A very interesting (and sometimes amusing) article takes a critical look at US foreign policy: how it's made, how it's run, and its consequences over the past half-century or so. It doesn't pull its punches.
The major policy think tanks in Washington are rife with three sources of funding: government, private defense companies, and very wealthy neoliberal and neoconservative foundations (think Carnegie on the left, Scaife on the right). The National Security and “Grand Strategy” programs at elite schools are no different. They all have one thing in common: the status quo. As a result, the output is hardly dynamic, it’s little more than dogmatic, conventional thinking about world problems that keep bureaucrats in jobs and always meddling, the military amped up with more hammers and nails to hit, and politicians (and attending administrative class) favorable to either or both of these goals in Washington, preferably in power.
This is a closed club that offers only gradations of diversity just like Democrats and Republicans during the war: No one argued about “liberating” Iraq, only about the tactics. That was why it was so easy for Hillary Clinton’s Nat Sec team in-waiting to create the Center for a New American Security in 2008 and transition to an Obama think tank shop in 2009. Plug and play one for the other, counterinsurgency under Bush? Meh. Under Obama? Let’s do this! They all had a plan for staying in Afghanistan, and they made sure we were, until this day.
This doesn’t even include the orbit of research centers like RAND and the Center for Naval Analysis, which actually get government funding to churn out reports and white papers, teach officer classes, lead war gaming, and put on conferences. Do you really think they call for less funding, killing programs, eliminating lily pads, or egads, pulling out of entrenched strategic relationships that might not make sense anymore? Never. The same players get the contracts and produce just what the government wants to hear, so they can get more money. If they don’t get contracts they don’t survive. It’s how the swamp works.
As for it being a cabal? This ecosystem—the Blob—is a revolving door of sameness, a multigenerational in-crowd of status-driven groupthink inhabiting a deep state that is both physical and of the mind. It’s a lifestyle, and a class. To get anywhere in it, you not only have to have the right pedigree, but the right way of thinking. Ask anyone who has attempted to break in with the “wrong credentials,” or marched off the reservation in the early years of Iraq only to be flung to the professional margins. Conference panels, sanctioned academic journals, all run by the same crowd. Check the Council on Foreign Relations yearbook, you’ll catch the drift. You can be a neocon, you can be a “humanitarian” interventionist, but a skeptic of American exceptionalism and its role in leading the post-WWII international system? Ghosted.
There's more at the link. Recommended reading.
This is the "deep state" writ large, IMHO. It doesn't matter who's in power: the foreign policy "establishment" has (in the past) continued to run things its way, and basically forced the administration to conform (not that much forcing was needed). President Trump overturned that. From the beginning, he ran down the importance of the State Department with its entrenched cabal, and got rid of a lot of the deadwood there by appointing Secretaries of State who would wield the axe with vigor. He continues to run the USA's foreign policy on the basis of "America First", and insists that professional diplomats toe the line on that. Many of them still resist, more or less covertly, but so far he's managed to keep control.
However, let a more compliant President take office, and all bets are off. The Blob will grow again, because you can't decapitate a Blob - it has no head, only an endless appetite. Feed it, and it'll grow back to what it was. Let's hope that doesn't happen.