Streetwise Professor

February 14, 2017

A Refreshingly Un-Straussian–and Evil–Statement from a Diehard Neocon

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 4:33 pm

Many neoconservatives are devotees of Leo Strauss. Among the hallmarks of Straussian thought and rhetoric are indirection and concealment. The Straussian neocon does not make statements and arguments that are transparent to, understandable to, and have common meaning for, all. Instead he writes or speaks in a language that conveys very different meanings to the initiated, and to mere hoi polloi who are duped into supporting things from which they would recoil from in horror if they actually understood what is going on.

Thus, Bill Kristol is to be congratulated for being transparently evil, rather than deviously so as a Straussian would be. This afternoon he tweeted:

Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.

The phrase “deep state” has its origins in Turkey, and means that a nation’s true rulers are the security and intelligence apparatus working behind the scenes, rather than the duly constituted civil authorities to whom the said apparatus is formally subordinate. In the deep state, the de facto rulers are quite different from the de jure government: a very Straussian arrangement, come to think of it, because the surface appearance is completely at odds with the reality.

In addition to Turkey, Egypt is considered to be another exemplar of the Deep State phenomenon. And viewed objectively, a siloviki-dominated Russia is another exemplar. The Duma plays for show: the siloviki play for dough.

So it is ironic that someone who has excoriated Trump for his alleged affinity to Russia is an avowed supporter of bringing Russian (and Egyptian and Turkish) deep state methods to the United States. All because he doesn’t like the current occupant of the White House.

I called Kristol’s statement evil, and I mean that. It is evil unadulterated. The gravest threat to individual liberty and safety is an unaccountable state. The entire American Constitutional system of checks and balances is predicated on the bedrock principle that every person in every branch of government is accountable and subject to checks and balances that constrains him (or her) from wielding power not authorized under law and the Constitution.

Lincoln called this system “the last, best hope of earth.” And Bill Kristol is willing to sacrifice this last, best hope because he doesn’t like Donald Trump.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice comes to mind here. Kristol blithely summons forces that he cannot control–and that no one can control. Once these powers are invoked, they will do as they will, not as Bill Kristol and all the others who are totally OK with an intelligence agency coup would like. Once the Deep State is empowered, it will not go away. It will be emboldened to enhance that power. Again, the siloviki model shows that clearly.

And there are so many historical examples that demonstrate how these bargains almost always go wrong. Consider the Roman rulers who invited barbarians to intervene on their side in internecine conflicts. . . . and then couldn’t get rid of the barbarians when “victory” had been achieved.

The Founders were deeply suspicious of a standing army because of the threat it posed to liberty and republican government. The United States has proved remarkably successful at constraining the uniformed military. But the intelligence establishment presents a threat far, far more dangerous than anything that the Founders could have possibly imagined, and a far greater threat than the uniformed military, precisely because it operates in the shadows and because it controls information–and information is power. It also controls misinformation and disinformation, and those are powerful too.

The right and proper way to deal with Donald Trump–or any president, for that matter–is to ensure that the existing system of checks and balances works, rather than undermine it in a way that will result in its destruction. We have already seen this in action. The Ninth Circuit–wrongly in my view, but that is not the point–has already stopped one administration initiative. The likelihood that Trump will get most of his legislative agenda through is extremely low. His executive orders have been more symbolic that substantive, precisely because the power of the presidency does have limits. For all his bluster, there are many ropes that keep Trump tied up like Gulliver.

It is beyond disgusting to see people like Kristol pay lip service to “normal democratic and constitutional politics,” and then cheer the subversion of those norms. Disgusting, but useful. At least those who actually do believe in democratic and constitutional politics know who they are fighting, and what those they are fighting stand for.

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  1. Small quibble : It’s hoi polloi, not the hoi polloi (that would mean the the masses)

    Other than that – Bill Kristol will have a very hard time living that statement down. Personally, I’d like a comment from his mother Gertrude Himmelfarb, whom I deeply admire and respect.

    Comment by Daniel Bilar — February 14, 2017 @ 4:55 pm

  2. @Daniel. Thanks, I stand corrected and will correct!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 14, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

  3. @Daniel. By the way, Kristol is on a real roll. Just the other day he slammed native born Americans as “lazy, spoiled, and decadent.”

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 14, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

  4. Hello Prof,

    Do you care to expand on why you disagree with the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning? Do you disagree with the court’s reasoning on due process and/or religious discrimination? Or do you disagree on procedural grounds (standing, etc.)?

    Comment by WB — February 14, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

  5. Kristol may have early onset of some degenerative disease. He seems to have lost his bearings.

    Comment by Margaret — February 14, 2017 @ 6:45 pm

  6. I don’t think Kristol ever had bearings, and he was a Fox News stalwart for years, along with the clown George Will.

    Comment by Tom Hend — February 14, 2017 @ 7:40 pm

  7. @WB. For several reasons, but two stand out. First, because the court did not even deign to address, let alone declare unconstitutional, the relevant federal statute (8 USC 1182(f)):

    (f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President
    Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

    How the Court could possibly rule on the EO without confronting the above is astounding. This statue clearly delegates to the President virtually unlimited authority to find that any class of aliens (green-eyed Albanians, for instance) is a threat to national security, and “suspend their entry.”

    Second, because the decision was overbroad. There were arguably some parts of the EO that violated due process (and perhaps the statute, e.g., people already in the country), but others clearly did not. But rather than merely staying enforcement of the problematic sections, the 9th Circuit stayed the entire order.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 14, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

  8. My rant: This is just another manifestation of the real evil that is infecting society today. So many of those in “power” — politicians, deep state, press (whose power they still don’t quite get is only in their minds), the anarchist on the street, etc. just cannot accept individual opinion or conceive of their own fallibility. The left gets especially mindless (if not overtly violent) when presented with any view not born from a protest poster. Neocons (and every other right-wing washington cockroach who showed that they can survive for 8 years without power) still can’t get that they aren’t running the world or will ever get close to doing so. To these people: Either respect the vote, respect the people who voted for change, or stfu and go away. For the good of humanity, choose the latter.

    Comment by dh — February 14, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

  9. The Deep State made some sort of sense in Turkey: Ataturk knew his vision of a modern, secular Turkey would likely wither under the tide of Islamic conservatism that preceded it, and continues to surround it until today, without some sort of rather undemocratic means to keep it that way. What we are seeing with Erdogan now does little do disprove this idea.

    Quite what the Deep State in the US is supposed to be safeguarding I don’t know. Their own positions of power, privilege, and wealth by the looks of things.

    Comment by Tim Newman — February 15, 2017 @ 4:32 am

  10. 1. It might help your argument, Professor, if Trump had demonstrated any inclination to read the Constitution. Yes, he swore an oath on the document. But, Trump has demonstrated throughout his career, again and again, that he places not an iota of worth to his word as bond. I mean, just look at all the people who have lent him money or performed services for him and count the multitudes who came away stiffed.

    2. You’re a bit late worrying about the emergence of the Deep State in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Eisenhower knew about it and feared it. Kennedy got a bloody nose from it. Nixon was removed from office by it. These guys consider themselves as the true custodians of the patria and the politicians as mere hucksters. Obviously unsanctioned by the Constitution but they think they know better what the true values and interests of America are and how best to defend them for posterity. You wanna argue with them? They got the power!

    Comment by Simple Simon — February 15, 2017 @ 9:27 am

  11. ” Kennedy got a bloody nose from it.” In what way?

    Comment by dearieme — February 15, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

  12. Read up on Allen Dulles, please. The Godfather of the Deep State.

    Comment by The Pilot — February 15, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

  13. @Tim-Right on both points. And it was even more complicated. There were Kurdish separatists and hardcore leftists/communists to deal with as well.

    The phenomenon in other Middle East countries (e.g., Egypt) was also driven by the underground war against Islamists.

    There was something akin to a Deep State in Italy when they were fighting the communists, Red Brigades, etc.

    Although deep states typically came into being to fight dirty wars against dirty domestic opponents, their members also found that they were quite useful in gaining wealth and entrenching themselves in power. As you note, the USDS seems primarily driven by these mercenary motives.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 15, 2017 @ 11:31 pm

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