Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why The New Boss Is Just Like The Old Boss -- Part Three

(Continued from Part Two of Jeff Schechtman's interview with Professor Michael Glennor, author of "National Security and Double Government")

How can this institution of double government with such size move in such consistent lockstep?

That's the $64 million dollar question.
Why does it persist, even in the face of an electoral mandate that insists upon change we can believe in.
The short answer is that there is a series of incentives baked into the American political system that is responsible for this continuity.
You look at one element of the system after the next and you can see what those incentives are.
Members of Congress, for example, secretly have an incentive to please very powerful constituencies and their incentive is to seek reelection above all else.
Judges are inclined to decide in favor of the people who appointed them.
The President and his staff defer to the expertise of the military and intelligence communities.
They don't want another terrorist attack to happen on their watch so the bureaucracy tends to define national security and military terms.
And it's not just the military, it's the civilian appointees as well.
Madeleine Albright famously turned to Colin Powell - when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - and said: "Why do we have this marvelous military if we don't use it?"
That is the incentive that the civilian employees have because the military - let's face it - is widely respected and extremely proficient at what it does.
The press has an incentive to pull punches rather than lose access.
Access for the presses is everything.
And the people themselves have an incentive to remain uninformed and passive because there's nothing that they can do  to effect these policies.
So this pervasive political ignorance continues, and at the same time there is a negative feedback loop.
The national security apparatus therefore has less and less incentive to want the people to participate because they don't know, the people in government think the people don't know enough about policies to make intelligent recommendations.
Therefore, the bottom line is all these different structural incentives come together in a kind of perfect storm.
There's an overarching incentive not to challenge the status quo, not to change things, to acquiesce to what the intelligence and military and law enforcement bureaucracy want to do.
The result is double government.
It's more complicated than that but that's basically the dynamic.

JEFF SCHECHTMAN: "We talk about World War II, post-World War II 1947 National Security Act is really an inflection point in this: To what extent was 9/11 and the actions post 9/11 another inflection point?"

PROFESSOR GLENNON: "Well, that's a good question...It was a public inflection point.
In fact, many of the programs that were instituted after 9/11 were in the works before 9/11, and the bureaucracy, frankly, was just looking for an opportune moment to push them.
A bulk surveillance by the National Security Agency of the sort that was revealed in the Snowden leaks, is one of those examples of this.
It's not a new idea that was hatched after 9/11, but 9/11 tended to accelerate all these programs and the reason is obvious.
You know, when people feel threatened, when danger is the principal public motivator, the incentive is to short-cut democratic procedures and move to a streamlined efficient way of needing threats.
It's this element and combination of fear and emergency and shortcutting democratic procedures that is as much as anything responsible for the great acceleration of the movement towards double government."


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