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“These Are Dictator Moves”: Is Trump Going Coup Coup?

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COMMENT: Even rel­a­tive­ly staid polit­i­cal and nation­al secu­ri­ty insid­ers, as well as media out­lets are open­ly express­ing fear after a series of post-elec­tion shuf­fling by Trump at the Pen­ta­gon.

” . . . . there is spec­u­la­tion that more defense offi­cials may be on their way out and that this is just the begin­ning — even with only 70 days until the Biden admin­is­tra­tion takes over. . . . The flur­ry of depar­tures appar­ent­ly sent shock­waves through the Depart­ment of Defense. A defense offi­cial told CNN [5] that the sit­u­a­tion was ‘unset­tling,’ adding that ‘these are dic­ta­tor moves.’ The Asso­ci­at­ed Press wrote [6] that ‘unease was pal­pa­ble inside’ the Pen­ta­gon Tues­day. . . . ‘I’ve been shot at a lot. I’ve been near­ly killed a bunch of times. I’m not an alarmist. I try to stay cool under pres­sure. Mark me down as alarmed,’ retired four-star Gen. Bar­ry McCaf­frey said on MSNBC Wednes­day [7]. . . .”

“ ‘A lot of poten­tial dan­ger’: Trump is pack­ing top Pen­ta­gon posi­tions with loy­al­ists, and peo­ple are wor­ried because they don’t know why” by Ryan Pick­rell [Busi­ness Insid­er]; Yahoo News; 11/11/2020. [8]

 The flur­ry of depar­tures appar­ent­ly sent shock­waves through the Depart­ment of Defense. A defense offi­cial told CNN [5] that the sit­u­a­tion was “unset­tling,” adding that “these are dic­ta­tor moves.” The Asso­ci­at­ed Press wrote [6] that “unease was pal­pa­ble inside” the Pen­ta­gon Tues­day.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Wash­ing­ton Demo­c­rat and chair­man of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, sound­ed the alarm Tues­day after­noon [12], accus­ing Trump of sow­ing chaos and divi­sion after los­ing the elec­tion. “That chaos has now reached the Pen­ta­gon,” he wrote.

“I’ve been shot at a lot. I’ve been near­ly killed a bunch of times. I’m not an alarmist. I try to stay cool under pres­sure. Mark me down as alarmed,” retired four-star Gen. Bar­ry McCaf­frey said on MSNBC Wednes­day [7].

“We are watch­ing the set­up of peo­ple who are unqual­i­fied for office to be in con­trol of the 2.1 mil­lion men and women of the armed forces,” he added.

David Lapan, a for­mer Pen­ta­gon spokesman with decades of mil­i­tary ser­vice, told Insid­er that part of the “cause for alarm is not know­ing why this is being done.”

“You have an admin­is­tra­tion with very lit­tle cred­i­bil­i­ty, lit­tle to none. The lev­el of trust is very low, so peo­ple are nat­u­ral­ly going to think the worst,” he added. “And the admin­is­tra­tion isn’t tak­ing steps to reas­sure any­one about why they’re tak­ing these actions.”

“I think what has every­body most con­cerned is that it does­n’t make sense,” Lapan said.

If it were vin­dic­tive, a response to Trump’s sour­ing on Esper as the defense sec­re­tary, then he could have sim­ply fired Esper and ele­vat­ed Deputy Sec­re­tary of Defense David Norquist. But that did­n’t hap­pen. Instead, some­one was brought in from out­side, and then the depar­tures accel­er­at­ed.

“There is no ratio­nal expla­na­tion for it,” he said. “There are any num­ber of bad sce­nar­ios that could play out. We don’t know which of those might be true, if any, but in the absence of any bet­ter expla­na­tion, peo­ple are con­cerned.”

Lapan not­ed that the peo­ple com­ing in large­ly appear to be unqual­i­fied or under­qual­i­fied for the posi­tions they are tak­ing over, poten­tial­ly crip­pling the mil­i­tary’s lead­er­ship. Some wor­ry these act­ing offi­cials do not have the lever­age to block or would even enable the orders of a pres­i­dent who increas­ing­ly shows lit­tle regard for demo­c­ra­t­ic process­es.

Their lack of expe­ri­ence with their new Pen­ta­gon roles also poten­tial­ly hin­ders the tran­si­tion process because when Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden’s team is final­ly able to get that process mov­ing, they will be forced to rely on peo­ple who have only been on the job a mat­ter of weeks.

Trump con­tin­ues to con­test the elec­tion and repeat­ed­ly claim Biden’s win is fraud­u­lent with­out evi­dence.

“Again, you have an admin­is­tra­tion that oper­ates with a deficit of trust, so in this envi­ron­ment, peo­ple are going to ques­tion their motives,” Lapan said. “Peo­ple are going to wor­ry about what could hap­pen.”

The prob­lem is that the upheavals at the Pen­ta­gon cre­ate uncer­tain­ty for the Depart­ment of Defense as a whole, for both the mil­i­tary and civil­ian employ­ees, he explained. Fur­ther­more, it con­fus­es Amer­i­ca’s allies, and poten­tial­ly gives an open­ing to US adver­saries.

“All of those things are essen­tial­ly dam­ag­ing, not only to the Depart­ment of Defense, but to our coun­try,” Lapan said. “That’s why peo­ple are worked up about it. There’s just a lot of poten­tial dan­ger there.”