Thank god for the Deep State! If I thought Trump were really in charge, I wouldn’t sleep well at night.
I have to say that with Trump as President I have new found appreciation for what is now called the Deep State, or what has variously been called the “permanent government” or the “military-industrial complex”. I, for one, applaud our Deep State masters for their firm (if bloody and probably criminally unjust) hand on the ship of state.
These days, I’m even grateful for the CIA (despite their extra-judicial killings). I’m also thankful for the Pentagon (despite their unconscionable drone attacks on crowded weddings) and plan to mention the DOD on Thanksgiving Day as something I am especially thankful for. At least the grownups are in charge of the Empire. Trump surely isn’t. The immorality of war becomes a secondary consideration when considering the continued existence of the human race. USA! USA!
How much room on the leash does the Deep State give its puppet-president, Donald Trump? It’s clear he’s allowed to run his mouth, as if they are inserting some comic relief into the tragedies of the US Empire’s wars and the Empire’s concomitant turbo-charged capitalism. Trump is the like the Idiot in a play whose foolishness appeases the groundlings as the blood is spilt all over the stage.
The Deep State still lets Trump Tweet (and Tweet and Tweet), which embarrasses the whole civilized world, but this is what the American Presidency has become: a starring role in the Deep State’s media show — complete with the President’s perquisite right to run his mouth, even if markets crash or armies and fleets mobilize after the President’s latest childish insults towards a world leader.
I’m sure They don’t let Trump hold the actual “nuclear football.” Trump’s troika of generals are surely not that stupid. They probably just gave Trump a replica of the nuclear football to bolster his self-esteem.
Trump will continue to spout views to his “base” in the hopes that it will legitimize his obviously tenuous power; this is what his base supported and got: a President Trump who says the “honest” thing that upsets the entrenched Washington elite. And he does!
But the Deep State keeps Trump boxed-in in his own “Overton Window” (as we all are). So there is only so far that he is allowed to go. The red lines don’t actually have to be drawn. If Trump promises something beyond what the permanent government will allow, then it simply will not come to pass. Conveniently, there usually is a fresh crisis amplified by the media to hysterical proportions to drown out the noise of Trump’s latest gaffe (or the Deep State’s).
So Trump can sound totally insane, as we saw in his speech to the United Nations about North Korea (and countless other occasions already in his first year) all but promising to obliterate the country (if North Korea attacks). And it seemed quite Doomsday-ish, as if we were on the brink of nuclear war in the immediate aftermath of the speech. But then the truth sets in again: Trump is always allowed to bluster to skew the perception of the situation. Later on, it’s not as bad as it seems. Inertia sets in. Or the next fresh disaster wipes out our memories of the last.
If we can be certain of anything, it’s that Trump will continue to say things that sound crazy. Often Trump’s seemingly insane comments actually do represent a tough bargaining position. It’s gauche, uncouth, embarrassing, and unprecedented in the history of diplomacy, and yet for the media age in which we live, Trump’s style of diplomacy leverages the new media, and engages with the masses like never before — not that it’s good, I’m really not saying that it’s good — but it does fit our age’s Zeitgeist more than the methods of Talleyrand, Bismarck, Woodrow Wilson, Henry Kissinger, or the classical diplomats. Trump is a media demagogue rather than a statesman.
Does he have much credibility with his base as someone who will “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington? It’s hard to say. There’s probably not a lot of “true believers” in Trump anymore. It’s more that Trump remains (for them) the best choice compared to the evils of the Democrats, or the establishment. Many are disillusioned with Trump, but still feel that America-in-decline may call for bluff and bluster more than for sober administration (from the President’s office at least; the Deep State is hopefully sober rather than high on its on supply of trafficked drugs). Of course, it all depends on what you think America’s goals should be: should it maintain and expand the American Empire? Or should it pursue a sustainable multi-polar geopolitical order that reflects the relative strength of the great economic powers and upholds international law? Should America really continue to develop its military empire and behave as the hyperpower? Or should it move gracefully towards a multilateral world, simply being one of the “five great powers.”
With the Deep State in charge, I think the choice is clear: Trump will continue to be the demagogue that distracts attention from the long-term expansionist plans of the Deep State. He will distract (what passes for) the American Left while the Empire keeps marching on.
Originally published in The Satirist.
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Dan Geddes is the editor of The Satirist. In addition to satire, Geddes’ serious criticism in The Satirist online has been widely cited in books, English courses, academic papers, newspapers, and websites.