smith opines that while one cannot prove the existence of a shadow government, one can sorta, kinda read what is going on. Smith sees a deep state power struggle as evidenced by a public disconnect between the CIA and the FBI over the course of the recent election.
I have long held that America’s Deep State–the unelected National Security State often referred to as the Shadow Government–is not a unified monolith but a deeply divided ecosystem in which the dominant Neocon-Neoliberal Oligarchy is being challenged by elements which view the Neocon-Neoliberal agenda as a threat to national security and the interests of the United States.
I call these anti-Neocon-Neoliberal elements the progressive Deep State.
Smith, John Michael Greer and others consider Trump to be a better option because they feared that Clinton would lead the US into wars of hegemony with Russia or China. To that extent they would be cheering any challenger to the neoliberals. They generally admit, however, that they have no idea whether Trump will be an effective President.
In, America Versus the Deep State, perennial kollapsnik James Howard Kunstler sees just the one, neocon-neoliberal, deep state:
The story may have climaxed with Trump’s Friday NSA briefing, the heads of the various top intel agencies all assembled in one room to emphasize the solemn authority of the Deep State’s power. Trump worked a nice piece of ju-jitsu afterward, pretending to accept the finding as briefly and hollowly as possible and promising to “look into the matter” after January 20th — when he can tear a new asshole in the NSA. I hope he does. This hulking security apparatus has become a menace to the Republic.
Kunstler also thinks/hopes that Trump’s changes may turn out to be a better alternative to continuing the neoliberal hegemony.
In, The Age of Great Expectations and the Great Void, which is posted on TomDispatch, Truthdig and CommonDreams, historian Andrew Bacevich doesn’t invoke a deep state to make his case for why America is changing course. Bacevich feels that after the collapse of the USSR, America’s leadership (mistakenly) bought into three themes:
1 Globalization of the American business and financial system
2 Preeminence of American military power
3 Expansion of Personal Freedom
Regarding #3, Bacevich is a social conservative, to whom too much personal freedom is a recipe for failure. We did eventually see some laws changed to reflect greater personal freedoms, but after the good feelings of the early 1980s, Middle America’s confidence was rocked:
… During the concluding decade of the twentieth century and the first decade-and-a-half of the twenty-first, Americans endured a seemingly endless series of crises. Individually, none of these merit comparison with, say, the Civil War or World War II. Yet never in U.S. history has a sequence of events occurring in such close proximity subjected American institutions and the American people to greater stress.
During the decade between 1998 and 2008, they came on with startling regularity: one president impeached and his successor chosen by the direct intervention of the Supreme Court; a massive terrorist attack on American soil that killed thousands, traumatized the nation, and left senior officials bereft of their senses; a mindless, needless, and unsuccessful war of choice launched on the basis of false claims and outright lies; a natural disaster (exacerbated by engineering folly) that all but destroyed a major American city, after which government agencies mounted a belated and half-hearted response; and finally, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, bringing ruin to millions of families.
Bacevich feels that Americans who elected Trump were simply ready for a change – any change – from the status quo, but that Trump will be a transitional rather than a transformational leader – if only because he and his party seem bereft of any ideas other than consolidating their own power.