June 14, 2009

The Deep State

An intriguing concept almost unknown in America but common in political discourse in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Turkey is the putative existence of a "deep state" whose members ultimately pull (or could pull) the strings. In Italian history, for example, its manifestations might include Mafia connections with politicians, the P2 Masonic lodge in Rome that was discovered in 1980, and NATO's Operation Gladio "leave behind" commando units that were intended to wage guerrilla war after a Communist takeover but may have been turned to less noble ends in the meantime.

Currently in Turkey, the ruling Islamic party is putting on trial many of its Kemalist and other enemies on charges of being part of a shadowy organization supposedly known as Ergenekon. Wikipedia says:
The Deep state (Turkish: derin devlet) is said to be a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services (domestic and foreign), Turkish military, security, judiciary, and mafia.[1][2] The notion of deep state is similar to that of a "state within the state". For those who believe in its existence, the political agenda of the deep state involves an allegiance to nationalism, corporatism, and state interests. Violence and other means of pressure have historically been employed in a largely covert manner to manipulate political and economic elites and ensure specific interests are met within the seemingly democratic framework of the political landscape.[3][4] Former president Süleyman Demirel says that the outlook and behavior of the (predominantly military) elites who constitute the deep state, and work to uphold national interests, are shaped by an entrenched belief, dating to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, that the country is always "on the brink".[5]

The ideology of the deep state is seen by leftists as being anti-worker or ultra-nationalist; by Islamists as being anti-Islamic and secularist; and by ethnic Kurds as being anti-Kurdish.[6] As pointed out by former prime minister Bülent Ecevit, the diversity of opinion reflects a disagreement over what constitutes the deep state.[7] One explanation is that the "deep state" is not an alliance, but the sum of several groups that antagonistically work behind the scenes, each in pursuit of its own agenda.[8][9][10] Rumours of the deep state have been widespread in Turkey since Ecevit's term as prime minister in the 1970s, after his revelation of the existence of a Turkish branch of Operation Gladio, the "Counter-Guerrilla".[11][12]

To the foreign observer, the Turkish belief in the deep state is an interesting social phenomenon, seemingly based on a confluence of fact and conspiracy theories.[2] Many Turks, including elected politicians, have stated their belief that the "deep state" exists.[13][14]

To the American mind, this way of thinking sounds terribly Byzantine, a part of a culture where the smartest guy in the room isn't the one who comes up with the simplest explanation but the one who comes up with the most complicated conspiracy theory.

And it also seems simplistic from an American/globalist perspective. Where would, say, Goldman Sachs fit into the Turkish model of a Deep State? Isn't the whole concept of a "state" rather obsolete-sounding in the age of Davos Man, more appropriate for old-fashioned patriotic Turks than for postmodern Westerners?

And, in the Turkish (much less American) context, does it even really exist? Is it excessive to give a portentous-sounding name to something that sounds like big shots scratching each others' backs?

Nonetheless, the notion of a deep state, although perhaps better conceptualized less as a top-down conspiracy than as an emergent phenomenon among insiders with overlapping interests, might prove useful to Americans in overcoming our native bias toward boyish naivete about the ways of the world.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

29 comments:

RKU said...

I think one difference is that today's America pretty clearly has its own "deep state"...but the educated middle classes don't realize it, although some of the most ignorant and marginal elements certainly do...

孔夫子, the Œcumenical Volgi (The Notorious ŒV) said...

Here are some comments I made some time ago about the Deep State and Turkey, linking to a much longer, much more detailed article by Claire Berlinski.

孔夫子, the Œcumenical Volgi (The Notorious ŒV) said...

Oops. Did I forget the link? Here it is.

AmericanGoy said...

"To the American mind, this way of thinking sounds terribly Byzantine"

Well, yes, but then again the great majority of Americans are clueless naive dorks who hardly ever left their small town boundaries/city/state and still believe everything that is spewed at them from the idiot box.

AmericanGoy said...

My comment is hilarious after RKU said: "the educated middle classes don't realize it, although some of the most ignorant and marginal elements certainly do"

Great!

I am one of the most ignorant and marginal elements :-)

wake up said...

no way steve the 'deep state' doesn't exist in the wealthiest most powerful nation on the planet..... no way jose you sound like a troofer! /sarcasm

al qaeda was invented by the damn cia in afghanistan....that doesn't mean individual al qaeda agents understand that they are being trained and groomed and steered and manipulated by their enemy aka great satan.....

just like the first world trade center attack and oklahoma city and 9/11 these were all idiotic terror cell members who were unknowingly sent into action by enemy controllers....

freakin saddam hussein was cia all the way......usa intelligence backed him right up until the point that usa intelligence didn't back him......when the puppet outlives his usefulness they find a new puppet......

in the pentagon they have a saying: long live the very scary and very useful man hidden away deep in a cave....

Sid said...

This is very interesting, and very cool, though I'm happy to keep it to Turkey.

Black Sea said...

"There is one deep state and one other state. The state that should be real is the spare one, the one that should be spare is the real one."--Suleyman Demirel, Turkish president, 1994 to 1999.

“The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes.”--Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

"In other words, the fact that I don't believe in alien spacecraft at Area 51 doesn't mean I don't believe in Area 51 . . ." --Black Sea

tanabear said...

Senator Dick Durbin said, "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."

But maybe this cannot be classified as part of the deep state as it is to obvious to too many people.

Leftist writer, Peter Dale Scott, has also discussed the existence of a deep state within the U.S.

"In my book The Road to 9/11, I have argued that there has existed, at least since World War Two if not earlier, an analogous American deep state, also combining intelligence officials with elements from the drug-trafficking underworld. I also pointed to recent decades of collaboration between the U.S. deep state and al-Qaeda, a terrorist underworld whose drug-trafficking activities have been played down in the 9/11 Commission Report and the mainstream U.S. media."

Maybe, and perhaps somewhat ironically, it was Turkish-American translator, Sibel Edmonds, who stumbled upon the existence of this "Deep State."

Christopher Deliso(CD)
Sibel Edmonds(SE)

CD: A monster, 600-pound catfish, huh? So the Turkish and Israeli investigations had some overlap?

SE: Essentially, there is only one investigation – a very big one, an all-inclusive one. Completely by chance, I, a lowly translator, stumbled over one piece of it.

But I can tell you there are a lot of people involved, a lot of ranking officials, and a lot of illegal activities that include multi-billion-dollar drug-smuggling operations, black-market nuclear sales to terrorists and unsavory regimes, you name it. And of course a lot of people from abroad are involved. It's massive. So to do this investigation, to really do it, they will have to look into everything.

CD: But you can start from anywhere –

SE: That's the beauty of it. You can start from the AIPAC angle. You can start from the Plame case. You can start from my case. They all end up going to the same place, and they revolve around the same nucleus of people. There may be a lot of them, but it is one group. And they are very dangerous for all of us.

Anonymous said...

"less as a top-down conspiracy than as an emergent phenomenon among insiders with mutual interests"

This is probably the best characterization of this phenomenon I have heard.

A lot of people take it for granted that there are shadowy conspiratorial organizations pulling strings behind the scenes: Halliburton, Skull and Bones, Masons, the Catholic Church, etc. Sometimes there is a conspiracy but normally it's just the rich and powerful using the same 'favor banking' everyone else does, but on a different scale. To someone on the bottom this might look like a conspiracy but to anyone in the middle of it, it's just people doing things normally. The difference is that when your neighborhood pot dealer does it, nobody notices, but when Dick Cheney does it we get stuck in Iraq.

AMac said...

Mencius Moldbug...

testing99 said...

There probably is something to the effect that the Military, which is a separate and distinct institution, is in conflict with the political parties, Leftists in particular, but also Islamists and Kurds. I am somewhat sympathetic to the Kemalists, who don't live in the US but in a far more dangerous neighborhood.

The Islamists clamor for a return of the Caliphate, the "nakba" or catastrophe of 1923 that bin Laden complains about is Kemal Ataturks abolishing the Caliphate and instituting the Republic. The Islamists argue that what's wrong with Turkey is not enough Islam, and want to return to 1538 when the Ottoman Empire first beseiged the Empire, if only enough "fighting Spirit" of Islam animates the nation. Leftists argue for a Communist/Socialist revolution, and Kurds for a separate Kurdish Republic. None of these are attractive for a professional military man, because with the Soviet Union/Russia, Iraq, Syria, and other unpleasant, aggressive, and dangerous neighbors, it's likely to end your independent nation. Islam or Communist fighting spirit is no substitute for a professional and well armed/trained military.

As for a Deep State in the US, perhaps though of the opposite order. Here, protected in the past by oceans and remoteness, the elites don't see the obvious dangers and block anything sensible to deal with the threat of mass terrorism, non-state power, and nuclear proliferation (which are all connected). We bother with reading Miranda Rights to terrorists caught on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Allowing convicted 9/11 terrorist Jose Padilla to sue John Yoo for Yoo's writing a legal memo advising the President. Letting hardened terrorists go to other countries (including the killer of a US diplomat in the Balkans). It's not serious because Liberals, Paleocons, and others live in a fantasy world where it's always 1997, no real threats are in the world, and nuclear proliferation which was inevitable does not change all the rules.

Because, basically, doing what's needed to protect American security would discomfort too many people.

simon said...

If Turkey has a military 'deep state', in the Anglosphere it's much more likely to be the financial sector that dominates.

The modern world seems to split into nations dominated by nationalists (Turkey, France) and trans-nationalists (USA, UK). Canada is unusual in being an Anglosphere nation dominated by Francophone nationalists.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
The fact is that the Turkish Army runs Turkey - and has done since the Kemalist revolution.
Yes, a functioning democracy does exist in Turkey, but it's all a clever side-show to obscure the real power behind the throne.
A similar situation apertains in Thailand.

dearieme said...

"To the American mind, this way of thinking sounds terribly Byzantine" - but Byzantine is appropriate to Turkey, don't you think?

Mr. Anon said...

"testing99 said...

It's not serious because Liberals, Paleocons, and others live in a fantasy world where it's always 1997, no real threats are in the world, and nuclear proliferation which was inevitable does not change all the rules.

Because, basically, doing what's needed to protect American security would discomfort too many people."

Such as what? Instituting a complete police state? We seem well on the way to doing that. And yet we still import muslims into this country - Somalis, even - to provide an ever-ready supply of terrorists on our soil, despite us waging an endless war in two countries as you would advise.

The first citizen of fantasy-land is you, T99.

zit said...

As far as I am concerned Turkey is sitting on occupied territory and guilty of massive cultural, racial and religious discrimination (Ask the local Coptics or Catholics). They are responsible for the genocide of 1,2 million Armenians. Add to that the ethnic cleansing of millions of Greeks. And lastly, their suppression of millions of Kurds who seek self-determination. If any of these groups were to receive restitution, something which is taken for granted nowadays, the original Turks would wind up with parts of Anatolia at best. It’s obvious that Turkey is being propped up by external powers (Britain and the US) in order to act as a bulwark against Russia and maybe China. Anyone who has spent time there as an engineer or businessman knows the place is living way above its means. In order to maintain such a massive military they must be getting copious aid from Uncle Sam and NATO.
The arrogance of Turkey in general, typically displayed in their sense of entitlement w.r.t. the EU, is largely attributable to its false sense of grandeur, financed by external powers. Turkey was defeated in WWI and would be a local player in the league of Georgia or Azerbaijan were it not for its strategic importance.

Anonymous said...

America has its own "deep state." It emerged rather recently from the alliance of the old WASP elites which have always controlled the military, the State Department and the intelligence agencies; and the Jews who control the media and the finances of both political parties. Unfortunately, one of the stipulations of this alliance was that the white working class must be marginalized and deprived of all political influence. Because of their poverty, lack of political skills and general low intelligence, this has not been difficult to accomplish. I just don't think I am going to like the country that emerges when our elites from the "deep state" begin to rule openly.

Dutch Boy said...

Let us add a third certainty to death and taxes: the fox is always in charge of the chicken coop!

Reactionary said...

Such as what? Instituting a complete police state? We seem well on the way to doing that. And yet we still import muslims into this country - Somalis, even - to provide an ever-ready supply of terrorists on our soil, despite us waging an endless war in two countries as you would advise.

I've never seen testy or a single other movement-conservative address this: do you want to invade the world, or do you want to invite the world? Because you can't do both.

It does, however, serve the interest of the military-industrial complex very well: problem --> unworkable, thoughtless solution that leads to --> other problem --> correspondingly mindless solution, ad infinitum. And government taxing and regulatory powers are enhanced with each step.

Mr. Anon said...

"Reactionary said...

It does, however, serve the interest of the military-industrial complex very well: problem --> unworkable, thoughtless solution that leads to --> other problem --> correspondingly mindless solution, ad infinitum. And government taxing and regulatory powers are enhanced with each step."

Indeed. We are in deep-state.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, the Ergenekon case has become a political vendetta by the islamic-oriented AKP against the headhonchos of the secular class.

As such, it has become as much of a laughing matter as it is serious.

Want to make people laugh in Turkey? Whenever news about Ergenekon is on (and it's on all the time) stand up and, in a deadpan manner, admit that you are "bir numara" (number one, the guy at the center of it all).

Another popular joke is, after a new wave of arrests, to claim that a person who is normally absolutely irrelevant (your friend who plays videogames all day, the guy working the register at McDonald's, the girl bagging your groceries) is going to be arrested next.

The discovery of weapons caches in the most unlikely places was also a godsend for tasteless comedy. Just claim that the pillows you got from your grandma are full of heroin and berettas, and that the big one with the cat made out of beads on it could level an entire block if not handled carefully.

Ergenekon has caused a renaissance of morbid humor.

Anonymous said...

Come on, there is a whole literature devoted to the American version of the "deep state". To name only a few of the more intellectually respectable examples of the genre, there is Carrol Quigley's Tragedy and Hope, C. Wright Mills The Power Elite, and Holly Sklar's Trilateralism. Less respectable entires include the more recent writings of Kevin Phillips or Garry Allen's None Dare Call it Conspiracy. One would think that the people who read this website would have a passing familiarity with some of these books. It is hardly uncommon for Americans to think in this manner, either. In fact, it is widespread enough that the genre of debunking these kinds of works also has its own classics viz. Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics".

neil craig said...

No American "deep state". What about Tammany Hall & all the other political bosses, some elected but some working behind the scenes? he Klan in the reconstruction era southern states? Unsackable Hoover & his filing cabinets full of blackmail material on senators & presidents which he had "managed to keep out of the press"? The CFR & Bilderbergers?

And these are only the real ones - there are a long line of people saying the Queen of England, space aliens, Arabs, Jews, Turner &/or the CIA secretly run the show.

patrick said...

Our "deep state" is not organized crime and its political allies (Italy) or a politicized military with important business interests(Iran, Turkey). It is more complex and multifaceted than that, and elements of it are at odds with one another at times, or at least appear to be. This makes (or made) it easy for people to believe that there is no "deep state."
It includes big business, especially defense contractors, the banking/financial industry, the insurance/pharma industries, as well as Ivy League-educated political elites (Obama, Bush, Kerry, the Clintons, etc.)
I might add that "Byzantine" is an appropriate term for discussing politics in the part of the world to which Turkey and southern Italy belong (the old Eastern Roman Empire).

David said...

"one of the stipulations of this alliance was that the white working class must be marginalized and deprived of all political influence. Because of their poverty, lack of political skills and general low intelligence, this has not been difficult to accomplish. I just don't think I am going to like the country that emerges"

Me either. Go to Limbaugh's neck of the woods - Palm Beach, Florida. A sliver of the elites you speak of (particularly drawn from one group you mentioned) are found on the ocean side of the Intercoastal Waterway. And my God do they have money. On the other side of the IW: a morass of NAMs barely holding themselves together in a vast prototypical "bad" or "vibrant" neighborhood.

Middle-class whites not in evidence. Whites in any numbers not in evidence.

The place was about as hospitable to people like me as the planet Venus is. This is a world you would not want to see become the norm.

Anonymous said...


Unsackable Hoover & his filing cabinets full of blackmail material on senators & presidents which he had "managed to keep out of the press"? The CFR & Bilderbergers?


The guys who shot JFK, the guys who killed Gary Webb, the guys who ran MKULTRA, Operation Paperclip, COINTELPRO ...

Yes, the USA has quite a few obvious conspiracy facts. Most of the time, the Outer Party Members prefer to blame whichever new Emmanuel Goldstein is on TV this week.

If there is hope, it is with the proles.

Dahinda said...

http://vimeo.com/87198374

Dahinda said...

More deep state mentions. KunstlerCast 250; http://kunstler.com/