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Kirchick’s Coup Fantasies

I am reluctant to call attention to a James Kirchick piece, but this one is so outrageous that I really feel obliged to. Ostensibly, the piece is a warning that if Trump gets elected, there might be a military coup in the United States. No, really:

Americans viewing the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey as some exotic foreign news story — the latest, violent yet hardly unusual political development to occur in a region constantly beset by turmoil — should pause to consider that the prospect of similar instability would not be unfathomable in this country if Donald Trump were to win the presidency.

What evidence does he present for such an astonishing claim?

Here’s the list:

  • Trump frequently praises foreign dictators.
  • Paul Manafort prevented a roll-call vote at the convention that might have embarrassed Trump.
  • Language expressing support for Ukrainian democracy was removed from the party platform.
  • Trump has campaigned for our military to take actions that are clearly violations of domestic and international law.

Kirchick goes on to argue that if Trump did issue blatantly illegal orders, his generals might refuse to obey such orders — and Trump might fire them in response. And . . . I supposed we’re to infer that the military would then rise up in outrage at such treatment and oust President Trump, ending American democracy.

Look, there’s a very real case to be made that Trump is a danger to the Republic. He genuinely doesn’t care about political norms, international law, or even the constitution. He’s erratic and impulsive and narcissistic. He might very well issue illegal orders to violate international law — like the last Republican President did, and like the last Republican Presidential nominee advocated doing, only worse. There’s a reason I’m rooting for Hillary Clinton to utterly crush Donald Trump. I think he’d be a truly ruinous chief executive.

But there is essentially zero risk that any faction of the U.S. military will take it into its head to oust Trump from the presidency. Kirchick doesn’t even bother to outline a plausible scenario for such an eventuality. He jumps straight from “Trump is insufficiently opposed to Putin’s Ukrainian stooges” to “Trump will issue orders that will put American security in jeopardy” to “the U.S. military will have no choice but to step in to stop him, even if it means a coup.”

Kirchick isn’t really warning that this might happen. He’s fantasizing. He’s implying that, in his mind, a coup would be justified to eliminate the threat of Donald Trump.

The contrast with the overwhelming resistance by Turkey’s opposition parties to the coup against Erdogan speaks volumes.

about the author

Noah Millman, senior editor, is an opinion journalist, critic, screenwriter, and filmmaker who joined The American Conservative in 2012. Prior to joining TAC, he was a regular blogger at The American Scene. Millman’s work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Week, Politico, First Things, Commentary, and on The Economist’s online blogs. He lives in Brooklyn.

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