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The hit next time | the nation

While many watched the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 with a mixture of awe and horror, Edward Luttwak viewed the event with the cold, disdainful gaze of a professional. a military strategist sometimes called “Machiavelli of Maryland”, Luttwak is the author of a curious instruction book noble Coup d’état: a practical guide (1968). This manual, Luttwak assures readers, “can be likened to a cookbook in that it is intended to enable any layperson equipped with enthusiasm and the right ingredients to pull off their own coup.”

At least one would-be usurper appears to have consulted this volume. Luttwak likes to tell the story of how, in the midst of a failed coup in 1972, Moroccan General Mohammad Oufkir was assassinated with a copy of the book in his possession. (Skeptics might note that the anecdote would have been more impressive had Oufkir’s attempt to overthrow the Moroccan king been successful.)

Aside from the theoretical knowledge evidenced in his book, Luttwak was also a first-hand participant in Donald Trump’s desperate attempt to cling to power. On December 14, 2020, Luttwak was part of a group of Trump supporters. fixed to the Defense Policy Board, a last-minute bureaucratic appointment seen as an effort by Trump, albeit typically ill-conceived and ineffective, to gain control of 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 teacher dismayed by a student who had learned nothing, Luttwak stated:

What happened was certainly not an attempt coup, either. The coups must be silent, underground conspiracies that surface only when the enforcers move into the seats of power to begin issuing orders as the new government. A very large, very loud and colorful gathering cannot attempt a hit.

Even if you don’t share Luttwak’s politics, it is possible to agree with his basic assessment of January 6. In late 2020 and early 2021, I described Trump as working for a “clown coup,” an attempted subversion of democracy. that was doomed to failure because there was no plausible mechanism to subdue the national government. One point I repeatedly emphasized was that all the evidence indicated that the military brass were actively resisting Trump’s attempt to turn them into a private army. Without necessarily attributing to military leaders any commitment to constitutional norms, it was clear that they viewed Trump as an unstable buffoon. This irate former reality TV host was not a horseman any serious official would risk his career by supporting in an extra-constitutional power grab. (Subsequent reporting by Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker in the new yorker about the dispute between Trump and the Pentagon has only reinforced this assessment).


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