The US is an empire, in case you hadn’t noticed.
The political/economy of the US empire is the deep state.
The deep state in America is largely composed of the military/industrial/complex, the oil and gas industry, and Wall Street. The policies that they pursue shape and influence the economic and foreign policies of the American empire to their benefit.
When people think of empire, they imagine Roman legions, wars of conquest, and slave labor. Or Great Britain with its army of public servants administering a far flung empire where the sun never sets. These and other traditional empires tended to be about the acquisition of fertile lands or resources, the enslavement of people for exploitation, and the conquest of trade routes.
The US empire is of a different nature. It’s a corporate empire, where weapons, energy and finance play an outsized role. The US system of military bases straddling the world is not part of territorial occupation, but rather serves to maintain a stable of client states that US banks and corporations can dominate. In that way, the US employs its military to perpetuate American corporate preeminence.
The US empire has evolved from WWII, when the US sought to maintain its empire of client states by overthrowing leftist governments and installing pliable right-wing dictators or army officers. Think–Iran with the shah, or Guatemala with Colonel Armas.
The US empire of the 21st century is much less concerned with who rules its client states. Now, left-wing or right-wing governments are ok. The US empire uses market forces, such as trade agreements, debt bondage, and structural adjustments administered by the IMF, to control these governments.
In fact, the market can often succeed where military efforts of conquest fail. Take Vietnam. 40 years after the US was defeated by the Viet-Cong, and forced to retreat, Vietnam has largely acceded to US led globalization, including engaging in free-market reforms, privatization, and submission to IMF structural adjustment programs. After defeating the US militarily, they’ve been conquered by economic means, and surrendered to debt bondage and structural adjustments.
This reliance on economic means to maintain the US empire is what gives Wall Street its outsized role in national affairs, and why it’s been the leading member of the American deep state. It’s also why the Obama administration bailed out the banks instead of homeowners in the wake of the Wall Street crash of 2008. After all, Wall Street banks are essential to maintaining the American corporate empire, while homeowners are not.
The problem for the US empire in 2016, is that with it’s economic and financial power waning, military superiority seems to be the chief means by which U.S. imperialism can attempt to maintain global domination.
The election of Trump, exposes deep divisions within the deep state. What we see is that the incentives for the various members of the deep state are out of alignment. The empire of chaos thing certainly works for the MIC, while for energy and finance, endless war makes it hard to do business.
In my opinion, Trump intends to advance the US corporate empire, but in a different manner. Trump’s cabinet selections so far show finance losing out while energy and weapons are prospering
Update: Marcy, at Emptywheel says-–“It seems there’s a fight for the brain of Trump, even while he seems to be preparing to delegate all this stuff to his advisors.”