The Anatomy of the Deep State
February 28, 2014 7:25 AM   Subscribe

"My analysis . . . is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day." Former longtime Republican Congressional aide Mike Lofgren on the illusion of US political "paralysis", the limits of the visible government, and the anatomy of the deep state.

"During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. "


Lofgren discussing the deep state with Bill Moyers.

Reactions to the essay from Andrew Bacevich, Danielle Brian, Heidi Boghosian, Juan Cole, Henry Giroux, and Tim Wu.
posted by ryanshepard (25 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
You'd think this would be pretty obvious after Belgium managed to go without a sitting government for 589 days and the trains kept running.

Article
posted by gohabsgo at 7:31 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think Juan Cole's reaction hit upon an important point that irritated me about the essay. The parts of the "Deep State" Lofgren stitches together aren't in unison. I think he is taking a whole bunch of things he doesn't like about contemporary politics (Wall Street, the NSA, modern military interventions), and conflating them as some unified shadow government.

And his conclusion is crap:

What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed.

Wake up sheeple I guess? Hoping for a divine philosopher king is not a good plan.
posted by zabuni at 7:44 AM on February 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


You'd think this would be pretty obvious after Belgium managed to go without a sitting government for 589 days and the trains kept running.

I'm not sure what that has to do with the FPP. The trains kept running because they still had a government. They just didn't have a legislature, and since unlike the US they have a parliamentary system, that meant they didn't have an executive. Every other member (i.e., employee) of the government was doing their jobs, which is not what would happen here.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:50 AM on February 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Closest comparison I could call to mind offhand, but I see how it could be a case of apples and oranges.
Being that they are a monarchy, you could also argue that they indeed did have an executive.
posted by gohabsgo at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2014


I'm not sure what that has to do with the FPP. The trains kept running because they still had a government. They just didn't have a legislature, and since unlike the US they have a parliamentary system, that meant they didn't have an executive. Every other member (i.e., employee) of the government was doing their jobs, which is not what would happen here.

I don't know the specifics of Belgium but it is also likely they don't have a budget system that runs like the U.S. that is like living paycheck to paycheck. Stability in funding does wonders for government services and morale.
posted by srboisvert at 8:04 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


An unremarkably shallow analysis from a career Republican congressional aide. Note that not even any of the responses really take on the issue of militarism and the politics of militarism. The "Deep State" is 9/10s the "military industrial complex" but there's no way an ex-Republican congressional aide is going to admit that the dirty hippies were right re: US military.

Also, from Tim Wu:
Lofgren is not familiar with Silicon Valley and makes a few errors in this respect. I would say that the Valley is newer to Washington and has not yet developed ties as strong as, say, the defense industry, Hollywood or the incumbent telecommunications industries (I should add that intellectual property protection is mainly a southern California obsession). It is not a business that, at least yet, depends on Washington to guarantee profit or protect it from competition. The harder question is whether it’s only a matter of time.
This is so tendentious it's funny... rather than depending on Washington, the "internet" economy was created out of whole cloth by Washington (see Al Gore.) Also, it's ironic that "Silicon" Valley contains precious little silicon. What exactly happened to the semiconductor industry in the US is an interesting history lesson in "neoliberal" economics.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:08 AM on February 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


interesting that he uses "deep state," which I only have encountered concerning Egypt and Turkey and is closely associated with the idea of the "military-industrial complex."*


*military-industrial-Congressional complex
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:26 AM on February 28, 2014


The Deep State is something that exists in a lot of cultures. There's what Sam Smith used to call the "PBS Newshour" view of politics, and then there's what really happens. The PBS Newshour view says that politics is about smart people with ideas chatting on television, point-counter-point, and newspaper editorial pages. Of course, those discussions are generally removed from discussions about power-- it's just ideas right? And the best ideas win?

The nexus between the security services, organized crime and civilian government is always there, that pattern of conflict is always basically the same. If you want to read a great account of how it played out in Japan, David Kaplan's book, Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld is a classic. Though the topic lends itself to sensationalism, Kaplan's book is published by the very respected University of California Press.
posted by wuwei at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is so tendentious it's funny... rather than depending on Washington, the "internet" economy was created out of whole cloth by Washington (see Al Gore.) Also, it's ironic that "Silicon" Valley contains precious little silicon. What exactly happened to the semiconductor industry in the US is an interesting history lesson in "neoliberal" economics.

Not to mention that a significant part of the growth of the internet it was that was allowed to evade taxes. Many of the big 'disruptions' have occurred because they bypass existing laws and agreements that evolved as compromises to make society work. The internet industries are probably at least just as dependent on Washington than other businesses if not more.
posted by srboisvert at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Makes sense. After all you don't want to depend on public elected officials to do diplomacy with the UFO aliens.
posted by happyroach at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pretty darned truthy. How refreshing. I'd like to add to this unusually honest essay Henry Giroux' excellent observations of how much the Deep State depends on mass punishment (what Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow) and cultures of fear, cruelty and oppression.

I too think the likelihood of a beneficent philosopher king who will save us all is pretty darn low. But, perhaps naively, I find more likely Juan Cole's prescription for a cure:

If the Deep State is not monolithic but divided over policy, and if it is in fact much more responsive to the exercise of public political power than the author admits, then it is vulnerable to a vigilant public.
posted by bearwife at 10:40 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wake up sheeple I guess?

Good luck with that, particular as corporate power controls the campaign purse strings (and thus has the ability to shoot down any real attempts at reform/curbing its power) and the national security apparatus is as much a scam/contractor's paradise as anything else.

I found Lofgren's piece entirely plausible, though I'd agree that the military-industrial complex = the deep state.

How do we challenge this? We don't. They've got us by the balls, folks. It'll collapse before it could ever be changed; but Lofgren seems pretty convinced it will collapse. That wouldn't be a losing bet, I suspect.
posted by kgasmart at 10:42 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Janine R. Wedel, Shadow Elite

"Flex nets draw their membership from a limited circle of players who interact with each other in multiple roles over time, both inside and outside government, to achieve mutual goals. While their roles and environments change, the group provides continuity. .... Members of what I call the Neocon core, an informal group of a dozen or so members and a successful flex net, have worked with each other in various incarnations for some thirty years to realize their goals for American foreign policy via the assertion of military power... [M]embers of flex nets are united by shared activities and interpersonal histories. "Interest groups" and "lobbies" do not convey the ambiguous state-private nature of flex nets, which coordinate power and influence from multiple vantage points -- often far removed from public input, knowledge, or potential sanction."
posted by dragonsi55 at 11:45 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.

Oh, the guys with guns.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:20 PM on February 28, 2014


...but Lofgren seems pretty convinced it will collapse.

Why? He doesn't think corporate & government planners are able to reckon what kinds of societal pressures could reduce their power? Or that if large parts of the economy stop working for whatever reason, that they don't have contingency plans worked out to avoid taking a loss/the blame?

It just seems like The Masses can bear a lot more in terms of austerity before the corporate masters are called to account. And in the meantime, the captains of industry can afford to put away a little extra for a rainy day.
posted by sneebler at 1:31 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was kind of a sensationalized article, right?
posted by zscore at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2014


The article appears to have been removed from billmoyers.com (“The page you were looking for has either been deleted or moved.”). Cue conspiracy theories.

There's a copy at http://pastebin.com/raw.php?i=xuvFV8yJ
posted by marijn at 2:31 PM on February 28, 2014


The article shows up fine for me.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2014


Indeed, it works again for me too now. It was gone for at least 20 minutes before.
posted by marijn at 2:55 PM on February 28, 2014


“Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.

He forgot the part about the squid.

There is only one power that can stop them now. Really clever class action lawsuits. They got big tobacco for instance. They might be able to get the big banks and the big spies.
posted by bukvich at 3:31 PM on February 28, 2014


Indeed, it works again for me too now. It was gone for at least 20 minutes before.

Did it change at all? How odd.
posted by cell divide at 3:44 PM on February 28, 2014


Gaius Publius: Are Democrats who Propose Cuts to Social Security “Stupid” or Just Doing Risk-Analysis?
And for them, when it comes to the general election, if the choice is between two free-marketeers anyway, so what? Rubin doesn’t suffer when Bush is in office, nor does anyone he hangs with. He and his friends still get their factories in China, and they still get the strongest stock market the Fed can deliver. They suffer all the way to the bank, count their cash, wait for the next electoral round, and try again. Most of the real pain is felt by those below, by the failed electeds, and by us.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:43 PM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a MetaFilter convention — similar to '.' in obituary threads — that meant, "I'm only here to say the same thing I always say."

Since there isn't, please turn to page 596 of your hymnals and join me in a rousing chorus of "Elected Officials Are No Longer Meaningfully in Charge of the Security Apparatus of the United States."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:12 AM on March 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mike Lofgren previously: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

Revolt of the Rich
posted by homunculus at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2014


I wish there was a MetaFilter convention ... please turn to page 596 of your hymnals and join me in a rousing chorus ...

mikelieman: #596!!!
posted by mikelieman at 11:49 AM on March 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


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