The Crisis of the 1970's and Watergate
The loss of America's absolute ascendancy of the world economic scene brought a degree of dynamism and instability. Germany, and Western Europe were becoming economically powerful and in Asia, Japan had recovered. South Korea would soon follow. They were in many ways (and still are) US satellites. The US militarily occupies these nations and controls both their military and foreign policy. But what to do about their economic competitiveness? Some believed they needed to be subjugated, limited and controlled. How to do this? There was no consensus. Others believed they needed to be incorporated and managed. This could be done in part through cross investment, collaboration and through such an agenda it was possible to strengthen both their interests and that of the United States.
Unilateralists believed these nations through their burgeoning economic power were becoming competitors and needed to be subjugated. But how to do it? Free Markets had the potential to grant US corporations tremendous global power but at the expense of American workers and its domestic industrial sector. Some viewed this as inevitable and embraced it. Others believed this was (and is) a strategic error. Globalists viewed world capitalism as a mechanism for peace. Others believed it set the stage for future war.
This is all further complicated by the fact that figures rise and fall, factions form, disappear and reorganise. But clearly by the 1960s, the Containment faction if we can call it that, was in trouble, there were growing economic challenges to the American dominated order and there was a genuine fear of social upheaval. The youth and working class were astir. The media was being exposed as a tool of the regime. Trust in institutions was rapidly being eroded by the exposure of numerous lies, assassinations and endless war. The latter of which always erodes trust due to the secretive and deceptive nature of waging a military conflict. If it goes on too long, the lies become too numerous and even the non-attentive and compliant begin to grow weary and question the nature of the conflict.
As a brief aside, the post-2001 paradigm of endless warfare has survived through a cycle of reincarnation. Should it continue, which is clearly the plan, then we must expect another roll-over and a new phase to appear in a few years if not sooner.
For me the critical moment for the American Deep State and in many ways the one most troubling, centres on Watergate. It is the great catalyst for a transformation that began to take place in the 1970s.
Clearly we could point to earlier episodes and occasions of Deep State machinations and in no way do I mean to downplay those. The notion that the Deep State would remove a president is not new. But why Nixon? Was Nixon a challenge to the Establishment? Was he of the same order as John Kennedy who by late 1962 was clearly a threat?
Was the Watergate scandal an accident, an unfortunate mistake that spun out of control? Maybe, but I think the incident points to a division.
I believe Mark Felt was the only Deep Throat and in general I do not question the Woodward and Bernstein narrative. They were clearly moving against not the power but a faction of power. They would not have succeeded if they too were not backed. Their subsequent very Establishment-oriented careers appear more as reward. It could be argued their celebrity sustained them but it goes beyond that. Woodward especially moved from being a reporter challenging the Establishment to one very much integrated within it. Ironically he has become something of a court historian and defender of the Establishment. His comments in recent years with regard to Snowden and The Intercept make him look corrupt and foolish.
The troubling aspect of the Watergate reporting has always been the role of Katherine Graham and the Washington Post. Graham and her newspaper have long been intimately wed to the US Establishment. The Post now under Amazon's Jeff Bezos still is. Bezos has (at least at this point) deep connections to the CIA, to the point that many opposed his purchase of the Post which is the Beltway newspaper and along with the New York Times one of the newspapers of record.
Why did the Post allow Woodward and Bernstein to proceed? The scoop factor always plays a part in journalism and that can get the tidal wave going. If everyone else is reporting on it, you have to as well, even if your reporting functions as damage control. Was Watergate a case of unstoppable momentum? Eventually, but not in the months after the break-in which took place in June of 1972. Watergate was fading away and would have died if it were not for Felt's leaks to Woodward and the Post allowing them to be published. Nixon sailed through the November election but by the Spring of 1973 the story had forced the White House into crisis mode. The Post and secondarily the New York Times made this happen.
Why did the Post proceed and allow the initial Watergate stories to run? Again it's admitted that eventually they developed a life of their own and the Post's role became secondary. But even considering that point it's clear Woodward and Bernstein had an edge in Felt's 'Deep Throat' revelations. The Post could have easily suppressed it. There were occasions in which they could have refused to stand by their reporters when the pressure was great. The story could have collapsed.
What is clear is that there were some strong actors at work in allowing the Post to run the stories during the crucial six-month period, the latter half of 1972. They, an element or faction within the Establishment including Katherine Graham orchestrated and played a part in the downfall of Richard Nixon. But why?
The Ben Bradlee/Kennedy revenge angle is satisfying to some, but I cannot believe the Establishment (of which Bradlee was but an operative) would shake the very foundations of the Deep State and risk its implosion just to bring down Nixon... a friend? The Kennedy revenge narrative also lacks in the fact that though the Kennedy family had connections to power, JFK was despised, especially by 1963.
While Nixon was never a part of the Eastern Establishment which he so clearly despised, the question of his downfall is vexing. In some ways he was a very pleasing figure to the Establishment. He stood solidly behind the imperial ambitions of the United States. Clearly with Kissinger he had powerful figures (such as David Rockefeller) embracing his vision of diplomacy. He certainly had no intention of expanding Johnson's Great Society programmes and if anything was beginning the process of undermining them.
In terms of geopolitics and the Cold War, Containment was a failed policy by the late 1960s. Kennedy had failed to be properly aggressive as some would have it and clearly near the end of his life was in a process of turning away from the Cold War. Johnson had been aggressive enough but in adhering to Containment he with McNamara had exercised a level of restraint that ended up trapping the United States in a no-win situation. Refusing to conquer North Vietnam the US was restricted to counter-insurgency and bombing. They decimated a region, killed and tortured millions but it was all futility. The Vietnam policy had failed and clearly Containment as a doctrinal option was in full retreat.
What options were left? It now came down to Rollback, an aggressive escalation of the Cold War and the possible risk of nuclear conflict, or Detente, coming to the public with a different message, acknowledging the legitimacy of the Eastern Bloc and coming to some kind of modus vivendi.
What we might call the Mainline of the Establishment, again represented by Rockefeller and his proxies such as Kissinger, clearly supported Detente and the path Nixon would undertake. They were eager to exploit the Sino-Soviet split and open up the potentially massive Chinese market.
The Rollback faction of the Establishment, strongly represented within the Deep State sectors of the Pentagon and Langley were (at first) encouraged by Nixon's escalation in Indochina. Maybe he was going to get serious they thought, take the gloves off? But Nixon's plan was to use extreme measures to bring a much weakened North Vietnam to the negotiating table. The US could negotiate from a position of strength he hoped.
It was not to be.
By 1971 it was clear Nixon was getting out of Vietnam, embracing Detente with the Soviets and making a move toward China. Only Nixon can go to China. Well from the standpoint of some within the American Deep State, Nixon, the old red-baiter and communist hunter had turned all but traitor.
A number of other factors contributed to his downfall. Nixon had made many enemies over the years. Many have forgotten the part he played during the McCarthy era and even before. He had double-crossed people including Johnson and had effectively sabotaged the Vietnam peace talks in 1968. These kinds of dirty tricks would be repeated by Reagan a little over a decade later.
Nixon was also reckoned out of control. J Edgar Hoover had long dismissed any Constitutional or legal concerns and was happy for the FBI to engage in all kinds of illegal behaviour, from propaganda, violation of rights, murder and of course most famously... black bag jobs. The FBI would break into 'suspects' homes and offices, steal information, and bug their communications. Hoover didn't worry too much about warrants or what the law actually said.
Nixon utilised Hoover but was so reckless that Hoover, at that point in his final days, became concerned that Nixon was putting the integrity of the Bureau at risk and pulled back. Nixon formed The Plumbers and continued the clandestine and illegal operations, one of which was the series of Watergate break-ins.
The Establishment was hardly concerned about illegality but they're always concerned about recklessness, creating unnecessary friction, inflicting unnecessary damage and bringing exposure.
We have to conclude that in some sense the Rollback faction (as I'm calling it here) led the way when it came to bringing down Nixon. They were upset with his actions, didn't trust him and viewed him as erratic and possibly dangerous. His rapprochement with China made them livid. Remember not only was Jiang Jieshi (Chang-Kai-Shek) still alive, there were many within the Deep State that had forged very close ties with him. And though he had slowly faded from public awareness, the Kuomintang (KMT) had long collaborated with the American Deep State, indeed in many of its black operations and as recently as the late 1960s. The story of the KMT is long and fascinating and deals with the preludes to the Indochina War and the CIA's long story with heroin.
While the opening of China pleased the Rockefeller faction, to the Rollback clique in the Deep State, Nixon's moves were treacherous and catastrophic.
Other factors can be considered and some will categorise these factors as primary considerations. I don't think so but it's possible they play a part in the story.
One oft mentioned issue is with regard to Nixon's fiscal policy and his removal of the United States from the Gold Standard. This was another reason de Gaulle had fostered a great deal of US anger. His exchange of dollars for gold, rooted partly in his outrage at US dominance of the world financial system, was weakening the United States. Nixon ended the ability to convert dollars into gold and (whether intended or not) fully established the fiat system of today.
While this pleased many in the finance community there were many on the Right who were appalled by Nixon's actions and viewed it as a grave mistake that would ultimately weaken US economic dominance. Whether it weakened US power or not is debatable but it certainly changed the nature of the financial system and ultimately the way nations would relate to one another.
There are other complications and theories. Nixon was a Deep State figure himself. Sponsored by the Dulles Brothers, by some reckonings he was their creature. But of course by the 1970s they were no longer on the scene. There are additional theories regarding Nixon's connections to the Mafia and of course the ubiquitous questions regarding Dallas in November 1963. Few have suggested Nixon was involved but one can make a plausible case that he knew something and may have been trying to wield the information. The many theories all contain degrees of plausibility and doubt but the Rollback-faction theory still (to me) provides the most likely explanation.
Watergate was effectively a Deep State operation, one faction moving against another. It was certainly a coup d'état but one quite different than the well known volume that suggests the same in the title. That book, Silent Coup is deeply flawed and clearly erroneous.
Like the JFK assassination there are elements within Watergate that remain mysterious and unresolved. In the end maybe it was a situation that spun out of control and his removal was an unintended consequence. Nixon certainly self-destructed and by fall of 1973 the world order was in danger. The Yom Kippur War had generated a nuclear crisis, one of the most dangerous moments in the Cold War era. The subsequent oil embargo tore apart the world economy and shook Establishment power. Throughout this period Nixon was largely incapacitated. Haig and Kissinger were almost running the White House as Nixon (often inebriated) obsessed over Watergate. It was clear he could not recover and had to go. Certainly by 1974 the entire Establishment was against him. Whatever the motivations behind the scandal of Watergate in 1972, by 1974 Nixon had dug his own grave.
The period after Nixon was one of crisis and uncertainty. The various factions seemed to split and reorganise. This is complicated by figures that don't quite fit any category. Someone like Arizona senator Barry Goldwater certainly represented the Rollback position and wielded a level of power within the Congress... but he was never really connected to the Deep State. Aware of it, he often functioned as a critic.
Curtis LeMay was certainly part of the Pentagon Establishment and was probably something of Deep State operative but in his frustration he foolishly joined forces with George Wallace as a vice-presidential candidate in 1968 which forever destroyed not only his credibility but his political viability.
I cite these examples merely to point out that these relationships are complicated and sometimes there are figures who wield power, influence and respect who may or may not be actual Deep State operatives. In addition there are those that may have been 'in' for a time but fade away.
The 1970s was largely a period of the Mainstream Establishment and elements of the Deep State cleaning house. The CIA was being probed and debated within Congress. The imperial presidency born of the National Security Act of 1947 was also being reconsidered.
If Watergate was a result of the Rollback faction seeking to break the agenda of the Detente group, they failed. The might have brought the house down on their own heads. Regardless of their moves by early 1973 Nixon had all but finished the military withdrawal from Vietnam and the resulting chaos set the stage for total US divestment. By that summer Congress blocked any further attempts on the part of the US to intervene by bombing or otherwise. Nixon's days were numbered, his power broken. Establishment operator Henry Kissinger survived the carnage of Vietnam and the Nixon downfall but these events unleashed such chaos within the Establishment that Detente was the only option under Ford and Carter. The Rollback agenda in bringing down Nixon had effectively cut off its nose to spite its face.
The US was now greatly weakened on the international stage. By the end of 1975 the fall of Saigon, the victory of the Khmer Rouge and Ford's pardon of Nixon had cast US power under a dark shadow. Detente would now be conducted not from a position of strength but of weakness.
Continue reading part 3
Continue reading part 3