I ask the titular question in the same spirit as that posed in Edward N Luttwak’s Coup D’État: A Practical Handbook, a classic which was revamped and reissued last year, a book packed with dry humor and good advice on how to throw off the shackles of tyranny. Update If you find yourself “troubled” by this article, ask yourself: should Luttwak withdraw his book?
Reactionaries of all stripes ought to pay the closest attention to this book. These folks are full of thoughts and words most glorious describing the ills which plague us and of which of all forms of government is best. But they are relatively, or even wholly, silent on how to get from here, from the Hell to which we are descending, to the sunny uplands of monarchy.
Well, you can’t fault them. Nobody really knows how. Or rather, we do know how, we just don’t know the details.
Here, then, is a sketch—a prediction—of how such a change might be brought about; or may be brought about by forces who are as yet unknown to us. These “forces” probably won’t be anybody we’ve heard of. Men at the top of the current regime’s hierarchy won’t be too interested in toppling it, unless their love of God and Reality is overwhelmingly strong. And if it was, they’d scarcely have reached the top of system, unless they were heroically and exceptionally devious and patient. No, look for somebody like an Army major, a Southerner with a strong network of brother soldiers who, say, snaps after being ordered to treat a tranny as if the tranny was sane.
Take this article as an outline of what might happen. Except for the form of the main strike, which I insist is the only workable mechanism, I emphasize sketch, because much of the plan lacks flesh. Readers are invited to supply this flesh.
We speak of a coup and not a revolution or civil war. We’re discussing a direct seizure of power by elements either in or close to government. The techniques for this move vary, as the Handbook details, but I’ll be blunt and suggest that while there are many paths to revolution or civil strife, there is only one clear possibility for a successful coup in the USA.
We must clancy the government.
In his 1994 Debt of Honor, Tom Clancy has a rogue pilot crash a 747 into the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress. Everybody in the building, including the Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet, and Joint Chiefs, was killed. Clancy’s hero, Jack Ryan, who is Vice President, happened to be absent and so became President.
To clancy, then, is to kill all potential enemies at once, a true decapitation, thus creating a clear path for our ascension. I say “kill”, because this is war and there is no point to squeamish euphemisms between we compatriots, and also because that is the sole solution. (It is also Luttwak’s word.)
Nothing less than killing every Senator, Representative, Cabinet member and a few token military leaders like the for-show Joint Chiefs (the theater commanders have the real power) would work, and the reason is simple. If any group, comprised of members in or out of the current government, were to seize, say, the White House and declare itself in charge, the entire media, people and military outside that group’s control would fall in behind the highest ranking Federal politician who has escaped that group’s knives.
Say we waited until the President was undergoing surgery and we incapacitated or isolated the Vice President and Secretary of State, while simultaneously barricading ourselves in the White House supported by whatever local brigade we have backing us. Everybody would watch television for the spectacle, waiting to see how we were destroyed, and absolutely nobody would take our claim seriously.
Even if we killed the President, VP, and the Cabinet, say by sneaking a device into Camp David during some important retreat, the Speaker of the House would assert his right and we again would not be taken seriously. Of, supposing we had the Speaker killed, too, then some Senator or Representative would say he rightfully holds power and he would be believed, even though the right of succession only officially runs through the Cabinet.
It has to be everybody, all at once. The people and media know who the government is, which is why everybody in it not with us must be killed. The government that people know must be rubbed out in its entirety, because the form and structure of the current government is too ingrained in the thoughts of minds of citizens, who would latch onto and support any remnant of the old regime that slipped past our dragnet.
It would be best, for the “optics”, if we could have as a leader or a front some current high-ranking official with us as part of the coup. We could trot him out in front of the smoldering ruins of the Capitol and his claims of succession would be embraced by most. (This is clearly not the current VP; but perhaps General Mattis sees himself in this role; or perhaps President Trump himself, though this is extraordinarily doubtful, because these men were promoted within the current system.) There would probably be other minor officials making or disputing our claim of succession, but these people can be quickly arrested or otherwise dissuaded.
Now it does not have to be a plane that does the clancy, but the coup has to begin at the State of the Union address. Nothing else is as big a draw, nothing else gathers the government in one spot. This makes planning easy and difficult. Easy, because the dates and many of the details are known in advance; difficult, because when the word of a potential coup leaks, which it will, the annual address will fall under the hazy gaze of the intelligence services. Of which there are at least nineteen and growing. (Luttwak lists them: “That more is less when it comes to intelligence will no doubt be recognized one day.”) More on them later.
We might try to make the incident appear as an accident, but nobody will buy a “gas explosion” or “electrical fire” or whatever; besides, people will ask how come some people did not escape a simple fire? No, we need either an aircraft laden with explosives, a missile, an in-place explosive device, or something equally devastating (biological weapons are far too iffy).
A plane or missile requires extensive planning and cooperation with either the Navy or Air Force, and for a device probably the Army. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. We only need those men in charge of the particular weapons, men who can ensure they have loyal soldiers, sailors, or airmen under them. A device is best, because its origin has the best chance not to be positively identified quickly (don’t forget the military will be under our control at this point). Long after we seized power, it doesn’t matter much that people figure out we planted it, and indeed this could work in our favor. A missile or a plane will be seen (as in tracked), and their origin can be identified easily. We wouldn’t want it known that the missile was shot from a Navy ship, for instance. A true clancy with a civilian aircraft is workable only if the Air Force commander in charge of the planes protecting the Capitol airspace is with us.
Getting the device inside the Capitol won’t be too hard. Not if we have at least some of the security forces working for us. Since we will have planting rumors of potential attacks by foreign entities (Muslims), we can call the device “protective electronics” or whatever. The real work will be in co-opting the normal security procedures and radiation sniffers (we can admit our device has radioactive material; science demands it, or whatever). You can see how quickly membership in the coup must grow. (We don’t want too strong a radioactive device, anyway, because we must occupy the White House for the symbolism.)
We’ll have to ensure that the particular Address we pick packs them in. We will have planted various rumors, and caused some small incidents not too far in advance that will heighten the interest of government to be there, either to hear something “important”, or to be seen. We won’t get everybody. Somebody always has a reason they cannot attend. That means the closer we get to the coup, the more we have to pay attention to attendees. We will have to have enough members in our team that we have sufficient manpower to go after whoever does not attend—but we must remain small enough so that we are not exposed.
For instance, a politician could be back in his home state for some reason and miss the Address. So we’ll have to have in our bag flexible plans to arrest these members after the coup. This will require a lot of thought since the places the absentees can be are various.
Arrest, not kill. Why? Because the incident we stage which takes out the Capitol must be made to look like it was carried out by an external or internal enemy that is not us. We need to act in the controlled media blitz aftermath as bewildered as anybody else about the cause (about that control, more later). How could this unknown enemy attack the Capitol and the stragglers? We would fall under suspicion too soon. Of course, if we can get to the absentees before they can make public statements, then they can be killed.
Those arrested must be watched by especially zealous or loyal troops working for us. By definition these men will be leaders, well used to commanding and “bending people to their will.” Luttwak has great insight to the psychology of these men, and shows how often coups are lost by careless guarding of them.
On that same line, we must be most suspicious after the coup of the members we recruited from the current regime, because, of course, “it would be unusual to have the complete loyalty of those who (since they joined our coup in the first place) must be to some extent inherently disloyal”. And somebody has to be boss. As the movie said: there can be only one. Kerensky should have killed Lenin on Day Two. “Assertions of loyalty will usually be worthless because they are made by men who have just abandoned their previous…masters.” This is the most dangerous time.
In Part II, we discuss recruitment, various technical details necessary for implementing the coup, the media, what to do about foreign powers, and more.