An intriguing concept almost unknown in America but common in political discourse in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Turkey is the putative existence of a “deep state” whose members ultimately pull (or could pull) the strings. In Italian history, for example, its manifestations might include Mafia connections with politicians, the P2 Masonic lodge in Rome that was discovered in 1980, and NATO’s Operation Gladio “leave behind” commando units that were intended to wage guerrilla war after a Communist takeover but may have been turned to less noble ends in the meantime.
Currently in Turkey, the ruling Islamic party is putting on trial many of its Kemalist and other enemies on charges of being part of a shadowy organization supposedly known as Ergenekon. Wikipedia says:
The Deep state (Turkish: derin devlet) is said to be a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services (domestic and foreign), Turkish military, security, judiciary, and mafia. The notion of deep state is similar to that of a “state within the state“. For those who believe in its existence, the political agenda of the deep state involves an allegiance to nationalism, corporatism, and state interests. Violence and other means of pressure have historically been employed in a largely covert manner to manipulate political and economic elites and ensure specific interests are met within the seemingly democratic framework of the political landscape. Former president Süleyman Demirel says that the outlook and behavior of the (predominantly military) elites who constitute the deep state, and work to uphold national interests, are shaped by an entrenched belief, dating to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, that the country is always “on the brink”.
The ideology of the deep state is seen by leftists as being anti-worker or ultra-nationalist; by Islamists as being anti-Islamic and secularist; and by ethnic Kurds as being anti-Kurdish. As pointed out by former prime minister Bülent Ecevit, the diversity of opinion reflects a disagreement over what constitutes the deep state. One explanation is that the “deep state” is not an alliance, but the sum of several groups that antagonistically work behind the scenes, each in pursuit of its own agenda. Rumours of the deep state have been widespread in Turkey since Ecevit’s term as prime minister in the 1970s, after his revelation of the existence of a Turkish branch of Operation Gladio, the “Counter-Guerrilla“.
To the foreign observer, the Turkish belief in the deep state is an interesting social phenomenon, seemingly based on a confluence of fact and conspiracy theories. Many Turks, including elected politicians, have stated their belief that the “deep state” exists.
To the American mind, this way of thinking sounds terribly Byzantine, a part of a culture where the smartest guy in the room isn’t the one who comes up with the simplest explanation but the one who comes up with the most complicated conspiracy theory.
And it also seems simplistic from an American/globalist perspective. Where would, say, Goldman Sachs fit into the Turkish model of a Deep State? Isn’t the whole concept of a “state” rather obsolete-sounding in the age of Davos Man, more appropriate for old-fashioned patriotic Turks than for postmodern Westerners?
And, in the Turkish (much less American) context, does it even really exist? Is it excessive to give a portentous-sounding name to something that sounds like big shots scratching each others’ backs?
Nonetheless, the notion of a deep state, although perhaps better conceptualized less as a top-down conspiracy than as an emergent phenomenon among insiders with overlapping interests, might prove useful to Americans in overcoming our native bias toward boyish naivete about the ways of the world.