Joachim Fritz-Vannahme
28. September 2019

The #Deep_State, democracy and the chain of command

For the British Prime Minister #Boris_Johnson, the Supreme Court of his country was completely “wrong to pronounce on a political question”, which Johnson thought the Supreme Court had better left and which, in the opinion of his parliamentary group leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, had even been a “constitutional coup.”


Temperature was rising in the House of Commons this week.


On Wednesday, temperature was rising in the House of Commons in London. The prime minister did not only settle accounts with the judges, but also with the deputies. They had run to the courts, sabotaged the Brexit and handed the country over to Brussels.

By Unknown – ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine F. Jefferies, 1849 S.264ff Google-Account necessary, Public Domain,


The pattern of his arguments is not new. Hardly in office, early August, Johnson wrote a personal letter to all civil servants of the country. The letter was not meant to be nice but as an open threat: they shouldn’t try to sabotage the Brexit and thus play the game of Brussels  but make Brexit their “top priority”.


Johnson gets inspired by Trump


The word “Deep State” was mentioned neither then, than now. But Johnson, inspired by US President #Donald_Trump, had repeatedly used it before. The commentators on both sides of the Atlantic also pointed out this elective affinity.


However, some political observers have overlooked the fact that this duo infernale has now become a trio in the fight against the deep state.


The duo infernale has become a trio


For in August, at the time of the G7 meeting in Biarritz, French President Emmanuel Macron also innocently spoke to journalists about the Deep State, about the “Etats profonds”.

What is meant in all these cases is a secret cooperation of unelected, unknown elites in the secret services, in the military apparatus, in the administrative tops, sometimes assisted by politicians and economic leaders. Read more about the history of this not so new term here.


“These unelected deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself,” Donald Trump said in September 2018.


Judges, MPs, state officials – all part of Deep State?


Boris Johnson would probably have called it a real threat to the Brexit: “The people” (51.9% of voters in the referendum, 37.4% of eligible voters) had wanted and longed for the Brexit. Yet the Deep State, the eleven highest judges (who openly proclaimed law in front of the camera and microphone) and the members of the House of Commons (elected, by the way), had thwarted it by all means, and that in a live debate.


Secret, then. The transition from the provocative word Deep State to the realm of conspiracy theories is thus open. Johnson, Trump, Macron, but also an Erdogan or Orban move in this direction. The former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine reacted more casually and ironically: “The great power of the Etat profond is inertia, not conspiracy”.


Trump is hardly interested in the country’s government


Let us put aside the polemics expressed by the powerful here. That is part of the political dispute in democracies. Védrine is more accurate about reality. As early as August 2017, US professor of law Jon D. Michaels accused President Trump in Foreign Affairs of having “little interest in running the country’s government.” The outsider had come into office “as if orchestrating a hostile corporate takeover.” Civil servants, of course, had realised this. You don’t find comrades-in-arms in such a way.


Johnson went ahead even more blatantly. With his flaming letter to all officials, he consciously called the spirits from which he, well, the prime minister-provocateur perhaps didn’t and doesn’t want to be delivered.


A breath of Bonapartism is blowing through the west


Since Napoleon, in the French political culture this has been known as, and called, Bonapartism. Me and the people – and in between nothing and nobody, especially not the elitist sly dogs of the Etat profond, the Deep State. (Interestingly, the Deep State in German has not yet had a similarly prominent career, and the word “state within state” has remained more of a saying).


Emmanuel Macron surprisingly utters the word, too, but with quiet tones. Once, his word of the “Etats profonds” was aimed at that small group of top diplomats known as sherpas in the political jargon. Before every EU summit, every G-20 summit, every G-7 summit, they negotiate comma by comma the draft of a final communiqué, which then concludes, as the coronation act, so to speak, every summit meeting (even though it has been largely determined beforehand).


In Biarritz, Macron had renounced this negotiation process from the outset. The year before, the Canadian host and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to experience how “his” final communiqué was first adopted and then wiped out by Donald Trump after his departure.


Another time, Macron lamented with “the Etats profonds”, please note the plural, the resistance in the French and Russian apparatus, which allegedly slowed down his new rapprochement with Russia.


May an official consider a president’s policy to be wrong?


May a high official consider the policy of an elected president to be wrong? Yes. In the Brussels EU, for example, but also in the US administration, in such a case of “constructive dissent” there are even well-established channels and procedures. In the State Department this is the “dissent channel” on their own website


And in the sensational case of Trump’s telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj, the White House had to give insight into a whistle-blower’s complaint to congressmen taking the minutes of the talks. The whistle-blower had first correctly ended up with the Inspector-General of the Secret Services, who had classified the documents as credible and urgent.


There you go. In a modern democracy, resistance does not have to be organized in the darkness of the deep state. The official channels are open. And the transition to conspiracy theory can be closed again. Everything else is “de la bonne guerre“, as the French language calls a tough confrontation with peaceful means.



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