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Scott Ritter for President?
Contending with permanent Washington would not be easy
Scott Ritter's recent interview with David Spuria definitely contains can't-miss material. The most important part of Scott's commentary occurs at around the 45-minute, 30-second mark. At that point, Spuria, with an obvious sense of frustration on realizing that there are unlikely to be significant policy changes regarding Ukraine should the Republican party win both houses in the upcoming mid-term elections, asks Scott what needs to happen for the U.S. government to shift course on this and other key issues and, more specifically, whether a new president could bring about such course changes. Scott then recounts what actions he would take were he to accept Spuria's “appointment” to the presidency of our nation. True, the scenario he presents is totally conjectural and it is clear that, not only does Scott not have any intention of running for that office or that he would stand any chance of being elected, but that he would ever even agree to serve in that capacity. Scott's commentary in this capacity is most enlightening.
Listening to what Scott says in this latter part of the interview is inspiring and invigorating in several ways. Above all, he offers answers to questions I have harbored for some time now regarding the nature and workings of the "deep state" or what is otherwise sometimes referred to as "permanent Washington:" how it operates, how it recruits, how it persists. Scott offers such clear, simple, and sensible characterizations which, as I mentioned, are the best I've seen so far. Moreover, he offers his insights from the position of a former insider, he himself having earlier in his life been offered the opportunity to be a participant (he turned down the offer, as might be guessed) in the system.
In the process of these revelations, he describes what he, were he commander-in-chief, would do about the deep state/permanent Washington (DSPW hereafter) problem. Responding to a question Spuria asked as to why Donald Trump--a near total outsider to the system Scott describes and one whose financial well-being is not dependent upon it--did not enact some of the prescriptions Trump's electorate hoped to see, Scott characterizes Trump as lacking sufficient courage to confront the subversion of the ideals of our constitutional federal republic the DPSW affects. President Ritter, it seems, would not be hampered by such lack of courage and would carry out in actual practice the "draining of the swamp" candidate Trump promised during his campaign for president. One feels so refreshed at hearing these explanations, prescriptions, and plan of action as to be prepared to sign on the dotted line for a Ritter candidacy.
In my case, that initial enthusiasm was pretty quickly curbed by my understanding, owing to a fairly comprehensive study, both formal and informal, of recorded human history and the way politics have been conducted throughout, of what is going on in the subtext of Scott's description of current political affairs in the U.S. To state things succinctly, what is currently going on can best be called just the latest iteration of what historians have labelled "palace intrigue."
We moderns tend to associate this phenomenon exclusively with antiquated political systems, namely with the monarchies that were the prevailing form of government throughout human history up until very recently. Democracies, so our presumptions go, are a far more highly evolved form of polity, one that, because of its design, ideology, and overall structural superiority has triumphed over past political forms and thereby obviated the pitfalls that plagued those systems. I, in contrast to those presumptions, urge my fellow citizens to abandon such foolish notions and to see in the DSPW described by Scott and others essentially the same outlines of subversion of political ideals as were evident in past systems of human polity and which we now think of as palace intrigue.
The ideal of monarchy as expressed in the writings of classical philosophers is that it is on the one hand a top-down system of order that counteracts the principle of anarchy, and on the other one that allows for the possibility of a man of exceptional virtue and wisdom to shape the destiny of the subjects over whom he rules. Incidentally, the same sort of ideals are manifested in the messianic hopes and aspirations that seem universal in the world's faith systems. The subversion of this ideal is when the monarch is not a man of exceptional virtue and/or wisdom and monarchy devolves into tyranny (the ruler serving his own interests at the expense of the interests of his nation and its subjects). Countless examples of this sort of subversion are to be found throughout the historical record, whether actual or purported.
Under the system of monarchy, though ultimate political authority is invested in a single individual, in actual practice that individual always required the assistance of various helpers, ranging from experts in military matters to advisers on internal and external affairs, and often involving members of his own family. Looking in closer detail into actual instances of the subversion of the political ideal of monarchy, it was just as often brought about by behind-the-scenes scheming of the monarch's inner circle, whose aim was typically to seek power themselves or aid an ally in ascending to the throne, as by the personal failings of the monarch himself. It is this sort of scheming that is in view under the concept of "palace intrigue."
The ideal of the reputed antidote to monarchy's flaws, namely of democracy or representative government, is that the subjects rule themselves by active participation in the political process, mostly by selecting office holders who become members of the governing body and whose mandate is to advocate for the electorate's interests. But representative forms of government such as we see in the Anglosphere seem just as prone to a subversion of the ideal on which they are based as is monarchy. This subversion is also brought about by what can be adequately characterized as palace intrigue, just as it was in the ancient monarchies we view ourselves as having surmounted with our modern political formulations.
As we all should be aware, the circle of direct governmental participants in modern western polities is hugely expanded as compared to ancient monarchies, especially in populous nations such as the U.S. It includes, not just officials elected by public support, but a whole array of para-political bodies such as security agencies, military figures--both active-duty and separated-from-service or retired--legal experts, economic advisors--not to mention lobbyists and special interest organizations often staffed or guided by former office holders--none of whom obtained their privileged access to privy governmental circles via any electoral process that can be participated in by the general public.
Further, whereas elected officials must go through the process of reelection every so many years and are therefore not guaranteed an ongoing appointment, members of the unelected para-governmental sector may hold their positions for life, often being promoted to higher and higher levels of the agency within which they work throughout their careers. Thus, there is a continuity among the ranks of these agencies that is sometimes lacking among elected office holders.
It is this cadre of unelected insiders, working in concert with cohorts from within the elected membership of government to achieve ends other than, and often at odds with, those of the electorate who voted them into office, that constitutes the DSPW. If there is any meaningful distinction to be drawn between these forces so evident in modern forms of representative government and similar groups operating covertly during the reigns of ancient monarchies and that we now label palace intrigue, I've failed to discern it. And its operations and activities are just as subversive of the ideal on which the modern systems of representative government are based as it was of the ancient systems. Which is why I hold that the phenomenon is a perennial one that cannot be systematized out of existence, despite the apparent convictions to the contrary of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. and the ongoing delusions of so many in the modern world.
Could a Scott Ritter presidency somehow navigate the pitfalls of the DSPW and restore such order in our polity as to bring it into closer conformance with ideals on which the U.S. political system was founded? Many a monarch in times past was brought to ruin through the subversive actions of his advisors and relatives, usually resulting in his death. Only the most ruthless managed to survive that labyrinth, and as we all know, that ruthlessness is a character trait that was typically a guarantee that his rule would tend more toward a tyranny serving his own personal whims than toward a benevolent sovereignty with the needs of subjects in view.
Expecting a President Scott Ritter to save the day is harking back to the ideals of older polities, to the monarch who embodies a high degree of integrity, wisdom, courage, and virtue and is thereby worthy of the investment of ultimate authority in him. Whether Scott, in contrast to Donald Trump, could overcome the palace intrigue of the DSPW and return the country to an order based on the ideals of the Founding Fathers is by no means a forgone conclusion. But all polities are, after all, hybrids of the disctinct philosophies thinkers have, over the course of political history, distilled from their observations of real-life systems, proposing a series of categories into which each can neatly fit. The electoral college, for example, as evidenced in the writings of Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Paper 68), very obviously intends to introduce an aristocratic element into the United States' political system, investing ultimate authority in electing the Commander in Chief, not in the populace, but in a select group of ostensibly wise and prudent men—the electors. That system remains in force to the present day.
Given that state of affairs, we reaffirm our initial enthusiasm: all hail Scott Ritter, our new president and king!