The Coup Next Time | The Nation


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  revillug  •  one week ago  •  10 comments

By:   Jeet Heer (The Nation)

The Coup Next Time | The Nation
The hard right is grooming the military and law enforcement for insurrection.

The battleground of the coup is not the streets but the corridors of power. As Luttwak observes, the coup "operates in that area outside the government but within the state which is formed by the permanent and professional civil service, the armed forces and police. The aim is to detach the permanent employees of the state from the political leadership."

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

While many watched the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, with a mixture of amazement and horror, Edward Luttwak viewed the event with the cool, disdainful eye of a professional. A military strategist sometimes called "the Machiavelli of Maryland," Luttwak is the author of a curious how-to book titled Coup D'Etat: A Practical Guide (1968). This manual, Luttwak assures readers, "can be compared to a cookery book in the sense that it aims at enabling any layman equipped with enthusiasm—and the right ingredients—to carry out his own coup."

At least one aspiring usurper seems to have consulted this volume. Luttwak likes to tell the story of how, in the midst of a failed coup in 1972, Moroccan Gen. Mohammad Oufkir was assassinated with a copy of the book in his possession. (Skeptics might note that the anecdote would have been more impressive if Oufkir's attempted ouster of the Moroccan king had succeeded).

Aside from the theoretical knowledge evinced in his book, Luttwak was also a firsthand participant in Donald Trump's desperate attempt to hold on to power. On December 14, 2020, Luttwak was part of a group of Trump supporters appointed to the Defense Policy Board, a last-minute bureaucracy-packing appointment seen as a Trumpian effort—albeit a typically ill-conceived and ineffectual one—to gain control over the military.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal on January 7, 2021, Luttwak gave a low grade to the "aborted insurrection" of the previous day. Like a professor dismayed by a student who had failed to learn anything, Luttwak claimed,

What happened was certainly not an attempted coup d'etat, either. Coups must be subterranean, silent conspiracies that emerge only when the executors move into the seats of power to start issuing orders as the new government. A very large, very noisy and colorful gathering cannot attempt a coup.

Even if you don't share Luttwak's politics, it's possible to agree with his basic assessment of January 6. Throughout the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, I described Trump as working toward a "clown coup"—an attempted subversion of democracy that was doomed to failure because there was no plausible mechanism for subduing the national government. One point I repeatedly stressed was that all evidence indicated that top military brass were actively resisting Trump's attempt to turn them into a private army. Without necessarily ascribing to military leaders any commitment to constitutional norms, it was clear that they viewed Trump as an unstable buffoon. This frothing former reality-show host was not a man on horseback that any serious officer would risk their career supporting in an extra-constitutional power grab. (Subsequent reporting by Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker in The New Yorker on the strife between Trump and the Pentagon has only bolstered this assessment).

The Pentagon is key, because any plausible path to a coup in the United States would require getting the armed wing of the state on board—both the military and a significant chunk of law enforcement. By riling up a mob to attack the Capitol, an act that led to the harming of police officers, Trump pursued a path most likely to alienate the very cadres that you need in order to seize state power by force.

But if Trump was too inept to pull off a real coup, can the same be said of all his political allies? There is mounting evidence that many on the right are taking lessons from the defeat of January 6 to plan the next coup.

On Thursday, Cameron Joseph reported in Vice that Blake Masters, Republican nominee in the Senate race in Arizona, told a GOP group last August that the military had to be purged. "Your entire general class, they're left-wing politicians at this point," Masters said. "It's very hard to become a general without being some kind of left-of-center politician. I would love to see all the generals get fired. You take the most conservative colonels, you promote them to general."

The idea of American generals' being "left-wing" in any fashion is ludicrous, unless one believes that anyone who resists Trump's attempt to subjugate the military to his personal whims is a leftist. More worrying, the politicization of the military by elevating a cadre of ambitious junior officers is what you'd do if you were planning a coup.

Luttwak's guide to coups offers guidance on this very point. In that book, Luttwak advises any would-be plotter to make lists of junior officers who have been denied promotion. "Of course, colonels have always been prominent in military coups," Luttwak wryly notes. These lean and hungry types will be excellent fodder, although Luttwak warns that colonels in particular can be hard to control.

The battleground of the coup is not the streets but the corridors of power. As Luttwak observes, the coup "operates in that area outside the government but within the state which is formed by the permanent and professional civil service, the armed forces and police. The aim is to detach the permanent employees of the state from the political leadership."

If Blake Masters is dreaming of mobilizing junior officers as recruits in a right-wing makeover of the state, the Claremont Institute is focusing its energy on another key agent of state power, sheriffs. The Claremont Institute is the most ardently Trumpist of the think tanks on the right, the home of law professor John C. Eastman, a key architect of Trump's legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election. The Claremont Institute has started a "Sheriffs Fellowship" to provide ideological training to sheriffs. A fundraising letter made public by Christian Vanderbrouk, a writer for The Bulwark, clarifies the ideological slant of the Sheriffs Fellowship. According to the letter, "One big thing that the riots, lockdowns, and electoral disasters of 2020 make clear is that America and our nation's conservative movement needs a countervailing network of uncorrupted law enforcement officials." The letter goes on to say that "the Sheriffs fellowship will play a central role in countering the perversion of the judicial system by which the revolutionary Left seeks to advance its totalitarian agenda." Vanderbrouk places the letter in the context of other Claremont Institute documents trying to legitimize the 2020 attempted insurrection and future efforts to overturn election results. Vanderbrouk concludes, "The message is clear: do whatever it takes to crush your opponents and all will be forgiven in the second Trump term."

In his newsletter "Unpopular Front," John Ganz, a keen observer of the right, connects the Sheriffs Fellowship with two earlier far-right formations, the Posse Comitatus and the Constitutional Sheriffs movements, which both encouraged sheriffs to assert extralegal power over elected officials:

Claremont has adopted this rhetoric to connect itself to the currently-existing Constitutional Sheriffs Movement, which boasts hundreds of actual county sheriffs as its members. In doing this, they are seeking to accomplish two apparent goals of their organization: the extension of a network into far-right subcultures and the development of alternate, extra-legal power structures—and now, even armed ones.

It's important to be measured about the threat: Aspirations are not inevitabilities. In late 2020 and early 2021, Trump clumsily incited his followers—leading to an aborted insurrection that generated real violence but never came close to achieving its goal. Current right-wing attempts to create incentives for power-hungry colonels and sheriffs are dangerous, but they aren't guaranteed success. They demand vigilance rather than hysteria: The proper political response is to make the Republican Party pay for nursing this large seditionist faction. This has to be made a key election issue. Joe Biden's speech on the dangers of MAGA Republicans was a good start and needs to be echoed by further warnings that the sequels to the 2021 insurrection are being planned right now.


jrDiscussion - desc
Freshman Guide
1  seeder  Revillug    one week ago

Yes, it is still a slow moving coup.

Professor Quiet
1.1  Ronin2  replied to  Revillug @1    one week ago

Only to those that have no damn concept of what a coup really is.

The second anyone refers to Jan 6th as an insurrection they lose all damn credibility.

The first damn insurrection in the world with no armed insurrectionists (Bicycle racks, flagpoles, chains, and whatever else was handy do not count. Those are nothing as compared to what was used for weapons by BLM/Antifa.) The only person shot was an unarmed rioter by a Barney Fife security with a gun. A shining example of competence that was allowed to remain on the force after forgetting his loaded firearm in a bathroom stall where a little kid found it. Someone so incredibly stupid he scared the shit out of a heavily armed SWAT team coming down the hall to clear it; and had to be told to lower his weapon by the SWAT team. 

The first damn insurrection that had no stated goals. No organization. Didn't take and hold one damn strategic point. Didn't take one political hostage- and didn't even come close to doing so. Despite all of the Democrat and media hand ringing. 

But keep believing this shit. It will continue to encourage the Democrats to continue to weaponize the federal government agencies into arms of their party. They already claimed the IRS, FBI, and DOJ. They won't stop there so long as morons keep screaming about Trump and faux insurrections.

I am sure the vast majority of US citizens don't want to live under the Democrats version of CCCP one party rule. That is what we are really heading for.

Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
2  Jeremy Retired in NC    one week ago

jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif How many times does one have to be hit in the head with a ball-peen hammer for ANY of that to make sense? 

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3  Sean Treacy    one week ago

 Didn't the President just tell the nation how pointless it is to owning guns is if the point is offer a means of resistance given  the overwhelming power of the US military?

Yet we are supposed to believe  a couple hundred unarmed yahoos supposedly almost overthrew the same government by engaging in a protest that was  less violent than many others in 2020? 

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4  Trout Giggles    one week ago

You know who else liked to purge the military?


Professor Principal
5  Ender    one week ago

I disagree that the only way for a coup is to have the military. They could do it by subverting the voting process.

Professor Principal
6  Nerm_L    one week ago

A coup d'etat can only succeed when the existing government has so much autocratic power over the population that it verges on being totalitarian.  The power over the country and people already exists.  Seizing the government obtains that pre-existing power to control the country and population in a totalitarian manner.  The best defense against a coup d'etat is decentralized government.

Someone enlisting the citizenry to overthrow an existing government is actually a revolution and not a coup d'etat.  Revolutionaries attempt to replace the existing government with their own form of government.  Revolutions are about taking autocratic power away from an existing government.  Those that possess autocratic power over the country and population will characterize a revolution as an insurrection.

Both military and police forces were notably absent on Jan. 6th.  No one called in the military and declared martial law which is common for a coup d'etat.  Those holding power in the existing government invoking the language of insurrection means the events of Jan. 6th were in no way, shape, or form an attempted coup d'etat.  

The fear created by the events of Jan. 6th was that the citizenry would take away autocratic power held by those in the existing government.  A revolution as seen by the citizenry.  An insurrection as seen by those holding autocratic power.  The response to the events of Jan. 6th really does indicate that the existing government is accumulating so much autocratic power over the country and population that it is gradually becoming a totalitarian government.  And that increased accumulation of autocratic power makes a coup d'etat possible.  The best defense against coup d'etat is decentralized government which also makes revolution (or insurrection) unnecessary.

The only viable way to avoid future revolutions or coup d'etats is to decentralize government.  As long as the existing government continues to accumulate autocratic power that gradually becomes more totalitarian, the threat of revolution and coup d'etat will remain.  And eventually one or the other will succeed.

Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
6.1  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Nerm_L @6    one week ago
Those that possess autocratic power over the country and population will characterize a revolution as an insurrection.

Imagine that, we can see this being played out right now!

Professor Principal
6.1.1  Nerm_L  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @6.1    one week ago
Imagine that, we can see this being played out right now!

An interesting juxtaposition is the attention focused on QAnon.  The fundamental question is whether QAnon is attempting to seize existing power or if QAnon is attempting to overthrow existing power?  What sort of threat does QAnon pose?

IMO the contrast between the threat posed by QAnon and the threat posed by BLM is quite stark.  Comparing the two grassroots movements suggests they are pursuing diametrically opposed objectives.  Which of the two grassroots movements is attempting to overthrow existing power and which is attempting to seize existing power?

Oddly it seems that decentralizing government would lessen both types of threats.  It's really the accumulation of too much autocratic power in the Federal government that has created both type of threats.

Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
6.1.2  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Nerm_L @6.1.1    one week ago
Oddly it seems that decentralizing government would lessen both types of threats

That seems to be the biggest problem with the Left and Democrats.  They will attempt to do anything to maintain that power.  Any dissent to that and they go after them.  And there seems to be a lot of people opposed to turning the US into Venezuela and North Korea.  


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