Close this search box.

The future is intelligence-led, not popular democracies

The general pulse in public discourse in most of the Western world, often expressed in whispers, is that key decisions are taken by intelligence groups and lobbies

In his interview with American journalist, Tucker Carlson, the Russian president, Vladmir Putin reiterated an aspect of American political life that is not discussed that often. It could even be an aspect of political life in the Western world more generally: that key decisions in the United States or Western Europe are not made by presidents and other elected officials, but by unelected officials. Putin called them “elites” and elsewhere in the same interview, “specialists.” In simple terms, unlike leaders elsewhere in the world, elected officials in Western Europe and North America are generally figureheads or public relations personnel. Not that it makes these countries any weaker than they would be if that were not the case, but it is this reality, of power being vested in the hands of unelected officials, that buttresses their strengths and consistency in international relations.

Putin noted: “You just asked me if another leader comes and changes something. It is not about the leader; it is not about the personality of a particular person. I had a very good relationship with say Bush. I know in the United States he was portrayed as some kind of a country boy, who doesn’t understand much…I had such a personal relationship with Trump as well.  It is not about the personality of the leader; it is about the elite’s mindset.  If the idea of domination at any cost, based also on forceful actions, dominates the American society, nothing will change.

As a foreign leader speaking about another country, an adversarial power to be specific, Putin’s comments seemed as if they were not intended to reflect on domestic issues inside the United States, such as student debt, or immigration or gun control, although these could be taken as part of the contention. Putin seemed specifically interested in addressing globalist issues, especially relating to American foreign policy in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. There is no debating whether America’s policies towards the rest of the world have been consistent throughout the years, regardless of who has been president. The Middle East remains under relentless bombardment, the end of the Cold War notwithstanding. Ever since its creation, Israel enjoys unconditional support. Meanwhile, relations with Russia have remained hostile even when Russia offered to join the infamous North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO). Nor have policies towards Africa changed a bit ever since the end of the Cold War.

It is difficult to countenance the idea that George Bush Snr., George Bush Jnr., Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joseph Biden all felt the same way – and thus would pursue these unchanging policies towards Palestine/Israel, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Yemen, or Africa.  Consider for example that Barack Obama opposed the wars in the Middle East, only to scale them up, including dropping an astronomical number of bombs in the Middle East, more than any of his predecessors. Recall also that Obama actually ran for the presidency promising to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay Prison. He went on to leave it open after his eight years in office. These changes in mind and policy, to actually align a new president’s view of the world with pre-existing policies, cannot be coincidental. It has to be explained by factors that are far more important than the power of the electorate.

Against this, one is reminded of a letter that President James Madison wrote to his friend Thomas Jefferson in 1791. In the letter, Madison deplored “the collapse of the democratic system that he hoped he had established, not too much democracy, but at least some” as Noam Chomsky stated it more recently. As early as the 1700s, an American president fully realised (what current presidents would rather deny) that indeed, creditors, and bankers, and manufacturers, while they appeared to be working for the state, actually controlled the state. They were the decision-makers.

Where power actually belongs: Lawyers and Merchants

Sometime in 2021, in an interview with Alternative Radio, renowned American academic, Noam Chomsky, reminded us about Adam Smith’s warnings about the success of democracies. These warnings were made in the mid 1700s in his book, The Wealth of Nations. Chomsky tells us that while reflecting on what is regarded as the “first democratic revolution,” in England, Adam Smith was sceptical about what appeared like the victory of the people. The English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century, “which led to what we call the British constitution, was basically that the king will be subordinate to parliament,” Chomsky wrote. From the look of it, the people had thereby freed themselves from the tyranny of kings and the clergy and would be free sovereigns, dependent on decisions made by and for themselves. This came to be the standard definition of democracy, and perhaps the most popular delusion of our time, “power belongs to the people.” Recall that a few years later, inspired partly by this English revolution, the French Revolution of 1789 also happened and is held as the harbinger of freedoms and rights.

Chomsky reminds us of passages in Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, authored in 1776, in which the author warns the world about the façade of democracies.  Smith noted that with the defeat of the king, “the now sovereign “merchants and manufacturers” are the true “masters of mankind.” Merchants and manufacturers had spearheaded the English revolution. Smith continued that they would use “their power to control the government and to ensure that their interests are very well taken care of, no matter how “grievous” the effect on the people of England.” But the dangers of these powers would not be limited to Englishmen and women, but would be “even worse, on those who are subject to what he called “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” where he was “referring mainly to the British rule in India.” You could include Africans and Latin Americans later on, from the 1800s onwards.

But while those in parliament had succeeded over the king, they had to face off with another group, the general public. Chomsky tells us that the public, composed mostly of itinerant workers, farmers, and other countryside folks, “didn’t want to be ruled by either king or parliament.” They wanted to be “ruled by fellow countrymen, who know the people’s wants, not by knights and gentlemen who only want to oppress the people.” Sadly, however, the general public was crushed, and the knights and gentlemen prevailed.

However, through a series of civil wars and public contestations, democracy seemed to prevail, and the merchants and lawyers appeared to subject themselves to the government of the people who would be represented in parliament by their own. But this too was an illusion since the constitution-making is the work of specialists and elite individuals. So, while appearing to subject themselves to the will of the people, the merchants, and lawyers (banks and speculators, law firms, think-tanks, and intelligence organisations), somehow managed to frame a constitution or a culture of politics that enabled and continues to enable them to claim to be working for the government while actually controlling the government.  As Chomsky contends, Michael Klarman has so rivetingly captured this push and pull in his 2016 book,  The Framer’s Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution, where the “upper class” “working class colonists” and “Slave states” had their interests rightly stated, privileged and protected in the American Constitution. The full picture of this is that creditors, lawyers, arms manufacturers, and other business interests actually run most of Western Europe and the United States. Not from the front, but from behind the curtains.

The general pulse in public discourse in most of the Western world, often expressed in whispers, is that key decisions are taken by intelligence groups and lobbies. Most prominent among them are America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Other prominent ones include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), among others.  The same is true about the UK and France, among other Western countries, where power is mostly vested in the hands of unelected officials. But speaking to this reality as true has been so derided that it sounds like conspiracy theory because of the absence of concrete evidence in real time, even if there is always evidence many years later.

While this might look like a blight on so-called democratic governance in Europe and North America, and while publics actually decry this reality when they get to learn the fine details, it also appears that publics in the Western world are content with the actions of their intelligence units abroad. On the one hand, these publics are kept in absolute darkness about the secret dealings of their unelected officials. This happens by way of arrests of legit journalists (such as Juliane Assange, and threats to whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Scott Ritter, and others, but also endless scares about treason and conspiracy theories. This is augmented by tight control of media houses, which turns all of them into extensions of the secret machine. On the other hand, these secret dealings of unelected officials have delivered a cheap and beautiful life to Western publics.  Secretly stolen oil, gas, coffee, lithium and other cheaply- delivered raw materials, as dependency theorists have so succinctly demonstrated, make life beautiful for publics in the Western world. This makes publics equally compromised, complacent, and ready to look the other way when Juliane Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden, among others, tell them about the crimes and other illegal secret dealings of their governments. They make them look the other way when these unelected officials kill people abroad, and destabilise the world” as Jeffrey Sachs put it recently, in the name of spreading democracy, among other allegedly good things.

Intelligence gatherers, and bureaucracies

In the competition for securing own resources—which is the major reason governments exist—it is becoming more apparent, more undeniable that national interests (such as protection of local businesses, natural resources, national integrity) are better protected by intelligence and security units than popular governments. By these we mean people with think-tanks, intelligence gatherers, and technocrats, and not people who are simply popular enough to win or rich enough to buy an election.

Indeed, to the rest of the world, it would not matter how the Western world governs itself. But because the world is in endless contact and engagement, defined by regimes of violence and competition for scarce resources of all forms, the ways in which one country governs itself decidedly matters to the other with whom they are endlessly interacting. With interactions and relations allegedly built on shared democratic values, especially democratic change of leaders, the world is learning and slowly, fully appreciating the difference between power and government. The world has learnt that while the government could be held by elected officials in the Western world, “sovereign power”, the power to make binding decisions, as Putin would remind us, rests in the hands of unelected officials: intelligence units, manufacturers, bureaucracies, and lobby groups. This is how American domestic and foreign policy is determined – and that is how America manages to beat all others: the more leaders/governments change, the more policies remain the same.

The sad fact is that “democratic” changes in leaderships in Africa and elsewhere have often ended in changing entire government institutions and side-lining the bureaucratic personnel that would have developed the requisite knowledge, institutional memory and understanding of the ways of protecting their national interests. For Europe and North America, on the other hand, democratic routines only change public relations officers—the presidents. But will retain their core resource persons, that is, folks in the CIA, FBI, ALEC, M16 or AIPAC, etc.

With the rise in competition for resources becoming even more wild, three things have become evident:

(a) Europe and North America have often used democracy on the African continent, and elsewhere as a technique of getting rid of supposedly hostile personnel. Presently, this is the condition in Pakistan, with PM Imran Khan being locked out of power through supposedly democratic processes because he is hostile to the Western machinery of exploitation and control. Considering that periodic changes in personnel mean extreme vulnerability with newcomers lacking in institutional memory, it follows that

(b) countries which are able to develop sustainable, unchangeable vanguards of their interests stand high chances of success in the competition for resources. These have to be developed outside of the electoral machine. To this end,

(c) young nation states in Africa are starting to look admiringly at allegedly “non-democratic” governments in the Middle East and East Asia which have firmly steered their countries to development and protected national interests: China, Libya, North and South Korea, Cuba, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman, to name but a few.

The bigger irony, however, is that it seems clear now that the entire developed world from Western Europe and North America to Russia and China, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, are not run by democratically elected officials (despite organising elections), but by intelligence units, or established political units such as Communist Party of China and royalty in the Middle East. It is not surprising that Russia has openly relied on the services of former KGB agents, including Putin himself, to withstand endless aggression from Western Europe and North America.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Support The Pan African Review.

Your financial support ensures that the Pan-African Review initiative achieves sustainability and that its mission is shielded from manipulation. Most importantly, it allows us to bring high-quality content free of charge to those who may not be in a position to afford it.

You Might Also Like