Feb 21 2018

The US has no equivalent to the Turkish deep state

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump have often blamed a “deep state” within the government bureaucracy for undermining the president but Dov S. Zakheim in The National Times argues that it is in countries like Turkey where a true deep state exists, not the United States.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2013 said it was the deep state that launched investigations for corruption within his government. After the failed coup of July 2016 he blamed the deep state and supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and had thousands of military officers, civil servants and journalists arrested. Many of those arrested, however, had no apparent links to Gülen 

“The Turkish deep state predates Erdoğan, though he has probably acted in response to the term more forcefully than any of his predecessors since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire,” argues Zakheim, a former U.S. under secretary of defense. 

In Turkey, the deep state consists primarily of parts of the military, police and perhaps the judiciary, Zakheim wrote. In the 1970s, then Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit used the term to describe military opposition to his rule. In 1980, the military launched a coup and jailed Ecevit who had left the prime minister’s office the year before.

Zakheim claims that while there may be animosity to Trump from within the U.S. bureaucracy there is “no American equivalent to the Turkish deep state.”

“To the extent that the White House has encountered opposition and mass resignations from senior State Department diplomats, or pushback from Justice Department officials and individuals in the intelligence community, or resistance elsewhere in the government, it is due more to the president’s belittling of the agencies that they support rather than any deliberate effort on their part to undermine the smooth functioning of government,” Zakheim wrote.