by Edward Luttwak
Thursday, 7
January 2021

No, what happened in the Capitol was not a coup

Wednesday's insurrection may even prove beneficial to the United States
by Edward Luttwak
A crowd is not the same thing as a coup. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Insurrections are common but yesterday’s aborted insurrection on Capitol Hill was unique, because the purpose of mobilising a mass of people and deploying their sheer momentum against the edifices of power — a Royal or Presidential Palace, or a Parliament — is of course to take power through the very act of seizing that iconic building.

But that is logically quite impossible when the ruler is not the enemy to be replaced but rather the intended beneficiary of the insurrection.

What happened was certainly not an attempted coup d’état either. By their very nature coups are subterranean, very silent conspiracies that only emerge when the executors move into the seats of power to start issuing orders as the new government —a very large, very noisy and colourful gathering cannot possibly attempt a coup.

There have been quite a few cases around the world of what is best described as mass intimidation directed against Parliaments — but in all such cases it was some specific law that was wanted or not wanted, which legislators under the gun might then vote for, or against. For that to happen, the legislators have to be all gathered in the legislature — and kept there to be coerced, because no crowd can vector physical pressure in many different directions. That conspicuously did not happen yesterday because it was a crowd that invaded the building, not snatch teams sent to seize individual legislators to be cajoled or forced into their seats.

Given all these exclusions, only one thing remains: a venting of accumulated resentments. Those who voted for Trump saw his electoral victory denied in 2016 by numerous loud voices calling for “resistance” as if the President elect were an invading foreign army — voices eagerly relayed and magnified by mass media, emphatically including pro-Tump media.

Then they saw his victory sullied by constantly repeated accusations of collusion with Russia from chairmen of Intelligence committees, and immediate ex-Intelligence chiefs who habitually signalled that they were accusing Trump of being Putin’s agent because they had secret information, which alas they could not disclose. What they did do was to deplore Trump’s “subservience ” to Putin on a weekly basis for four years, while refusing to entertain the possibility that in a confrontation with China it might be a good idea to overlook Putin’s sins, just as Nixon embraced Mao to counter the Soviet Union.

A venting of resentments can be a healthy process, and when Biden is inaugurated, as he will be, on January 20, on schedule, yesterday’s events may prove to have been beneficial. Biden’s own conspicuous refusal to adopt the language of resistance back in 2016, and his abstention from false accusations of collusion with Russia (even under extreme provocation regarding his son) makes it that much easier for the new President to be healer he convincingly promised to be.

Overwrought talk of a coup attempt, or of an insurrectional threat, or even a military coup d’etat seems to induce a pleasurable shiver (the French frisson) in some people but on Wall Street the market was supremely unimpressed: stocks went up, strongly, because they too know that it will all be over by January 20th.

Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations. He is best known for being the author of ”Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook’.

Join the discussion

  • The Democrats have conducted a continuing campaign against Trump since he stepped up to take on Hillary Clinton for the Presidency. Massively assisted by the extremely biased MSM which denied Trump a fair hearing, Trump relied upon social media, which the Woke have sought to deny to him.
    Now the woke Democrat hard left have shut Trump and his supporters out – Cancelled at last.

    The riotous supporters were unwise to perform as they did, but their desperation to be seen and heard may have played a role.

    Regrettably lives were lost, and this could cause further hardening of opinions.

    Biden calling for healing, whilst Pelosi tries to con the VP into impeaching his President shows no consideration for the 70 millions of their American citizens who voted for Trump.

    History tells US the outcome could include civil war.

  • The woman of whom you speak was executed at close range in the head. Her death at the hands of one of the few policemen in attendance was filmed by a black lives matter leader who uploaded the footage to the internet and sold his story to the Daily Mail, who reported he was not there as part of the protest but did not inquire or explain why he was there and why he thought it acceptable to film an execution of an unarmed female.

    As Mark Steyn pointed out if a member of the American military had executed an unarmed protestor, shooting into a crowd at close range we would never have heard the end of the outrage, but Trump supporters are subhuman to people like you and seemingly deserve their fate, because they spread conspiracy theories. You should be deeply ashamed of your outburst above.

    One of the bumbling fatties who died of a heart attack, of whom you speak was a policeman, on duty. There have been no other confirmed reports of who died.

  • There was notably little heartfelt criticism of the worst excesses of the BLM protests, both in some media and by some politicians.

    The footage of the TV reporter standing in front of a burning building saying the protests have been “largely peaceful” or something will go down in history alongside Comical Ali from the Iraq war. The same indulgence was afforded to the BLM protest in London: “largely peaceful” reported the BBC about a demo when 36 police officers needed medical treated for injuries.

    Biden, to his credit, did condemn the excesses quite strongly, as far as I remember.

    Also, how much genuinely critical coverage did the CHAZ/CHOP affair get? After all, that involved an actual local coup: the seizure and occupation of an entire city neighbourhood, including the police station if I remember rightly. This was treated as a quaint or quirky incident, rather than the non-democratic usurpation of power it was.

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