Suddenly everybody is referring to the Deep State, typically without offering much of a definition.
The general definition is the unelected government that continues making and implementing policy regardless of who is in elected office.
I have been writing about this structure for 10 years and studying it from the outside for 40 years. Back in 2007, I called it the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance, which is a more concise description of the structure than Deep State. Going to War with the Political Elite You Have (May 14, 2007).
I've used this simplified chart to explain the basic structure of the Deep State, which is the complex network of state-funded and/or controlled institutions, agencies, foundations, university research projects, media ties, etc.
The key point here is you can't separate these network nodes: you cannot separate DARPA, the national labs (nukes, energy, etc.), the National Science Foundation, DoD (Department of Defense), the National Security State (alphabet soup of intelligence/black budget agencies: CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.), Silicon Valley and the research universities: they are all tied together by funding, information flows, personnel and a thousand other connections.
For the past few years, I have been suggesting there is a profound split in the Deep State that is not just about power or ideology, but about the nature and future of National Security: in other words, what policies and priorities are actually weakening or threatening the long-term security of the United States?
I have proposed that there are progressive elements within the sprawling Deep State that view the dominant neocon-neoliberal agenda of the past 24 years as a disaster for the long-term security of the U.S. and its global interests (a.k.a. the Imperial Project).
There are also elements within the Deep State that view Wall Street's dominance as a threat to America's security and global interests. (This is not to say that American-based banks and corporations aren't essential parts of the Imperial Project; it's more about the question of who is controlling whom.)
So let's dig in by noting that the warmongers in the Deep State are civilians, not military. It's popular among so-called Liberals (the vast majority of whom did not serve nor do they have offspring in uniform--that's fallen to the disenfranchised and the working class) to see the military as a permanent source of warmongering.
(It's remarkably easy to send other people's children off to war, while your own little darlings have cush jobs in Wall Street, foundations, think tanks, academia, government agencies, etc.)
These misguided souls are ignoring that it's civilians who order the military to go into harm's way, not the other way around. The neocons who have waged permanent war as policy are virtually all civilians, few of whom served in the U.S. armed forces and none of whom (to my knowledge) have actual combat experience.
These civilian neocons were busily sacking and/or discrediting critics of their warmongering within the U.S. military all through the Iraqi debacle. now that we got that straightened out--active-duty service personnel have borne the brunt of civilian planned, ordered and executed warmongering--let's move on to the split between the civilian Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the DoD (Department of Defense) intelligence and special ops agencies: DIA, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, etc.
Though we have to be careful not to paint a very large agency with one brush, it's fair to say that the civilian leadership of the CIA (and of its proxies and crony agencies) has long loved to "play army". The CIA has its own drone (a.k.a. Murder, Inc.) division, as well as its own special ops ("play army" Special Forces), and a hawkish mentality that civilians reckon is "play army special forces" (mostly from films, in which the CIA's role is carefully managed by the CIA itself: How the CIA Hoodwinked Hollywood (The Atlantic)
Meanwhile, it's not exactly a secret that when it comes to actual combat operations and warfighting, the CIA's in-theater intelligence is either useless, misleading or false. This is the result of a number of institutional failings of the CIA, number one of which is the high degree of politicization within its ranks and organizational structure.
The CIA's reliance on "analysis" rather than human agents (there's a lot of acronyms for all these, if you find proliferating acronyms of interest), and while some from-30,000-feet analysis can be useful, it's just as often catastrophically wrong.
We can fruitfully revisit the Bay of Pigs disaster, the result of warmongering civilians in the CIA convincing incoming President Kennedy that the planned invasion would free Cuba of Castro's rule in short order. There are many other examples, including the failure to grasp Saddam's willingness to invade Kuwait, given the mixed signals he was receiving from U.S. State Department personnel.
Simply put, if you are actually prosecuting a war, then you turn to the services' own intelligence agencies to help with actual combat operations, not the CIA.This is of course a sort of gossip, and reading between the lines of public information; nobody is going to state this directly in writing.
As I have noted before:
If you want documented evidence of this split in the Deep State--sorry, it doesn't work that way. Nobody in the higher echelons of the Deep State is going to leak anything about the low-intensity war being waged because the one thing everyone agrees on is the Deep State's dirty laundry must be kept private.
As a result, the split is visible only by carefully reading between the lines, by examining who is being placed in positions of control in the Trump Administration, and reading the tea leaves of who is "retiring" (i.e. being fired) or quitting, which agencies are suddenly being reorganized, and the appearance of dissenting views in journals that serve as public conduits for Deep State narratives.
Many so-called Liberals are alarmed by the number of military officers Trump has appointed. Once you realize it's the neocon civilians who have promoted and led one disastrous military intervention (either with U.S. Armed Forces or proxies managed by the CIA) after another, then you understand Trump's appointments appear to be a decisive break from the civilian warmongers who've run the nation into the ground.
If you doubt this analysis, please consider the unprecedentedly politicized (and pathetically childish) comments by outgoing CIA director Brennan against an incoming president. Even if you can't stand Trump, please document another instance in which the CIA director went off on an incoming president-- and this after the CIA spewed a blatant misinformation campaign claiming a hacked Democratic Party email account constituted a successful Russian effort to influence the U.S. election--a surreal absurdity.
Let me translate for you: our chosen Insider lost the election; how dare you!
A number of observers are wondering if the CIA and its Deep State allies and cronies will work out a way to evict Trump from office or perhaps arrange a "lone gunman" or other "accident" to befall him. The roots of such speculations stretch back to Dallas, November 1963, when a "long gunman" with ties to the CIA and various CIA proxies assassinated President Kennedy, an avowed foe of the CIA.
Setting aside the shelfloads of books on the topic, both those defending the "lone gunman" thesis and those contesting it, the unprecedented extremes of institutionally organized and executed anti-Trump campaigns is worthy of our attention.
Given my thesis of a profound disunity in the Deep State, and the emergence of a progressive element hostile to neocons and neoliberalism (including Wall Street), then it's not much of a stretch to speculate that this rogue Deep State opposed to neocon-neoliberalism has Trump's back, as a new administration is pretty much the only hope to rid the nation's top echelons of the neocon-neoliberal policies that have driven the U.S. into the ground.
Rather than being the bad guys, as per the usual Liberal world-view, the Armed Forces may well play a key role in reducing the utterly toxic influence of neocon-neoliberals within the Deep State.
If you have wondered why academics like Paul Krugman and the CIA are on the same page, it's because they are simply facets of the same structure. Krugman is a vocal neoliberal, the CIA is vocally neocon: two sides of the same coin. I invite you to study the chart above with an open mind, and ponder the possibility that the Deep State is not monolithic, but deeply divided along the fault lines of Wall-Street-Neocons-Neoliberals and the progressive elements that rightly view the dominant neocon-neoliberals as a threat to U.S. national security, U.S. global interests and world peace.
We can speculate that some of these progressive elements view Trump with disdain for all the same reasons those outside the Deep State disdain him, but their decision tree is simple: if you want to rid America's Deep State of toxic neocon-neoliberalism before it destroys the nation, you hold your nose and go with Trump because he's the only hope you have.