Sunday, June 29, 2014

The deep state and American democracy

The Jakarta Post
Juwono Sudarsono, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, June 28 2014, 12:11 PM
Opinion News

When I first visited the University of California in October 1963, the most talked-about book on the Berkeley campus was The Invisible Government by David Wise. 

At the time, I was reminded of former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning in January 1961, a few days before former US president John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, about the dangers of the military industrial complex and its pervasive influence throughout America’s town halls and cities, as well as the threat it posed to the future of American democracy.

Through the decades, the discussion about American corporate and financial power in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government has permeated media reports. When I was teaching at Columbia University in New York in 1986-87, the late John Bresnan, head of the Ford Foundation office in Jakarta during 1969-74, lamented to me that most young men were more interested in making money on Wall Street than in pursuing academic careers.

This was the period when the movie Wall Street captured the imagination of young, middle-class Americans who wanted to make US$200,000 a year.

Fast forward to 2014 and the military industrial complex has — over the past 15 years — transformed itself into a military industrial and financial complex, which was initially Eisenhower’s choice of words in 1961.

America has turned into one of the industrialized world’s most unequal societies with more billionaires and millionaires than parallel advanced countries in Western Europe and North America. Business and popular media continue to publish various surveys depicting the widening gap between financial and banking billionaires on the one hand and the stagnating middle class on the other. 

The too big to fail American banking crises of 2007-2009 were a wake-up call.

More than ever there has emerged an awareness of the dangers of what John Le Carré, the celebrated spy novelist, has termed “the deep state” behind Britain’s commanding grip over the industrial, industrial and banking industries and the cultural and social elite’s hold over them.

The power of the American deep state pervades the national security agencies, the Pentagon, the US Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Treasury Department and Wall Street’s lawyers and lobbyists. 

The seamless web of national security and banking and finance committees in the US Congress has raised concern among right and left wingers such as Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who have warned of the imperative to rein in the overwhelming power of money and business affecting the quality of American democracy. 

Elected members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the judiciary — may yet assert themselves to make American democracy really work for the struggling working class, not just for other wine and cheese eating upper leisure yahoos. 

US President Barack Obama has often talked about the dangers of rising inequality in America, but so far he has not commented directly on the dangers of America being imperiled by the shadow government lurking behind the town halls and cities throughout America that Eisenhower warned of 53 years ago.

The writer, a former Indonesian defense minister and education minister, is emeritus professor of international relations at the University of Indonesia.

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