- - Monday, November 18, 2019

There is significant media speculation about the existence and the power of a deep state in the United States and in other nations. Jed Babbin (“How politicians in U.S. and U.K. frustrate the will of the voters,” Web, Nov. 18), attributes the British Brexit problems to members of Parliament and the media, while America’s current difficulties result from those in government and the media who were and are horrified that Donald Trump was elected president.

Mr. Babbin’s analysis is probably correct regarding the opposition to President Trump, but he is wrong to neglect a very powerful force in Britain — namely, the British Civil Service. In both nations many senior civil servants retain their positions after a change of administration; in Britain, almost always. These individuals, having worked on a specific policy for months, if not years, may well resist new ideas. This applies particularly to those in foreign service and intelligence positions who tend to identify with the nations with which they interact. “Going native” was one phrase used to describe this behavior.

While an undersecretary in the British Ministry of Defence, I had a one-on-one discussion with the permanent undersecretary. We were discussing a proposal of mine that he opposed. I explained that notes from the prime minister indicated that she supported the action. His reply was, “It might be the PM’s policy but it is not mine and you will cease this action now.”

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For the record, I continued it to a successful conclusion, but I retired early because if you step out of line, the civil service never forgets. Yes, the British have a very powerful deep state.


Rockville, Md.

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