I have to address an article that's circulating right now that's driving me completely bonkers: this medium.com article entitled "Trial Balloon for a Coup?" Please read it for yourself, if you have the time, before you read my take on it.
First of all, I am bothered by a writing flaw in this article, namely, that the author advances a thesis - that Donald Trump and company are testing the waters for a coup - and barely any of the subsequence paragraphs that follow support that thesis. They're about unrelated matters, including whether or not Vladimir Putin offered Donald Trump a share of Rosneft.
Vladimir Putin might well have done that, but so what? What does that have to do with a coup? Maybe it's a business coup for the Trump business empire, but it doesn't support the planning of an armed seizure of power, an overthrow of democracy in the United States.
The article is full of stuff like that, objectionable items that nonetheless don't support the contention that a coup is being planned (for instance, so what if Trump is already planning his 2020 re-election campaign? That may be tacky, it may be a waste of the President's time, but it has nothing to do with a coup). There is one substantive supporting section, however. Let me quote it in full:
As per my analysis yesterday, Trump is likely to want his own intelligence service disjoint from existing ones and reporting directly to him; given the current staffing and roles of his inner circle, Bannon is the natural choice for them to report through. (Having neither a large existing staff, nor any Congressional or Constitutional restrictions on his role as most other Cabinet-level appointees do) Keith Schiller would continue to run the personal security force, which would take over an increasing fraction of the Secret Service’s job.
Especially if combined with the DHS and the FBI, which appear to have remained loyal to the President throughout the recent transition, this creates the armature of a shadow government: intelligence and police services which are not accountable through any of the normal means, answerable only to the President.
(Note, incidentally, that the DHS already has police authority within 100 miles of any border of the US; since that includes coastlines, this area includes over 60% of Americans, and eleven entire states. They also have a standing force of over 45,000 officers, and just received authorization to hire 15,000 more on Wednesday.)
Ok! I could see a scenario in which the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation attempt a coup on behalf of The Donald. But I'm going to politely suggest that to pull off a coup with only 60,000 dudes in a nation with an adult population of around 240 million people and a history of no coups ever is not an easy task, especially when a huge chunk of that population is already taking to the streets in very impressive protests that don't look like they're going to die down anytime soon.
The thing about a coup is: you need to have a good base of support to pull one off. Remember how well the Turkish coup went last year? Whoops. A little fraction of the Turkish military tried to pull off a coup and totally botched it. Instead of their coup succeeding, their opponent, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now has way more power than he had before the coup attempt. D'OH!
You also have to be well-organized to pull off a coup. Does the Trump administration appear to be well organized so far? Sure, it could be a sophisticated front, to appear bungling and disorganized so as to make the coup all that much more unexpected! But do you buy that?
My gut feeling - and this is just an informed guess - is that Steve Bannon and company might just be crazy enough to suggest a coup, or even try to go through with one! But even assuming the DHS and FBI go along with a coup attempt, what about the CIA? What about our armed forces generally?
What we face now is not a spectacular, Nazi-style seizure of power but something far more banal, I hate to say. From a short, well-written blog by Arun Gupta (emphasis added mine):
If you really want to know the impact of what Trump is doing, start following the commodities and equities markets closely. Trump probably pulled back so quickly on the green card ban because of the protests and the furor from Silicon Valley. Trump and his league of doom may hate the tech industry, but they can’t ignore the biggest companies in the world.
Today the markets are down and the volatility index is up because Trump is spooking businesses and investors. The markets will be a huge brake on his regime.
Indeed. My basic contention is that Donald Trump doesn't have enough support to pull off a coup. He is frightening the hell out of everyone around him! That's how you play to your base, that's not how you pull off a coup. That might be how you get a coup pulled off against you in certain countries, but thankfully, the one thing that is 100% awesome about our country's military history is that we have NEVER had a coup attempt in the United States.
Not saying we couldn't have one some day! Just saying that it sure looks like Donald Trump and his little flock of allies (who do their best every day to alienate other powerful people who they could recruit as allies, but seem incapable of doing) lack the polish and planning capacity to pull off a coup.
You know what we could get, instead, however? Another huge, American-power destroying, war in the Middle East.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, an intelligent man in many ways, is a devoted enemy of Iran. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn too has a hard-on for Iran. Donald Trump has repeatedly condemned the Iran nuclear deal, and now Iran is testing missiles.
You have a Republican administration which is not off to the races popularity-wise, which is staffed with folks who hate Iran in particular, and in Iran, a country prone to react to any perception of aggression with aggression of its own. The "rally-around-the-flag effect" of a war declaration is going to be very tempting for an administration manned by a President who apparently worries that people don't love him. Iran is, from the American perspective, a threatening-seeming, hostile country. (They chant "Death to America!" there, after all! Forget all the young people looking for peace and reform.) In short, you have a recipe for war.
The last major, boots-on-the-ground war launched by the United States took place under a Republican President who was surrounded by advisors who believed that bringing democracy to other countries by force was not only A-OK, it was a great idea. That administration lied to us, specifically over "Weapons of Mass Destruction," to get us into that war. With Iran likely having the capacity to fire up a nuclear weapons program recently mothballed but certainly not decommissioned, I could see the same exact reasoning being used by Trump and his GOP supporters to start war with Iran.
Forget your coup fantasies. There's a very real threat of war on the horizon. I'm just a guy writing a blog, but if I was a gambling man, I'd put big money on war with Iran within the next two years.
Postscript: a reader asked if the appointment of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council is illegal. As I understand it, the answer is: illegal? No. Crazy? Yes. A hair crazy.
If we decide to go to war with Iran, I'll have plenty to say about whether messing with Qassem Soleimani, pictured above, is a good idea or not. For now, sleep tight!