Trump: Doing the Work of the “Deep State”
Although it may seem odd, given Trump’s criticisms of the CIA and the FBI, often identified as agencies of what is being called “the deep state,” but it seems to me that Trump is actually an ally of that state, and that he is seeking to reinforce that state as much as possible. To explain.
9/11 served the purposes of the deep state, that is, the government agencies that engage in secret or covert activities that were created after World War II with the onset of the Cold War. These agencies, the CIA, NSA, DIA, the Pentagon, were thought absolutely necessary in order for the U.S. to successfully confront and contain – and even roll back – communism as found in the Soviet Union and China. And many today would say that such thinking was absolutely correct.
These forces, the deep state forces, were buoyed by 9/11, to say the least. As one commentator put it, “9/11 was a victorious moment for the proponents of the deep state,” and especially for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who had been advocates of such forces for decades. But as 9/11 receded from view and as the U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan seemed pointless, the forces of the deep state needed to be resuscitated. And just in the nick of time, apparently, along comes Donald Trump with his agenda to “make America great again.”
It may seem strange, given Trump’s rather antagonistic relationship to agencies like the CIA and the FBI, to argue that he is doing the work of or for the deep state. But it is useful and necessary to notice that Trump’s attacks on the CIA and the FBI are not attacks on those agencies per se. Rather, they are attacks on their current manifestations, primarily for not living up to their potential, for not employing their powers as fully and as vigorously as they could or should. This is a large part of Trump’s claim that his political task is to “make America great again.” For Trump, America was great when the forces of the deep state were in control, i.e., before the eruptions of the 60s, before Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, and before the congressional investigations of the 70s that undermined the power, especially the covert power, of the CIA, when the CIA could, for example, overthrow governments in Iran and Guatemala without opposition or even criticism from Congress or the people.
Once we recognize, as we should, the basis of American greatness, viz., agencies like the CIA, the FBI, NSA, and the Pentagon with its largely invisible military spread throughout the world, then and only then will America be great again. For Trump, it is not popular government, not republican politics that made America great and could make her great again. No, it was power exercised secretly and covertly throughout the world. Trump is anything but a populist, although he tries to pose as one. He is a defender of those forces that compose our deep state; those forces that are in tension with and that sometimes undermine popular or republican government.
It would be useful if (a) this were more widely noticed and (b) if the Democrats would embrace a popular or republican political order. But the Democrats seem to share Trump’s faith in our deep state and so they don’t draw attention to the anti-republican core of Trump’s project to “make America great again.” Which is unfortunate because as James Madison pointed out, the American choice, its most important choice, is between republican and non-republican government.