Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Half Century Of Disenfranchisement: From The “Military Industrial Complex” To The “Deep State”

Ken O’Brien

Americans have a long history of fascination with conspiracy theories.

Reality, however, is far less simple than any such ascription of feelings of powerlessness or victimization to imagined cabals.

That is not to say that most of our history (as well as that of other societies now and throughout time) has not seen government bent to the will of dominant elites. However, such “manipulation” rarely, if ever, results from the artful execution of some monolithic and secret plan bowing to a hidden agenda.

Rather, it arises from a confluence of shared interests and values among those elites in perpetuating their own affluence and influence.

The clearest and most credible identification of this threat to American pluralist democracy in the post-World War II era came from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his 1961 farewell address to the nation.

In that speech he introduced the term “military industrial complex” which has influenced three generations’ perception of the nexus of power brokers in America.

The paradigm of the military industrial complex has recently been updated to incorporate the new realities of an expanded panoply of nodes of interest and influence.

This new construct has been advanced most effectively by Mike Lofgren. Lofgren has a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Akron. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study European history at the University of Bern and the University of Basel in Switzerland. He also completed the strategy and policy curriculum at the Naval War College.

Lofgren began his legislative career as a military legislative assistant to then Republican House representative John Kasich in 1983. In 1994, he was a professional staff member of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

From 1995 to 2004, he was budget analyst for national security on the majority staff of the House Budget Committee. From 2005 until his retirement in 2011, Lofgren was the chief analyst for military spending on the Senate Budget Committee.

Since his retirement, Lofgren has written about politics, budgets, and national security issues. In 2012, Lofgren published the book The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted.

Lofgren has termed his expanded concept of interlocking and interdependent elites “The Deep State”. He describes the derivation of the expression as follows:

 The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime. In British author John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth, a character describes the Deep State as “… the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.”  I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

His essay Anatomy of the Deep State is must reading for anyone who wants to begin to grasp the intricate nature of the interactions and interdependencies of today’s American power brokers and how they have evolved since Eisenhower’s time. The following interview with Bill Moyers provides a synopsis of Lofgren’s thesis.

The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight from on Vimeo.

Lofgren concludes his essay with a partial prescription for restoring some measure of balance to the American political-economic system.

As the United States confronts its future after experiencing two failed wars, a precarious economy and $17 trillion in accumulated debt, the national punditry has split into two camps. The first, the declinists, sees a broken, dysfunctional political system incapable of reform and an economy soon to be overtaken by China. The second, the reformers, offers a profusion of nostrums to turn the nation around: public financing of elections to sever the artery of money between the corporate components of the Deep State and financially dependent elected officials, government “insourcing” to reverse the tide of outsourcing of government functions and the conflicts of interest that it creates, a tax policy that values human labor over financial manipulation and a trade policy that favors exporting manufactured goods over exporting investment capital.

All of that is necessary, but not sufficient. The Snowden revelations (the impact of which have been surprisingly strong), the derailed drive for military intervention in Syria and a fractious Congress, whose dysfunction has begun to be a serious inconvenience to the Deep State, show that there is now a deep but as yet inchoate hunger for change. 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.

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