Thursday, March 13, 2014

The world "hegemon" and domestic spying

I hope Digby is being too pessimistic about her skepticism of Edward Snowden's faith in the American public to restrain the rogue US domestic intelligence operations:

It's pretty to think so anyway. But the Deep State is so entrenched that I think all anyone can do at this point is try to keep it from expanding and put a little sunshine scare into them once in a while. The problem, as I've written too many times before, is the United States' status as the world's only superpower and military hegemon. Americans seem to accept this -- embrace it actually --- as a given and have little interest in looking at how we might reorganize ourselves in a new world. Until that happens, this "need" for Deep State capabilities will continue and the government will find new ones to invent. At best, we can knock it back from time to time. (See: the tragic failure of the 1970s reforms.)
"Deep State" is a term I first recall seeing from JFK assassination researcher Peter Dale Scott to describe the secret intelligence operations of the US government. He also uses the term "deep politics" to describe their particular clandestine sphere of operation.

But lately it seems to be getting a broader usage, especially in light of Snowden's revelations. Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady have 2013 book titled, Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, which was published before Snowden's stories started breaking last June.

Mike Lofgren has an essay at the Moyers and Company blog called, Anatomy of the Deep State 02/21/2014. Lofgren defines a somewhat broader definition for his usage of the term:

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.
If John le Carré is using it, we can assume it has some value.

Digby may be too pessimistic about public outrage over domestic spying. She probably also hopes that she is.

But she's dead right about this: "The problem, as I've written too many times before, is the United States' status as the world's only superpower and military hegemon."

She's not being rhetorical there: it's the national security policy of the United States. I wrote about the domestic spying implications of it in Metadata and the security state 06/12/2013. The "hegemon" term is used routinely in diplomatic and strategic writing. Isaiah Wilson III, for instance, uses it in The True Tragedy of American Power Parameters Winter 2013 (my emphasis):

... the United States must, as a nation, recognize that it is, in and of itself, a system effect. For better or worse, or perhaps mixes of both, and particularly since its "last great power standing" rise to global hegemony in the wake of World War II, the choices the United States makes in where and how it intervenes (including those choices of where not to intervene) are not merely US choices, but choices that impact the entire world-system.
I want, then, to show how vital this differentiation between "force" and "power" has been to America's rise as a durable and balanced global power, not merely a hegemon. It is important for us to appreciate this distinction all the more as we rethink America’s legitimate and possible roles as the leading power in the future. Finally, I will suggest what an American grand strategy informed by a sense of tragedy — as opposed to a tragic grand strategy — might look like.
And our current national security strategy calls for maintaining US global hegemony that Wilson describes as follows:

Where does American power stand today? From one vantage point, US power seems unsurpassed. The United States is not only a member state of a global community of nation-states, but its leader. And the global community — at least insofar as it is defined by global trade, humanitarian impulses, and other touchstones of American liberalism — is itself the American regime writ large. In this sense, the United States is not merely part of the system; it is the system. As a result, US domestic politics and policy determinations have widespread consequences beyond American shores. Also as a result, American strategists feel a special responsibility to guarantee the stability of the system as a whole. [my emphasis in bold]
As long as we continue to have a national foreign policy strategy based on the idea that "the United States is not merely part of the system; it is the system.," any terrorist action or political upheaval in any part of the world can be considered a direct threat to vital US interests. And if history is any guide at all in this matter, we can be sure that some parts of the national security establishment will constantly be finding such deadly threats all around the world.

And that means we will constantly be asking questions like this:

After sixty-five years of pursuing a globally engaged grand strategy—nearly a third of which transpired without a great peer power rival — has the time finally come for retrenchment? Or can the United States discover a way to navigate uncertainty while preserving American dominance as a leading power in and of the international system? These questions will be at the core of our political debates in the years to come.
That mission requires an enormous national security establishment and a more-or-less constant atmosphere of threat in the national government: conditions that almost inevitably produce dangerous excesses from the "Deep State" like those we're seeing now.

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