In response to the January 6 hearings 1945 asked me to write a couple of pieces about the coup and its impact on foreign policy. The two are really companions; the first thinks about the phenomenon of coups d’etat from the perspective of Realism (with a guest appearance by T-Diddy, our favorite Greek historian:
But notwithstanding Realist admiration for Thucydides’, his city-states are the farthest thing from billiard balls; he shows all of them to have internal political divides that are critical to their functioning on the international stage. It is true that the difference between oligarchic and democratic polities in Ancient Greece was not terribly relevant to their behavior from a moral perspective- the oligarchic Spartans destroyed Plataea and the democratic Athenians destroyed Melos– but the Hellenic Greeks regarded regime type as exceedingly important, to the extent that the grip on state power was well worth fighting, dying, and killing for.
The second takes a jab at what would have happened to American foreign policy if the coup had succeeded:
It is perhaps most important to remember that if President Trump had managed to hold onto power through the extra-legal process he undertook on and before January 6, his second term would have been widely regarded as illegitimate both inside and outside the United States. Inside the country there almost certainly would have been substantial violence, including street-fighting and very possibly organized repression. Joe Biden would still have been recognized as President by most of the country, and Congress would have remained under Democratic control unless forcibly dealt with by Trump. Although it is difficult to sanction a country as large and as important as the United States, few foreign leaders would have rushed to recognize the legitimacy of Trump’s continued rule. On the domestic and international stage, American policy would have been in utter chaos following a successful coup. Substantial portions of the federal bureaucracy might either have resigned or determined to wage a war of paperwork to undercut Trump policy.
It’s on this second that I take some issue with the point made by the distinguished DJW:
If Trump’s attempted coup had even half-succeeded, much of Rusty Bowers’ life would have collapsed around his ears. I don’t think we’ve yet fully grasped what would have happened to this country if Pence had decided to go the other way, but it would have been violent and destabilizing and people like Rusty Bowers would have found themselves in the crosshairs, quite possibly from both sides. How you could contemplate voting for a person who demonstrated a willingness to burn the United States to the ground simply because they have more tolerable policy preferences is, in fact, a mystery to me.