The 7 “Blind” men and the US Elephant – 5 The Lawyer

The fifth “blind” man is Professor of Economics and proud member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Michael J. Glennon. In his book National Security and Double Government, he debunks the myth that US security policy is still forged by America’s visible, “Madisonian institutions” – the President, Congress, and the Courts. “Their roles …have become largely illusory. Presidential control is now nominal, congressional oversight is dysfunctional, and judicial review is negligible.” Glennon’s book details the gradual shift in power that has occurred as the Madisonian institutions gradually became “hollowed out” and their impermanent custodians were gradually replaced by a concealed, non-elected perpetual Trumanite network.

Glennon traces the rise of this double government to the seemingly innocent reorganization of the national security structure established by the Truman administration. Glennon details how the “National Security Act of 1947, which unified the military under a new secretary of defense, set up the CIA, created the modern Joint Chiefs of Staff and established the National Security Council (NSC).” Also secretly established and not revealed until many years later, was “the National Security Agency, which was intended at the time to monitor communications abroad.”

Glennon describes how the Trumanite network, mostly immune from constitutional and electoral restraints, consists “of the several hundred executive officials who sit atop the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement departments and agencies that have as their mission the protection of America’s international and internal security.” They contain elements mainly from the NSA, the FBI, the Pentagon, the State Department, as well as law enforcement, intelligence and the military entities of the government.

“US national security policy is in fact conducted by a shadow government of bureaucrats and a supporting network of think tanks, media insiders, and ambitious policy wonks,” according to Glennon. He also sees the media as critical in reinforcing the illusion that the public institutions of US government are actually in charge: “For the double government to work, the Madisonian institutions must seem in charge, for the Trumanites’ power flows from the legitimacy of those institutions.”

Casting some of the blame on “America’s pervasive civic ignorance,” Glennon’s solution to the unchecked double government is a more informed and engaged electorate, without which the restoration of accountability in the formulation and execution of national security policy will be impossible.


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