February 25, 2014

The Shallow State

The term "Deep State" is an Italian / Turkish notion that elected officials' influence on policy, perhaps especially on foreign policy, is potentially restricted by a shadowy network of serious men with experience in the serious organs of state. But, we should not overlook how much American foreign policy is seen by the rest of the world as up for sale by what we might call the Shallow State: glad-handing, self-promoting American image-maker campaign consultants (e.g., James Carville) who charge big fees around the world based on their relationships with high government officials in Washington.

The commenter with the reassuring nom de plume Drunk Idiot writes:
Speaking of David Axelrod and "Astro Turf," for years, Mr. Axelrod has run a firm in Chicago, ASK Public Strategies, that specializes in creating fake grass roots support for projects/big deals that clients are having trouble selling to the public (he was supposed to divest himself when he went to the White House in 2009, but somehow he got around the laws, stayed control of his firm, and had business dealings with the firm's clients while in the White House).  ...
BTW, Axelrod and David Plouffe also run a political consulting firm called AKPD Message and Media. Among AKPD's past clients is former Ukranian president Yulia Tymoshenko, who before being imprisoned, lost the presidency in 2010 to the now-deposed-and-in-hiding Viktor Yanukovych (a.k.a., the most evil, despotic tyrant in the world for the moment).  
As luck would have it, the interim president sprang Ms. Tymoshenko out of prison on Saturday, and she's free to run in the upcoming impromptu election.

I wonder how much the overseas business dealings of consultants who have been Washington insiders both drives American foreign policy and encourages foreign governments to do crazy stuff because their American consultants have implied to them that they can drop a word in the President's ear.

I remain fascinated by a recent historical event that is now generally brought up mostly in distorted form: Georgia's decision to start a tank war with Russia in 2008 over Russian-occupied South Ossetia. These days, this usually is remembered as Russia attacking Georgia (which would make more sense considering the size differential, but didn't actually happen). For example, an oped in the NYT today, Has the West Already Lost Ukraine? arguing for the EU and NATO to stick it to Russia, disingenuously says:
Such ineffectiveness first became apparent in 2008, when NATO could not decide whether to offer Georgia a clear invitation to join. Russia immediately took advantage of the situation, going to war with Georgia to “protect” the breakaway region of South Ossetia and forcing the country to back off its rapprochement with the West.

I'm not going to defend Russian occupation of South Ossetia, other than to say that Georgia's surprise invasion of Russian-occupied territory was similar to Egypt's and Syria's invasions of Israeli-occupied territory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Except, it made even less sense without the assumption of superpower intervention. The GOP candidate John McCain certainly provided the rhetoric:
McCain to Georgian President: "Today, We Are All Georgians"

But the Georgian government miscalculated how Washington worked. The responsible adult at the Pentagon, defense secretary Robert Gates, airlifted Georgian troops home from Iraq to help in the fighting, but otherwise showed little enthusiasm for risking getting America into a shooting war with Russia.

Why did the government of Georgia think they had a plan that would work? Perhaps it had something to do with them paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to McCain's chief foreign policy advisor for "consulting" work. Did Randy Scheunemann's sales pitch lead the Georgians to believe they were buying control over American foreign policy? Nobody in Washington seems all that interested in finding out, perhaps because it might put a crimp in the influence peddling gravy train.

American campaign consultants have become ubiquitous abroad, as Politico reported in 2009:
President Obama campaign consultants make mark overseas 
By KENNETH P. VOGEL & BEN SMITH | 11/18/09 1:20 PM EDT 
In Kiev and Kharkiv and other cities in Ukraine, American political consultants who worked against one another in Iowa and New Hampshire and then in the general election are facing off again in a somewhat surreal Eastern European replay of the 2008 campaign. 
The firm headed by Hillary Clinton’s former chief strategist, Mark Penn, is helping run incumbent President Victor Yushchenko’s campaign. Meanwhile Paul Manafort, whose firm worked on Republican John McCain’s losing effort, and Tad Devine, a top strategist on the Democratic presidential campaigns of Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, are consulting for Victor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian frontrunner in the polls.

Clinton was the Secretary of State in 2009 and Kerry is the Secretary of State in 2014.
For Penn, Manafort and Devine, foreign elections have been a lucrative source of business for years. But for the Chicago-based media consulting firm AKPD [founded by Axelrod and Plouffe, among others], the contract to help guide Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s campaign is part of a new, growth area of business that presented itself after the firm helped Barack Obama win the White House last fall. 
Also assisting Tymoshenko is John Anzalone, a pollster who worked on the Obama campaign. And Obama's lead pollster in the campaign, Joel Benenson, also worked briefly in Ukraine this year, helping supporters of a rival presidential candidate, former Parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who courted comparisons with Obama (and whose billboards bear a faint resemblance to the iconic posters of Obama by Shepard Fairey). 
The Ukraine race is hardly the only international opportunity available for consultants who had a hand in the Obama campaign. Since Obama's historic election in November, AKPD and Benenson Strategy Group alone have advised candidates or parties in Argentina, Bulgaria, Romania, Israel and Britain and have turned down offers to work in many more countries around the globe. 
The attraction is easy to understand. Foreign campaigns typically pay more than domestic ones do, and they are lower risks for consultants coming off the image-enhancing boost of a presidential campaign, according to James Carville, the former Clinton strategist and talking head, who has worked for candidates in more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan (where he worked this year on Ashraf Ghani’s second-tier presidential campaign along with Devine’s firm).  
“If you help elect a president and then you get involved in a governor’s race and you lose, it’s going to be a little bit damaging to your reputation,” he said. “But if you go to Peru and you run a presidential race and you lose, no one knows or cares. So why go to New Jersey and lose for 100 grand when you [can] go to Peru and lose for a million?” 

What exactly does James Carville know about Peruvian politics that makes his insights worth a million bucks? There are technical aspects to campaigning (e.g., how big a sample size you need for opinion polls), but most of that expertise is well-known to corporate market researchers in Peru. So, what exactly are you paying Carville for, other than he was a close associate of Bill Clinton, who in 2009 was married to the American Secretary of State?
American presidential campaign consultants have been earning huge fees from international campaigns since at least 1969, when Joe Napolitan — a Democratic consultant who worked on John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign and was credited with engineering Hubert Humphrey's surprisingly narrow 1968 loss to Richard Nixon — helped reelect Ferdinand Marcos as the Philippines’ president. 
After helping elect Bill Clinton in 1992, consultants Carville, Stan Greenberg and Paul Begala went on to work for candidates in Israel, South Africa, Greece and the United Kingdom, just to name a few. And Penn's expansive international practice got a boost when he began polling for President Clinton, who recommended Penn to then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who then became a longtime client. 
It’s difficult to track foreign campaign payments to American consultants, since they don’t fall under U.S. campaign finance or lobbying reporting requirements and most countries lack rigorous disclosure rules, but Ukrainian politics are thought to be particularly lucrative.

I bet.
Manafort’s and Penn’s firms have been involved in campaigns there for years. In fact, during last year's U.S. presidential campaign, Obama's allies at the Democratic National Committee highlighted Manafort's business partnership with McCain campaign manager Rick Davis and suggested their firm’s work for Yanukovych conflicted with McCain’s criticism of Yanukovych’s ties to then-Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
The upcoming presidential election in Ukraine is being watched closely given its geopolitical significance in U.S.-Russian relations. 
AKPD client Tymoshenko was once seen as such a reliable American ally in a regional battle for pipelines and strategic influence that Russian prosecutors put out a warrant for her arrest on smuggling charges. But she’s since made her peace with the Kremlin and is seen as playing a more complex game with both sides — which may help explain her choice in American consultants. 
"In the Ukraine and in other post-communist countries, they have this misconception about Washington politics: They think that somehow if you sign up AKPD or other former Obama people, you sign up the support of Obama," said Taras Kuzio, a senior fellow in Ukraine studies at the University of Toronto who has done political consulting in Ukraine. 
"They don't understand the separation of business and politics, which doesn't exist in the Ukraine or in these other post-communist countries," said Kuzio.
But these kind of arrangements break down the separation of business and politics in America. The government needs foreign entanglements in places like Ukraine because that's how people like David Axelrod, Mark Penn, and James Carville cash in. If the U.S. minded its own business more, why would random foreign political parties hire them?


Anonymous said...

No mention of Dick Morris?


Here are some items worth looking up in light of Ukraine...




(BTW, his other lesser know books are worth reading too and they're downloadable)


Circulation of Elites

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

BTW, the big problem with Ukraine is that it's pretty much given the whole world the green light to intervene in American elections. Have we entered the age of unbound, international "democratic" manipulation that comes with some blow back?

Kebab Bunga said...

"Strategy of Tension" is also a Italian/Turkish term:


The strategy of tension (Italian: strategia della tensione) is a tactic that aims to divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, and false flag terrorist actions.[1]
The theory began with allegations that the United States government and the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 supported far-right terrorist groups in Italy and Turkey, where communism was growing in popularity, to spread panic among the population who would in turn demand stronger and more dictatorial governments.

About the "Shadow Government", we have our own here in Amerikwa but we can't mention it because....

Anonymous said...

One of the leaders of a brigade in Right Sector was guerrilla in Chechnya who fought the Russians:


"One of the notorious guerilla fighters of the Ukrainian origin in Chechnya, Olexander Muzychko (aka criminal leader Sasha Biliy) today is heading a brigade of “Pravyi Sector”, the radical militant driving force of the ongoing coup d’Etat in Kiev. According to his “official” biography (link in Russian), in 1994 he was awarded by the then top commander of terrorist Ichkeria enclave Dzhohar Dudayev with the order “Hero of Nation” for “outstanding military successes against Russian troops”. His “military skills” were quite specific: he used to lure the Russian units operating in remote Chechen locations to guerilla ambushes. Then he personally participated in tortures and beheadings of the captured Russian soldiers."

Anonymous said...

I think Muzychko was that pudgy guy on a recent video from the Ukraine who was brandishing a Kalashnikov and saying that looters would be shot.

Anonymous said...

As far as the war with Georgia I thought the plan was Georgian special forces were to blow up a bridge that would have made moving Russian troops through the single tunnel connecting Russia and Georgia impossible. Either the demolition did not work, or the Russians thwarted it. If the tunnel was blocked it might have bought time for the world to condemn the Russian invasion. But then again lack of planning seems to be a feature of the recent wars so maybe it was delusional behavior on the part of the Georgian President.

The West also underestimated Russian Asabiyyah. A few Russian officers were killed in action. I was surprised at the number of officers killed and wounded on the front line.

Alan Towne said...

In a way, it's rent seeking on the part of the Carvilles. The Peruvian gets something for his money, the only people getting screwed here are the American public who pay for these interventions in terms of life and tax money (and blame from foreigners ticked off at the intervention).

No telling how much gelt was paid to those who got us entangled in the middle east for so long with a big red target on our back.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.

"My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an 'establishment.'

"All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched.

"Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude."

Mike Lofgren, Anatomy of the Deep State


kaganovitch said...

Fwiw the late great thriller writer Ross Thomas has an absolutely hilarious novel "The Seersucker Whipsaw" Based iirc on a political campaign Thomas actually ran in Nigeria. the novel was published in 1967 so this type of thing must have been going on before 1969 and joe napolitan.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Dick Morris, I listened to a portion of his radio show today (Philadelphia) and he was full of information about running political campaigns in Eastern Europe. Dick was discussing previous gigs in Romania until I got bored and switched to the sports talk station to figure out who the Eagles were interested in drafting out at the Combine in Indianapolis (the Eagles interviewed Johnny Football today!).

One other thing, Dick Morris was fired by Rupert Murdoch b/c he mistakenly predicted that Mitt Romney would win the election. How come Karl Rove, who made a similar prediction, was not fired as well?

Morris, while being a huge sleaze, is entertaining, has great stories, and has a personality. Rove is a dud.

Mr. Anon said...

It is illegal for American citizens to conduct diplomacy in the name of the US, or to serve in the military in foreign countries. Why is it not illegal for American citizens to insert themselves into the politics of foreign countries. If Axelrod, Plouffe, Carville, Begala, Rove, and all the rest of those parasites want to sell their services to foreign politicians, they should be forced to renounce their US citizenship.

Reg Cæsar said...

Our Deep State is quite shallow from the neck up. Who better to represent it, than Shepard's fairy?

Whiskey said...

Axelrid and the rest were too clever by half. Obama deep sixed military strength and cut the Army to ore WWIi size.

Axe is about two years out not worth hiring bc America has no power.

Power flows not from media but as Mao noted guns. America has precious few of those in the military and fewer to hold them.

How many hire Italian political consultants?

sunbeam said...

That Deep State article is really good.

But the wheels are going to have to fall off before anything changes.

I think it is coming though. I don't think Americans have what it takes to rock the boat.

At least until things get uncomfortable.

Hunsdon said...

Whiskey said: Obama deep sixed military strength and cut the Army to ore WWIi size.

Hunsdon said: Also brought back the Sopwith Camel as a front line fighter, and we're reissuing the floptop 1873 Springfield trapdoor---with black powder ammunition.

I expect Villa will cross the border any day now, raiding for horses to use in his insurrection.

Reg Cæsar said...

How many hire Italian political consultants? --Whiskey

These guys did.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how hard it would be for an ordinary American political junkie who doesn't actually go out and campaign to convince some second-world politician to bring him on as a campaign consultant. I think he wouldn't necessarily have a bad chance, since in many parts of the world people assume Americans are a lot smarter than they really are.

Chicago said...

That five billion was spent by the US over a twenty year period in Ukraine in furtherance of it's goals seems to indicate that there's a continuity of policy that transcends presidential personalities or which party they belong to. There would have to be a deeper structure that can analyze and map out longer term plans independent of the antics of transitory elected politicians who are all engaged in some form of showbiz. Insofar as the election consultants go, they seem like flim flam men hustling foreigners. Locals will probably pick up on what they do, read a few books, then set up shop themselves and underbid them.

Reg Cæsar said...

Steve has said that "rude and wrong are a bad combination". Let's add the corollary that the same goes for "anonymous" and "asshole".

Simon in London said...

"Why did the government of Georgia think they had a plan that would work?"

I think the Georgian plan was that they would quickly overrun South Ossetia, capture the south end of the Roki tunnel, and change the facts on the ground decisively. The US could then intervene to prevent Russia retaking the area, perhaps by sending 'peacekeeper' troops, but not actually fighting Russia.
Saakashvili's mistakes were to underestimate the toughness of both the South Ossetian militia and the Russian force in S.O. and more importantly the response speed of the Russian army. He seems to have expected a Russia ca. 1995, still at the post Cold War nadir. He may also have overestimated the benefits of his US & Israeli training and equipment to the Georgian military, basing estimates on the various Israel & US - vs - Arab Middle Eastern conflicts. But having Arabs for enemies in a conventional war makes anyone look good; Arabs are great at Arab style warfare, but terrible at the Western Way of War. Russia, meanwhile, has a rather good track record in that department.

Simon in London said...

"The West also underestimated Russian Asabiyyah. A few Russian officers were killed in action. I was surprised at the number of officers killed and wounded on the front line."

Yes, they seem to have no trouble leading from the front. UK & US junior officers lead from the front, but the Russians seem to do it at a higher level. Obviously they are brave, but also (remembering my Suvorov 'Inside the Soviet Army') it may be due to rigid command structures so they need to exercise more direct command & control; they seem to have Colonels making the kind of front line decisions US or British Lieutenants & Captains would.

Simon in London said...

I remember talking to some Georgian students back in 2008. They were surprised that I condemned the invasion as risking a nuclear war between US/NATO and Russia. The concept (threat of nuclear amageddon) just didn't seem to be part of their thought structures at all. Whereas for Germans it's very central, a dominant part of their thinking about the world.

Steve Sailer said...

The Georgians pulled off one big ambush of a Russian column near the mouth of the Roki Tunnel, so it was a closer run thing than I sometimes make it sound.

Steve Sailer said...

The Soviet Army was odd in that it didn't have many sergeants, who are the mainstays of Western Armies: instead, it had lots of officers and privates, but oddly few of the career enlisted men who actually keep most armies running. I don't know if that has changed.

Luke Lea said...

Great coverage, just one more story from the best journalist in America. How he keeps it up is beyond me.

Mr. Anon said...

"Whiskey said...

Axelrid and the rest were too clever by half. Obama deep sixed military strength and cut the Army to ore WWIi size."

Obama has just proposed a budget that would do that over the next few years. He has not already done it, you witless moron.

By the way, haggis-boy, you already sound stupid enough when you post from a computer. You really shouldn't post from a phone. The combination of your innate stupidity and ham-handed typing makes you sound only like a smarter-than-average chimp.


Anonymous said...

Whiskey, why are all your ex girlfriends always stalking you?

Anonymous said...


I think at some point the Soviets figured out that having lots of career enlisted guys was good, so they tried to have more 'praporshiks' who were roughly equivalent to sergeants.

Alcalde Jaime Miguel Curleo said...

The Carville anecdote reminded me of Our Brand Is Crisis; for a sec I'd wondered if I was only imagining having seen a movie about Beltway spin doctors parachuting into Bolivia, then I checked the man's IMDB credits again (66 items for "Self")

footnote said...

Only source extant for Steve Sailer saying "Rude and wrong make a poor combination" is a post about Prof. Juicebox from 2006; all other appearances seem be from somebody named "Reg Caesar" inanely chattering his head off at this blog since that time.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Whiskey, why are all your ex girlfriends always stalking you?"

Ex-girlfriend? The only way Whiskey could have an ex-girlfriend would be to get his hand amputated.