1. All states superficially resemble one another. Every Deep State is deep in its own way.
The state is a two-suit playing card. The first is displayed because it is related to its political significance, whether elector, self-determined or hybrid is irrelevant, and reflected in the activities of its institutions and ruling class, accessible to the eyes of citizens or subjects in different ways. It is magnified for the general public in the pomp and circumstance of official celebrations, the flying of flags, the hymns and military parades.
It is in this that the body of leadership is displayed, symbols are put on show, oaths are taken, liturgies performed as owed to the nation or the empire’s supreme institution. It is then that, only for a few moments, the present daily disenchantment with all that is or appears to be political, seems to vanish in the collective worshipping of the homeland.
This is a lifeless recollection of the hyper-political 19th - 20th centuries when Hegelian state religion – the supreme entity, the ethical concept of God on earth in which the individual acknowledges his objective and his freedom – was considered history’s alpha and omega, now reduced to the theatre of clashes between right and left-wing Hegelians.
The other suit of the same deck is the Deep State, a labyrinth of bureaucracies, functions and influences that are almost all known. They are prevalently public, but often intertwined, even in exchanging high-ranking managers, with private lobbies, economic-financial elites and media potentates.
They are organised in strategic ministries, the judiciary as well as deliberating and controlling administrations, the Armed Forces and the police. Only a very few are secret (intelligence and special forces), but often introverted, accustomed to working silently – except when tempted by politics, which for reasons unknown to us is considered a step up in status.
They are at times enchanted by the warning issued by Samuel Huntington – a political analyst with some experience as far as the intimacy of the American government is concerned – who wrote that “Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.” (1)
Similar precepts stimulate blinding fantasies, such as the Deep State as the infallible driving force behind conspiracies that decide on each and everyone’s destiny. Less feverish minds see that network of functions, instinctively resistant to external control and forever in competition amongst themselves, as a machine that is often untameable even by its own pilots. And yet it is indispensable to the life of institutions and their geopolitical projection.
This is the heart of the administrative state, not always reducible to a bureaucracy. In its highest version, typical of a nation inspired to achieve a mission and a proud feeling of community, to those considering themselves appointed by merit or vocation to protect the public interest, it is not a mere cog in a large wheel. It sets itself up as an elite.
As such it produces legitimacy and thus authority, the prototype of such professional aristocracy. The ideal type of the legal and rational administrative classes is the Prussian-Germanic bureaucracy, a model exported to Europe, Asia and the Americas.
There is no state without a Deep State. A permeable membrane divides them. It is not easy to measure the degrees of separation. In some cases, such as China, they coincide.
To each his own, naturally. State duality assumes very different configurations depending on countries, as this issue abundantly proves. The state is usually born light, then it broadens and becomes heavier, equipping the areas of its functional depth – the greatest example being the United States of America. In minor but significant cases the opposite occurs. The formal state arises thanks to the initiatives of the profound organisations of another geopolitical subject, remaining its maidservant.
This is the case of Transnistria, Moscow’s exclave, subtracted from post-Soviet Moldova by the legendary General Aleksandr Lebed’ to save for Russia that outpost piercing Ukraine’s southern flank.
One can, however, distil a number of constant elements typical of the organisations, mentality and operational modalities of Deep States. This universal locution that became common about twenty years ago, once used to depict the Turkish derin Devlet, a military-espionage-criminal clique created by the Young Turks to ward off the total dissolution of the fading empire of the Ottoman Sultanate.
Nowadays the definition is used to describe obscure cabals, parallel or opposed to formal institutions, as well as to describe the technocracies sustaining them. It is best to concentrate on this last version, as it is very widespread and useful for geopolitical analysis. There are five factors marking its affinities and weaving the backdrop against which one can see the organisational-functional peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that distinguish the engine rooms of modern Leviathans.
First and decisive. The Deep State’s task is to ensure the continuity of geopolitical strategies and state policies, offering specialist competence to elected or appointed decision-makers, thereby restricting options and powers. Rulers come and go, but the Deep State remains. With the exception of incidents, the career of a civil servant lasts for an entire professional life; that of a political manager is measured in years, at times even months.
A Deep State operator digs riverbeds along which the choices of responsible politicians flow, with respect for the law or with opportunistic interpretations of it. For these reasons the bureaucrat relies on his/her own technical culture and experience, well-aware that the minister or head of government, it matters not whether elected, appointed or self-installed, cannot know more than he/she does about whatever dossier they are responsible for, with the exception of extremely rare cases.
We would not be surprised to discover among the reading material of better educated Deep State officials The Cult of Incompetence by Émile Faguet, which, in 1921, established that, “Every function is not confided to everyone.” It is a pathology inscribed in the genes of democracy as the “sovereignty of incompetence” – on the subject of which the French essayist quotes the death sentence passed on Socrates by a “plebeian court”. (2)
Second. To the loyal, scrupulous administrator of the res publica, the state is God. Better still, the Goddess of Reason, whose temple in Italy is the General Accounting Office, corresponding to the classic superior controlling offices in the most varied institutional models. State officials perceive themselves as priests whose responsibility it is to watch over the liturgies of the civil service.
Their compass is the national interest, never defined, always interpretable. It is a warehouse of ideas, obligations, strategic information accumulated since the distant past, passed down for generations, continuously revised and adapted to tactical contingencies.
The concept of the national interest is an intentionally vague one. There are however two certainties: it expresses a desire for power, excluding by definition that the state in its articulated totality pursues sub-national and supranational interests. Heteronomous influences must be intercepted and redirected by the Deep State according to the nation’s supreme interest and not vice versa. Interdependency, the most humdrum among the “concepts” of simplified political science, stimulates instead of calming the culture of national interest.
Third. The bureaucrat’s professional disease is addiction. The need to acknowledge and address what is new means discarding the outdated paradigm, obliterating the obsolete file. This applies to all administrators, but above all to the “state nobleman”.
Inclined to group non-thinking, seduced by tradition and a conservative by instinct and by training, the servant of the Deep State is profoundly ritualistic. In the internal forum he shares the saying attributed to Upton Sinclair. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” All this to the point of self-delusion that leads to repeating canonical gestures with neurotic compulsion even when the task has been completed. State Fordism.
Fourth. An awareness of almost always knowing a great deal more than one’s elected superiors can play dangerous tricks. Turncoat officials are inclined to manipulate political decision-makers, if not even replace them. In a spasm of arrogance, an advisor usurps the rank of the advised.
One could use the aphorism created by the American polemicist Henry Louis Mencken, “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance,” as the implicit currency of deviated bureaucrats. (3) Politics, let alone geopolitics, is far too important to be left to politicians.
Fifth. There is an even deeper state in the precipices of every Deep State: the intelligence services. Just as all legal systems descend from the Grundnorm, a premise that “contains and supports all inferior norms” (4) and outlines respective perimeters, secret services avail themselves of a primary legitimisation, in which the end – saving the state and its “fundamental interests” (5) – justifies the means, even if they are illegal.
Grundnorm is reason of state and, when necessary to ensure national security, it allows intelligence officers to commit crimes that must be covered by political authority, which by law is responsible for controlling its secret services. This is legitimate but effectively superordinate to rules and to the constitution itself because it must protect them. In the words of the former director of SISMI (military counter-espionage), Gianfranco Battelli, “Asking the secret services to operate within the framework of the legality that is the setting for the work of the judiciary and the police, is a real and proper contradiction in terms, which ends up negating the very reason for which intelligence and security services exist.
It therefore seems to me that it is totally obvious that the secret services must be able to do things that are illegal.” (6) No state actually allows spying, but everyone does it – the American empire does it with paroxysmal, to then influence the international market for secret information on the basis of the treasure accumulated at the expense of the countries whose security it has violated, with which it is able to negotiate an exchange of data in a constant self-balancing system.
Universal history has, however, certified that in secretive branches of the Deep State, functionally exposed to solipsism, some servants of the institutions, blinded by their own “superpowers” use secret data for private or seditious ends.
2. As an analysis of specific conflicts of power in given areas, geopolitics presumes to answer the cardinal question, “Where is power located?” That is our Grundfrage. This results in our attention – our mania – concerning the functioning of institutional agencies in which power strategies and tactics are sanctioned, while leaving aside the tides and sandbanks of politics.
For as long as states remain the leading players on the geopolitical stage, in order to examine strategic and operational DNA, it will remain crucial to lower oneself into their systemic abysses. This also so as to diagnose their conditioned reflexes, exposed by ordinary behaviour as well as by the manner in which officials and technocrats react to crises.
Animated by a strong corporate spirit, organised in castes founded on cooptation, on a shared education and even on family ties, they therefore tend to act in a semi-automatic manner.
This is what the London historian John Robert Seeley with his stiff upper lip wished to reveal in enunciating his theory concerning British expansion, “We seem, as it were, to have conquered half the world in a fit of absence of mind.” (7)
One could expect the most incisive thoughts concerning Grundfrage to emerge – langue oblige – from Germany. However, decades of post-war “re-education” under watchful American and Soviet eyes (and to a lesser extent French and British) have sterilised this impulse, obliging the debate to be contained in academic ivory towers, saturated with sulphur, directed by eccentric, nostalgic or brilliantly non-influential personalities.
The eradication of the Hitlerian diktat dug so deep that it has removed from the field not only the ruins of that twelve-year period, but also the Prussian-Germanic state tradition from which the winners rashly wanted Hitler to descend from, totally and entirely discrediting it.
This was thus all removed from reflections on the geopolitical meaning, construction and expansion of the state in which initially Prussian and later German-Imperial academia and administrations excelled for two centuries, conquering prestige and influence also reflected in the organisation of other institutions, including Italy. This did not exclude a number of powers that were later to suppress its aspirations to dominate the world.
What started in 1945 was the de-Germanisation of Germany dressed-up as de-Nazification, carried out by occupying states more or less imbued with Germanic culture. Words such as power (Macht) and above all geopolitics (Geopolitik) were removed from the public vocabulary, or accompanied by careful, moralistic and contrite “clarifications”.
Such taboos were only partly removed, while recent nationalistic movements - not to mention neo-Nazi branches present even in state apparatuses (the Bundeswehr for example) – try and unbury them and reshape them in a shrewder version, encouraged by the counterproductive official proscription. The result? There is no mention of the Deep State (tiefer Staat), or it is mentioned incoherently according to banned conspiracy-based clichés about which frivolous “investigative” journalism exercises its skills.
Stupid rules result in intelligent exceptions, even in post-Hitler Germany. As far as our analysis is concerned, the most brilliant was broadcast at 10:10 p.m. on June 22nd, 1954 by the Hessischer Rundfunk radio and entitled Dialogues on Power, followed at the same time of day on April 12th, 1955 by Dialogues on Space. Both texts had been written by Carl Schmitt, presented as an “expert on public law” and read by professionals.
During the post-war period, the author, an ambiguous exegete and notorious Kronjurist of the national-socialist revolution, marginalised in 1936 as requested by the SS – among other things because he was suspected of being “an admirer of Rome”, because of his Catholic faith and his clerical friendships, especially with Jesuits – was considered by many a dangerous, incorrigible ideologue of the Third Reich who had only just escaped standing trial in Nuremberg.
His intellectual reputation, the relationships nurtured with philosophers who were certainly anti-Nazi, among them some openly liberal ones (Raymond Aron), were not enough to dispel the demonising fumus. All this to the extent that when his first text was published and exhibited in October 1954 at the Frankfurt Book Show with the final title Dialogues on power and on access to the powerful, a zealous journalist from the Zeit threatened to destroy the stand that had dared place it on show (8).
Such horror, however, was not shared by those leading the Bundesrepublik, for whom that booklet turned out to be a precious manual. Schmitt was rather flatté, as confirmed by a newspaper cutting dated “Bonn, September 4th, 1965”, which the author had glued to his copy of the Spanish translation of his Dialogues. The cutting reveals how the then Social Democrat candidate for the chancellery, Willy Brandt, had repeatedly asked the Bundestag Library for this book, until he was told that the chancellor in power at the time, Ludwig Erhard, had it. (9)
In a letter to the publisher, Schmitt baptised that dialogue “Denkspiel” (“an intellectual game”), based on the “contradiction between moral and dialectic ideas”, in which the moralist “judges first and then observes” (10). Such a figure was entrusted to a young petulant interrogator (J., initial for Junge) to whom the dialectic himself (“initials”, C. S.) throws back answers as sharp as diamonds. Although the word “tiefer Staat” is not used, one is faced with a figurative portrayal of the prevalence of the Deep State over any powerful leader, regardless of the type of regime.
As Schmitt established in a letter to Ernst Jünger, all those who come to power, be they good or bad, enter a cage. (11) Power weakens the powerful. The theorist of the friend-enemy antithesis as the criteria of politics states that the objective autonomy of all power compared to the powerful himself, as well as the inevitable internal dialectics of power and impotence in which all powerful human beings are destined to encounter. (12) Schmitt exemplified this concept, perhaps an allusion to Hegel’s servant-master dialectics, enunciating the advised dependence on the advisor.
Hence that of the sovereign on the Deep State. Schmitt wrote that even the most absolute prince must rely on reports and information and is dependent on his advisors. Day after day and hour after hour, an enormous amount of facts and news, suggestions and hypotheses press him from all sides. Even the most intelligent and powerful man can at best only glean few drops from this ever-changing and immense sea of truth and falsehoods, realities and possibilities. (13). Schmitt adds that, the internal dialectics of human power emerge and those called upon to report to those in power, or supply information, already participate in that power. (14)
Thus the apparently paradoxical identification of the physical epicentre of power is not the throne room but its antechamber. Schmitt also states that an antechamber of indirect influence and power, with access to the ear of the man in power, a corridor to his soul, is formed outside every chamber of direct power. He adds that there is no human power that does not involve this antechamber and this corridor. (15)
The more power is concentrated in a certain man or group of men, the greater the battle for controlling the corridor, the compulsory access route to the summit for those carrying influence or petitions. And the more the formal sovereign tries to grasp power for himself, the more he become isolated from the reality he believes he governs.
According to Schmitt, this corridor uproots him from the common ground and raises him to a sort of stratosphere in which he remains in contact only with those indirectly dominating him, while losing contact with all the other men over whom he exercises power, who in turn lose touch with him. This is a crushing verdict: power lies in the Deep State, not in the political state. The antechamber is its location of excellence and that is where decisions are made. The kitchen cabinet (in Italy that would be, as a refined sub-species, the pre-Council of Ministers) is the battlefield, the outcome of which the individual or collective sovereign will try and amend if not convinced.
It is curious that in his dialectic topography Schmitt does not contemplate the final stage of the decision; the executive one. His interpretation of effective hierarchies would be corroborated. The corridor is not one way. Access to the powerful is not the per se objective. Once formalised, the “sovereign” decree will have to follow that path in the opposite direction, all the way back to the last bureaucrat whose job it is to execute it (a privilege that is also contestable). If the way there is bumpy, the return will be a bloodbath and not always a metaphoric one.
Schmitt adds that the dialectics of power assume a superhuman dimension in the atomic era. The Bomb has created two categories of decision-makers; those who have it dominate those who have not. The author observes how its use escapes humankind because it derives from a chain reaction caused by them.
He observes that, when the decisive moment comes, the human hand holding the nuclear weapon, the human brain that commands the nerves of this arm, are not so much the limbs of individual men but rather parts of the technical and social apparatus that produces and uses this bomb. (16) In today’s world, it is not up to Putin or Trump to activate the “doomsday” weapon; that is the task of military apparatuses that risk being betrayed by the algorithm they themselves have contributed to activating.
Perhaps it is to this that the current lord of the Kremlin refers to when saying that, “He who will have the best artificial intelligence will dominate the world.” (17)
3. Nowadays the power of bureaucracies is generally directly rising in proportion to the decline of the political class, especially in liberal democracies of ancient lineage. Here politics declines to the level of a narrative and the law loses its meaning because the world’s disorder exceeds the subtlety of the jurist. The decision-making timeframe is now calculated in seconds and, deprived of all references, myths and ideals or possibly future objectives, the public debate has been reduced to volleys of tweets.
Unlike political institutions, exposed to the triumph and termination of those elected, administrative institutions are endowed with a life of their own, destined to become extinguished only with the end of the state. They are equipped with batteries overcharged with energy accumulated over decades, and at times centuries. They answer (not always) to the law and are not exposed to the whims of voters. They are legitimate, but by temperament inclined to self-assigned legitimisation, arbitrarily analogous to the suitas derived from Roman Law.
They are always, however, exposed to the political leader’s urgent need to offer the media a technical scapegoat in the event of failure. But if the pragmatism of the elected is reduced to incompetent opportunism, if it is dark at the very top, the pinnacles of politics shine no light and the government is reduced to being an inert administration, then the Deep State suffers too. No one can demand a sense of the state if the state no longer makes sense. (18)
There are two clear consequences in the fragments of the West produced by the implosion of its strategic reason caused by the unexpected and not intentional victory against the Soviet East.
First. Deprived of a unifying macro-objective, the Deep State shows signs of decomposition. Its functions become factions. To remain united it is obliged to invent improbable existential threats, ranging from “Islamic terrorism” to the “migratory invasion” and their combination. A tragic lack of a sense of humour.
Second. In the absence of shared political theologies, in the days of institutional nihilism and humanitarian cynicism as ultimaratio belli, the Deep State or some of its splinter elements yearn to become the state. A state without adjectives. Hence the reaction to the Grundfrage becomes cursedly complicated. Determining the Place of Power, even just the places of power, is an arduous task in spite of the fact that Schmitt’s intuition can pave the way.
Such bewilderment does however result in an antidote. The residual functional elites active in the hearts of states and in symbiotic private or informal powers that are formed there, are cultivating in different shapes and with different intensities a deontology that is vaguely Luddite.
In a world of nuclear weapons, of satellites militarising the cosmos, IT clouds, algorithmic eyes and artificial intelligence, what is with its back to the wall is the founding reason of the modern state; the ability to protect its people. What need will there be for a state, be it Deep or superficial, if it will be machines that will recognise or deny danger on the basis of their unfathomable (il)logic? Hence a sense of alienating brotherhood between enemy apparatuses, at least between those seriously responsible.
They are more similar than media noise and semi-political tragicomedies allow us to sense, because they are not prepared to allow themselves to be commanded by computers.
4. This applies in particular to America and Russia, divided by an asymmetric animosity that has lasted a century, developed ever since a Bolshevik coup in Petrograd and the following American red scare inaugurated by an ante litteram Cold War.
This is a clash that started long before its public baptism and continues, with variations, well beyond the celebration of its fake ending. Well, in this competition the respective Deep States have often understood each other better than their temporary political leaders.
For a start this is their duty; defeating or containing one’s enemies makes it necessary to understand them. They must therefore speak and listen to one another, especially, but not only, when peace is at risk. This has happened and is being repeated in at least two current crises – Ukraine and Syria – indirect conflicts between Moscow and Washington. I
n order to prevent these conflicts from becoming direct and therefore catastrophic, Russian and American military commanders communicate on a daily basis, fearing that an accidental contact between soldiers or assets deployed on parallel missions might spark a real war.
There is of course the red telephone for communications between the two presidents. Leaving aside the fickleness and technical inexperience of the current inhabitant of the White House, the dialogue between responsible politicians nowadays makes less sense than ever.
It almost always turns out to be sterile, thereby illustrating the ontological difference between the two Deep States. Putin and Trump are homologues by definition, not by function. The president of the Russian Federation commands his Deep State full time with gusto and competent scrupulousness, delegated to do this by a select oligarchy.
His American “colleague” is at war with his own. He despises it and these feelings are cordially reciprocated. This has been revealed by an anonymous senior official of the Trump administration, who boasts that he sabotages the president, a personality with “anti-democratic” impulses and a style that is “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective”, a man who might “change his mind from one minute to the next,” showing “a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.”
The anonymous author proclaims he is part of the “resistance” (sic) against his president and says, “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.” (19) Technically this is sabotage. For example, one day Trump’s former chief economic advisor, Gary D. Cohn, discovered on the presidential desk a document with which the United States would have broken off a trade agreement with South Korea. He stole it to “protect the country”. It appears that his boss did not notice, although he later obliged Cohn to resign. (20)
Trump envies Putin’s power, which the constitution and traditions deny him, just like any other president of the United States. When he can, he escapes the eagle eyes of his advisors to meet his “friend” Vladimir, with whom it is said he gets on extremely well. That said, the at times absent look in the tsar’s eyes indicate that he is aware he is wasting time, a sacrifice he is obliged to make by the patriotism of those born to serve the state.
The relative degree of intimacy between those “deeply” responsible – the real ones – for these two rival empires, have more stable and efficient foundations than the conversations between Trump and Putin. They are old enemies who have spied on one another for decades, at times exchanging roles for money, beliefs or love, or simultaneously playing both sides. They often respect one another.
The Russian and American apparatuses exchange blows following established rules, judoka rituals. However, in recent years they appear to have lost some of the intensity in their contacts, in their ability to read the intentions of others, also due to the pressure of public opinions that have become increasingly hostile or misinformed.
If this parabola has not caused irreparable damage this is, to quite a significant extent, because of the intimacy matured over the long period of competition between the two Deep States. This is the child of ancient history of which they themselves are not fully aware.
Ethnically and above all culturally, their genealogies share common Teutonic seeds. It is a factor rather neglected by historiography and that would deserve further investigation. If one wished to exaggerate, not that much after all, one might venture that the Cold War and its current surrogate were – and vaguely remain – a German civil war.
Leaving aside blood ties between German and Russian sovereigns and princes, the Germanic style in the tsarist Deep State, marked since the days of Peter the Great and then flowing through the karstic phenomena into the Soviet organisation, remains alive and well in the Russian Federation. This is incarnated by Putin himself, as he speaks German and is Germanophile in spite of everything.
Parallel traces of Russophilia persist in the Federal Republic’s cultural, industrial and political elites as well as in its apparatuses. They materialised in the vital interdependence linked to gas, inaugurated in 1970 by Brandt and Brežnev, in spite of the fact that the only-Western Bundesrepublik was an American semi-protectorate.
This is now still pursued by Angela Merkel with the significantly geopolitical Nord Stream 2 project, in spite of being in the midst of anti-Russian sanctions. The chancellor is determined to double the Baltic gas pipeline – “Molotov-Ribbentrop” according to the Poles – against which Trump and his Deep State are surprisingly on the same side.
What is less known is the significantly robust German influence on the American empire’s governing theories and procedures since its very beginnings. One lasting example is the manner in which Hegel (always him) is accepted by American academia and from there has spread to its apparatuses. At the end of the 19th century, thousands of American students had already travelled in the opposite direction that transatlantic route already crossed by millions of Deutschamerikaner – still now the main American ethnic lineage – to wash their clothes in the rivers Spree, Saale or in the Rhine, attending repeated semesters at universities in Berlin, Halle or Bonn.
These were the temples of philosophical and bureaucratic cultures where the sacred text was Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Those young people included George Morris, Richard Ely and other future teachers of Woodrow Wilson, inoculated with generous doses of organicism, the antidote to his primary ‘made in England’ liberal-individualism.
Thus Wilson’s curious intellectual fondness for Hegel, to the extent that the president even spoke of the philosopher from Stuttgart in a love letter written to his wife. (21) There is evidence of this in the cutting Study of Administration (1887), praising the triumph of an “era of administration” over an expired “constitutional era”, in which he paraphrases a number of passages from the Handbuch der Verwaltungslehre und des Verwaltungsrechts, the neo-Hegelian bible of the administrative state published in 1870 by Lorenz von Stein.
As an academic, Wilson would go as far as criticising the separation of powers, suited to the constitutional phase but inadequate to the unexpected enlargement and ambitions of the American state in which there was “isolation plus irresponsibility – isolation and therefore irresponsibility.” Hence “while other governments lead, ours obeys.” (22) One can already sense the gene of big government, derived from the United States’ imperial expansion and its unavoidable driving force.
The last but significant symptom of the non-elective but actual affinity between Russian and American apparatuses is that both Deep States, and to a significant extent also their political leaders, profoundly mistrust the Chinese. And they are unable to fully grasp the codes.
The same applies to the People’s Republic’s elite, revealing the basic lack of understanding within administrative and geopolitical cultures in the United States and in Russia. The distance, especially between Beijing and Washington, is immense.
American intelligence, drugged by technology and military superiority, neglects history and the human factor. This results in its successfully decrypting codes but then misunderstanding them, especially when the key lies in the past of a many thousand-year-old empire.
The rules of the Chinese Deep State – which is basically the state tout court, subordinated to the Party – derive from the ideas of Han Feizi, active in the 3rd century BC, modernised and adapted to later dynasties, in particular by the “reds” in command for the past seventy years, but unchanged in their essence.
The first problem that the Americans and foreigners in general encounter when dealing with the Chinese, lies in the identification of the correct negotiating counterparty. To remain with the architectural metaphors dear to Schmitt, one should apply the traditional hierarchies established for entering the homes of the Chinese elites.
Historically there was always a distinction between the customary entrance – with a door looking to the south – and the service entrance, used to establish relationships and obtain information using a small north-facing door. In Communist China, the metaphor distinguishing between “the front door” and the “back door”, reserved to the sovereign’s close friends or envoys, still applies.
Another peculiarity in the Chinese system-world that still now appears to bewilder American negotiators – for example in the pseudo-negotiations simulated by Kim Jong-un’s clique regards to its nuclear arsenal, making a fool of Trump and his legates – is that usually the real head negotiator remains hidden.
He sends ahead his substitutes, replaced like blown fuses if the message is not delivered. As Marie-Sybille de Vienne warned in an article published by Limes twenty years ago, “in Asia the decision-maker listens, over here he speaks.” (23)
But even the Chinese nomenklatura has revealed itself as surprisingly naïve in its understanding of American strategy. It did not grasp in time the aggressiveness nurtured by the Office of Net Assessment led by the legendary Andrew Marshall since the 1980s, when political and military Washington was hypnotised by the Soviet Union, even when it was on the verge of suicide. Hence in recent months those critical of Xi Jinping have pointed the finger at the powerful ideologue and strategic leader Wang Huning, guilty of having underestimated the threat posed by America.
An underhand message, aimed at Wang to warn the supreme leader, loathed by large swathes of the nomenklatura for his anti-corruption campaigns and for concentrating power in his own hands. Until Beijing realises that the ideological veils and protective walls built to filter hostile influences are a two-way street, complicating matters for those in America wishing to understand China as well as for those in China trying to decrypt America, relations between the Number One and his only real challenger run the risk of becoming overheated to the extent of being out of control.
As far as Russian Sinophobia is concerned, it is quite widespread among the managerial class and even more so in public opinion, with racist undertones.
This so much so that when Putin, wrong-footed and beaten by the American apparatuses in Ukraine, felt obliged to travel to Beijing to forge agreements, not only involving energy, with Xi Jinping in conditions of painful inferiority, he had to face the reservations of expert Sinologists in diplomacy and intelligence, with some ending up being relatively lightly punished.
One of them let off steam talking to Limes, saying that, “By the time the Americans realise that we have the same enemy, China will border with Germany.” Such fears are intentionally exaggerated and the result of frustration.
The measure of strategic relations between powers, as outlined by medium to long-term geopolitics, should be taken in the Deep State’s strategic workshops, in the antechambers of the leaders rather than in their offices or, even worse, based on their tweets. One would then ascertain the geopolitical paradox par excellence: Russian and American enemies understand one another better – or less badly – than the Russian and Chinese “friends”.
5. The Grundfrage on the topography of power is not exclusive to geopolitics. An albeit brief online search, added to a reconnaissance of TV channels and serials dedicated to revealing the truth hidden by power, invites humility; our approach is pathetically less important.
Esoteric parallel realities are spreading, in which the Deep State is the keeper of secrets held by the invariably perfidious powerful, masked to the eyes of common mortals, all supported by stupefying and/or fascinating maps and charts.
Here we are in the Kingdom of Great Conspiracies. Everything is held here and obeys three principles. First, there is a one and only Truth, a unique, secret, evil, omnipotent Centre of Power that spreads across a network of dark affiliations capable of infiltrating the visible world’s institutions to assert its own perverse interests. Second; since everything is connected, everything works out. The Truth is circular and timeless.
One can read it indifferently from A to Z or from Z to A. Consequently World Order exists; it is hidden because it cannot stand the sunlight. It would die in the open and thus it takes cover. Those who discover and kill it, like St. George with the Dragon, are the just. Third, the future is predictable. Actually, it is planned since it is contained exponentially in protected environments where the members of the clubs that really govern us meet.
They are the masters of the world; masons or illumati, Jesuits or spies, Knights Templar or extra-terrestrials, entrepreneurs or generals, even a few (supposed) politicians. The Jews are of course always present. A super-class that meets every year in Davos or at the Bilderberg to tighten the bolts of the System – the same privileged people who regularly meet for “working lunches” and in elite salons, challenging boredom.
Among the most enterprising conspiracy experts, one finds a certain Dylan Louis Monroe, creator of the “Sephirot Map” and the “Q-Web”, the first step of the “Deep State Mapping Project”. Monroe swears, “We won’t stop until the Deep State is totally mapped and defeated!” This man couples supreme analytical talent with healthy entrepreneurial desires. Those interested can join his non-exclusive portal Patreon (www.patreon.com, or could it be a Deep State trap?).
They will pay to receive personalised gadgets manufactured by Monroe himself, who also anticipates a few free gems. One example states that half of all Swiss men have the “Pharaoh’s gene”, which defines the rank in global banking. Better still, as “Qanon”, Monroe reveals that Trump has a “secret Twitter account informing the public about the covert takedown of the Deep States Cabal. It’s not just Trump though, it’s a military team.” (24)
Teams of academics have for some time devoted themselves to disqualifying the conspiracy theories, using arguments that are at times unpleasant, establishing for example the clinical equation conspiracy theorist = paranoid. That was the case of the famous Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964), in which the historian Richard Hofstadter denounced the delirious anti-Communism of McCarthyites and others (25). This is where anti-conspiracy theories come close to conspiracism.
Then there are those who exclude categorically the existence of conspiracies. Hence we should assume that the 9/11 attackers, settled that morning in their respective commercial planes for business or pleasure trips, were all at the very same moment overcome by an uncontrollable impulse to crash into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers.
Or one could write about military history collating the bulletins of the general staffs. In these cases professional anti-conspiracy theorists absorb the same, apodictic methods as their opponents, with factors overturned.
Conspiracy theories are acts of faith. Irrefutable conjectures since they cannot be proved, and vice versa. Credo quia absurdum. This is the perfect opposite of geopolitics, which excludes eternal truths since it operates in space and time, illustrating and comparing the points of view of the players in conflict with no moral prejudices, risking interpretations, making mistakes and trying again.
Conspiracy theories are anti-geopolitical of course, but one can concede that they can be fun. Especially for those strict operators in the abysses of the state, who when scrutinising the surreal portrayals of themselves painted by arch-conspiracy theorists, may discover that they have not lost their taste for laughter.
(Translated by Francesca Simmons)
- P. HUNTINGTON, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1981, Belknap Press, p. 75.
- É. FAGUET, Le culte de l’incompétence, Paris 1921, Grasset, p. 12 and p. 13.
- in M. LOFGREN, The Deep State. The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, New York New York 2016, Penguin Books, p. 218.
- N. IRTI (présenté par N. HAKIM), Le nihilisme juridique, Paris 2017, Dalloz, p. 126.
- Così F. COSSIGA, “Intelligence: istruzioni per l’uso”, Limes 3/1997, “Africa!”, p. 269.
- BATTELLI, at the round table “What use are our secret services”, Limes no. 3/1997, “Africa!”, p. 293.
- R. SEELEY, The Expansion of England, Chicago 1971, The Chicago University Press, p. 12.
- C. SCHMITT, Dialogo sul potere, Milano 2012, Adelphi, edition that contains both essays with an afterword by Giovanni Giurisatti. The third, corrected German edition, with an afterword by Gerd Giesler: Gespräch über die Macht und den Zugang zum Machthaber, Stuttgart 2017, Klett-Cotta.
- C. SCHMITT, Gespräch über die Macht und den Zugang zum Machthaber, cit., p. 95, note 49.
- Ivi, p. 75
- Ivi, p. 65.
- SCHMITT, Dialogues on Power, p. 22.
- Ivi, p. 23.
- Ivi, p. 24.
- Ivi, p. 38.
- A. ROCIOLA, “Because those who will have the best artificial intelligence will dominate the world”, Agi, 9/5/2018.
- Reflections inspired by N. IRTI, La tenaglia. In difesa dell’ideologia politica, Rome-Bari 2008, Laterza, p. 28. This image on dark peaks is inspired by the masterpiece by S. KRACAUER, Gli impiegati, Turin 1980, Einaudi, p. 105.
- “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”, The New York Times, 5/9/2018.
- WEILAND, “5 Takeaways From Bob Woodward’s Book on the Trump White House”, The New York Times, 4/9/2018.
- C. ROSSER, “Woodrow Wilson’s Administrative Thought and German Political Theory”, Public Administration Review, July/August 2010, pp. 547-556, qui p. 549.
- Ivi, p. 550.
- “Small practical glossary for those dealing with Orientals”, by M.-S. de VIENNE, Limes no. 1/1999, p. 19, in which the example quoted are stated.
- HOFSTADTER, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, New York 2008, Vintage. New edition with an introduction by Sean Wilentz.