Friday, June 15, 2007

Derin Devlet: The Deep State

“There is one deep state and one other state. The state that should be real is the spare one, the one that should be spare is the real one."--Suleyman Demirel, Turkish president from 1994 until 1999.

The somewhat dramatic, even ominous term, Deep State, refers to "an influential and informal anti-democratic coalition within the Turkish political system, composed of high-level elements within the Turkish military, security and intelligence services, the judicial branch, and important commanders of organized crime."

I first became interested in this Turkish phenomenon in the aftermath of journalist Hrandt Dink's assassination in December of 2006. However, that event, which I've written about earlier, is not the subject of this post. As I located various articles and information about the Turkish Deep State, it became clear to me that we need some term in English, equally dramatic, if not ominous, to describe those forces which seek to exercise their will through the mechanisms of the federal government, in an extra-legal, or at least starkly anti-democratic fashion.

That is the topic, the American Deep State, if you will, which I wish to explore in the near future.

I have been somewhat hesitant to raise this issue directly, though I certainly have done so obliquely in the past, out of my own aversion toward so-called "conspiracy theories," which, quite often seem to me to be the tortured constructions of the woefully confused, over causes and effects the complexity of which they can't begin to acknowledge, much less address. No, I don't envision a small circle of investment bankers, industrialists (do they still exist?), and conniving Jews unleashing global suffering for their own, ill-gotten gain. Nor do I plan to start linking to reports of alien spacecraft at Area 51.

But let's be clear. As several bloggers whose insights I admire are insistently pointing out, America is an ostensibly democratic nation, the majority of whose citizens are increasingly emphatic in their opposition to an amnesty for illegal immigrants, an amnesty which the nation's political leaders seem not to have the latitude, or perhaps the power, to permanently reject. The crux of the argument apparently comes down to the government's insistence on creating a new set of laws while flatly refusing to enforce the existing laws, in blatant disregard of the will of the American public. Something other than representative democracy is at work. I cite this as one example. Our attempts to maintain a sort of covert dominion over the Middle East, or at least over the resources extracted from its sands, would obviously be another.

In other words, the fact that I don't believe in alien spacecraft at Area 51 doesn't mean I don't believe in Area 51, despite decades of federal government denial. (In case you don't get the History Channel, the government was finally forced, in the 1990s, to admit to Area 51's existence as a result of lawsuits filed by former employees poisoned by the burning of toxic wastes at the site.)

My own skepticism ignorance, and uncertainty prevent me from linking various intriguing bits and pieces into some sweeping, tantalizing, but ultimately implausible theoretical whole. A healthy failing on my part, I suspect.

There is a great deal of blindness, blunder, stupidity, and willed self-deception in the actions of any institution, particularly one as cumbersome as the federal government. Nevertheless, the government does move, sometimes unswervingly though inexplicably, in certain directions, and it's only natural to wonder why.

Though I realize that the following opinions will come as no surprise to visitors of his site, we are not in Iraq because of Weapons of Mass Destruction or a War on Terror or to unleash a democracy or to inspire an Islamic reformation. We are not in Iraq so that George W. Bush can show up his Daddy or work through whatever Oedipal issues may be plaguing him. We are not in Iraq because all human beings crave freedom, or because George W. Bush believes all human beings crave freedom. A president, even a deluded and messianic president, isn't allowed to wander on a leash that long.

Iraq may be a disaster, but it isn't a simple blunder. It's more than a mistake. And yet, through some eyes, perhaps, it's no mistake at all. That's what I'm interested in exploring.

“The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes.”
--Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter


Mencius Moldbug said...


Thanks for mentioning this concept - I have always liked the Turkish concept of the "deep state." (Not that I have any affection for the organization itself - busts of Ataturk don't do much for me.)

I'm curious to see your answer - mine will come along at UR shortly.

Basically, I think the US has not one but two deep states - a red one and a blue one. The red deep state is perhaps best personified by DoD. Its blue counterpart is the State Department, but it is part of the whole I call the Polygon or extended civil service. This blue deep state is much larger, smarter, and more powerful than the red one, and the latter's actions only make sense in light of the former.

The war in Iraq is in fact an American civil war. You could call it a "civil war by proxy." It is taking place on Iraqi soil and the soldiers of the blue state are Iraqis (or at least Arabs), but the prize they are fighting for is political power in the US. The blue state will win, as it usually does, and the locals will get screwed, as they usually do. The same thing happened in Vietnam, which Iraq repeats as farce.

Anonymous said...

There was a radio personality in Boston years ago who would say, "We are going to get the story behind the story."

I wish I had the story behind the story. Still, like astronomers who predict the finding of planets due to the gravity effect on known planets, the existence of a deep state here is impossible to deny.

An immigration amnesty that will probably be passed despite its rejection by the great majority is so obviously deep state stuff. No one from my state thinks Teddy* was capable of putting two words together on his own unless one is Chivas and the other Regal, let alone coming up with a bill.

All an individual can do is take note of the deep state's existence and order one's life accordingly. One can have little effect on its existence. It can have a lot on yours.

*Teddy may be fried, but his staff is efficient and will respond to the needs of individual constituents with some efficiency. Union workers on big projects have rarely missed a paycheck. People outside of the Commonwealth really don't have a picture of how Teddy (or his handlers) delivers.

Theodore Breehn said...

The comment above was mine. Sorry

Black Sea said...


The "Blue-State Deep State, Red- State Deep State" or "Double Deep State" theory is intriguing, but I don't know what more I can say until you elaborate on it further. I await such elaboration on UR.

I might note that while the Red- State Deep State, exemplified by the DOD, is into expensive weapons systems, large-scale battalions, and foreign deployments, it is distinctly wary of actually wars. Too unpredicatable, too messy, too likely to call negative attention to the military.

They'd prefer that we view them as that Thin Green Line standing between us and Armageddon.

I don't think the military establishment was ever terribly keen on the Iraqi adventure, and to circle back to your point, I suspect that some elements of the DOD are not altogether displeased with the turn of events in Iraq. They perhaps see it as teaching the Neocons a lesson, and reminding everyone that things go better when we unswervingly prepeare ourselves for that never-to-be consumated titanic confrontation with the Russains, or perhaps it's now the Chinese.

That's the sort of war the DOD prefers, global in scope, immeasurable in consequence, and decidedly cold.

By the way, where do Rumsfeld, Cheney, Feith, Wolfowitz, et al fit into the Blue State Red State schemata?

Mencius Moldbug said...

I think your points about the conflict between DoD and the neocons are very valid and insightful.

The neocons intellectuals are definitely bluer than DoD, but still very much red. The idea of reversing the degringolade of decolonialization, and once again bringing Western law, peace and prosperity to the Third World, is one that occurs spontaneously to many.

And the military establishment would love to do it, I'm sure - but only under terms that would actually work. Colonialism ended because it was no longer politically viable in the domestic political systems of the colonizers. This condition has hardly changed, and we see the result in Iraq, where the US army has to pretend to be a liberator rather than an occupier - a problem set up for failure.

DoD is like anywhere else and wants as much work as it can get, but only on terms under which it can succeed and look good. Certainly many saw such terms in Iraq, but not all, and they are rethinking now.

Basically, the red government invaded Iraq because it thought it would win, and victory would have brought it great prestige. But the blue government, which is always the Globetrotters in this game, made the rules, and as in Vietnam, they are rules under which the US military cannot win. Just the fact that the US does not control the Iraqi government means failure is almost inevitable.

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