A book recently published is getting a lot of attention: National Security and Double Government by Michael Glennon, Professor of International Law, Fletcher School, Tufts University. I found a paper he published which seems to be the precursor of the book [PDF], if not an exact copy.
First, I have to encourage you to read it for yourself. I’m keeping a copy of the paper on my FTP server. Second, I’m not reviewing it so much as reacting with a characterization based on my personal experience as filtered through my faith and moral grasp: The vast bureaucratic secrecy reflects the underlying cowardice of the average human. Glennon refers to two threads of power in government. One is the official face of government, leaders with all the pomp and glory. Here in the US, he calls them “Madisonians” because Madison was the chief architect of constitutional government. However, it was Truman who founded what we experience today as the “Trumanite” bureaucratic machinery that actually runs the government.
There is a clear and simple reason why the Trumanites run things: They are consistent across the whole history of leadership, both good and bad. The Madisonians don’t actually do anything but posture before the voters and vary wildly from one to another for dramatic effect. It’s the Trumanites that run things because they own the entire mechanism for implementing whatever the Madisonians demand. The fundamental nature of this Trumanite bureaucracy rests on the overriding concern for “national security.”
Because everyone — the entire “national security team” — is accountable, no one is accountable… Its cohesion notwithstanding, the Trumanite network is curiously amorphous. It has no leader. It is not monolithic. It has no formal structure. Its actual membership blurs at the margins. Its ranks reflect the same organizational, philosophical, and personal rivalries and fissures common to all bureaucracies. Blame avoidance ranks high among its priorities.
You have to experience it first hand to truly grasp the perverted mix of heroism and institutionalized cowardice that comes from serving in the military. It’s not that real military leaders do nothing, but that they are permitted to act heroically only in the areas not under Trumanite control. This is also why the Madisonian politicians can do some stuff that hurts and hinders every day life (or by accident, helps), but it’s only those things that the Trumanites don’t care about.
We can build stereotypes, but they don’t always work. Some elements of the CIA are real life action heroes who do some of the most insane stuff, taking physical risks we can’t imagine. But they are heroic in obeying a deep institutional evil. Thus, we have CIA agents arming and training Al-Qaeda and ISIS to kill our heroic uniformed troops. Yes, somewhere up that chain of command are people who know this and keep it going, but it wouldn’t happen without an army of cowardly bureaucrats.
That cowardice percolates into everything, from every angle. The secrecy itself is cast in bureaucratic cowardice. Even if someone gave you clearance to the deepest layers of government secrets, the whole thing is written from the cowardly mindset and you can’t touch it without the perversion creeping into your soul.
It’s all about the status quo. “Trumanites have no time to re-examine the cosmological premises on which policy is based.” This cowardice percolates upward, too. Thus, we see it expressed ever more often in the Madisonian branch. When was the last time you got to vote for a candidate you actually believed in? Are we not herded into believing in someone we would never choose, but who has positioned themselves to the closest proximity of our beliefs? Both parties are now run by Trumanites.
Addenda: This is why all that chatter about firing, or even executing, all the members of Congress or other manifestations of Madisonian government is meaningless. It would change nothing. It’s a waste of energy even to think it. Changing the course of American government means executing the thousands of Trumanite bureaucrats first and dismantling the entire system. That is a task almost no one would undertake and rightly so. The only way out now is for the whole thing to implode, which is what we see now taking place in slow motion. The problems of American government will die with the institution itself, not before.