David Remnick vs. Dwight Eisenhower

In The Talk of the Town (The New Yorker, Mar. 20, 2017) David Remnick writes, “One does not have to be ignorant of the CIA’s abuses — or of history in general — to reject the idea of an American Deep State. Previous Presidents have felt resistance, or worse, from elements in the federal bureaucracies; Eisenhower warned of “the military-industrial complex …”

These statements need a little unpacking. Leaving aside, for the moment, the almost Jamesean qualities of the first sentence, the most striking thing is the airy disregard for Eisenhower. With a wave of his hand, David Remnick dismisses the parting words of the man who was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in WWII and a two-term President. I can’t help but feel that Eisenhower might know a little more about politics, government and the role of the “military-industrial complex” than Mr. Remnick gives him credit for. Eisenhower’s final address was his legacy to the nation he devoted his life to serving. His words deserve better than to be dismissed out of hand. They should be taken to heart.

The import of Remnick’s remarks is to dismiss “the military-industrial complex” along with “the idea of an American Deep State.” Earlier in his piece, he tells us that the term “Deep State” has its origins in Turkey and is defined as “a clandestine network, including military and intelligence officers, along with civilian allies …” Now, I would say that is an excellent working definition of what we have in the United States, but Remnick comfortably disregards Eisenhower’s warning as just another example of what isn’t a Deep State. Like the Deep State in Turkey, the Deep State in the United States is hidden in plain sight. According to Remnick, in Turkey, its “mission was to protect the secular order established in 1923 by …. Ataturk.” So it is possible to know the participants (if not always their actual names) and the mission, of the Deep State.

Let’s return for a moment to Remnick’s remarkable first sentence. How shall we consider the person who is “ignorant of the CIA’s abuses.” He doesn’t have to be ignorant to reject the idea of the Deep State yet, if he is ignorant … he can reject the idea just as well as the informed person. Have I got this right? He “doesn’t have to be ignorant” but that still allows room for him to be ignorant, I take it.

As for “history in general” it is difficult to imagine “one” who is ignorant of history in general. Is there such a person? Or, conversely, “one” who is not ignorant of history in general? One thing we do know is that history is being written, and rewritten, all the time. Isn’t that what is happening in this piece, rewriting history? Ambiguity, multiple levels of meaning, opacity, and contradiction can all be effective literary devices but they don’t really belong in a piece about realpolitik. Remnick is seized with the same incoherence that many writers experience when trying to explain away the “unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex.” Contorted and mysterious prose often features in reporting on the Deep State so Remnick is not alone in this.

The Deep State in America is revealed if we look at the people and organizations that made the decisions to invade Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. In short, it is the war machine, whose mission is to create wars and spend ever more on armaments in a self-perpetuating cycle. They even want to weaponize space. To what end you might ask? The end, so to speak, is plain to see for all who care to look; to dominate the world militarily and control the world’s resources.

What were the imperative reasons we went to war? What was the public good these wars produced? Was our nation in danger? Tell me again why we needed to invade Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

What Remnick does not grasp is that the existence of the military-industrial complex is not in question; no one doubts its existence. What makes it synonymous with the Deep State is the“unwarranted influence” that was actually the substance of Eisenhower’s warning.

Here is the text of Eisenhower final address:

As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. (from Wikipedia)