Is Donald Trump Running a “Shock and Awe” Campaign on the American Public?
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 introduced the concept of “Shock and Awe” into the lexicon, defined as the “use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.” Many are arguing that this is the exact strategy being employed by team Trump in its first few weeks in power. It certainly appears that they are trying to bombard the public with a dizzying array of radical proposals, and seeing what will stick, so to speak.
If the president really does view the press as the “opposition party”, and the masses around the country demonstrating against him are certainly lumped into that group, this would indeed make sense. These last few weeks have been dizzying, and it does seem as though so much is happening that it is impossible to process it all. Could this all be by design?
Gauging What is Possible
Yonatan Zunger of Google wrote an amazing essay on Medium in which he lays out the case that this is exactly the strategy being employed. He posits that Bannon and company are ratcheting up the antagonistic policy decisions in an attempt to create “resistance fatigue,” so that people will bore quickly with all of the outrage.
He argues that the real goal of all of this is to test the limits of our system of checks and balances.
The administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.
This is highly concerning, and so far we have seen the courts hold strong and perform their function. I am troubled to say the least to imagine this strategy being employed, much less enjoying success.
The Origins of the Plan
The Washington Post published an op-ed regarding the origins of this strategy, crediting soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions with intellectually birthing the ideological premise behind the series of moves.
The senator lobbied for a “shock-and-awe” period of executive action that would rattle Congress, impress Trump’s base and catch his critics unaware, according to two officials involved in the transition planning. Trump opted for a slightly slower pace, these officials said, because he wanted to maximize news coverage by spreading out his directives over several weeks.
“Sessions brings heft to the president’s gut instincts,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser.
Once considered a fringe figure, Sessions is now an insider to the most powerful office in the land, and as Attorney General stands to have massive potential to implement his nationalist, isolationist, and borderline racist policies. He has been by far the most outspoken opponent of immigration in Congress since his arrival, and is far to the right of virtually every member of the Senate.
It’s a Trap!
In another essay on Medium, author Jake Fuentes urges us all not to fall for what he calls team Trump’s head fake. He lays out the steps necessary for a regime to consolidate power, and makes the case that this is exactly what is occurring here, viewed through the lens of the disastrous roll out of the Muslim ban.
if the source of this week’s actions is a play to consolidate power, it’s going really well so far. And that’s because mostly everyone — including those in protests shutting down airports over the weekend— are playing right into the administration’s hand.
If this blow-back is all part of the plan, we must all make sure that our opposition is not limited to just self-satisfying protests, and follow through. We have to demand accountability, support real journalism, and be ready to stand up for what is right and be in it for the long haul.
None of us should be surprised by any of this. The nexus of Bannon, Trump, and Sessions could quite frankly care less about the rules of decent society. Power is the name of the game for them. We can be outraged, vigilant, and vocal, but we cannot be stunned.
I don’t yet know what these guys are up to, but I am certain it is not on the level. I will fight them every step of the way, but I won’t play their game. It’s what they are expecting.
Expect plenty more shock and awe to come…