This document provides a list of strategic inventories from which he seems to draw from and implement. This information is helpful for those who wish to work with Trump, or understand him better. At the bottom of this page you’ll find insights into Donald Trump’s secret playbook.
Distraction, Overload, Chaos
Practically every day, using Twitter and other channels, Donald Trump will attempt to gain attention by doing something absurd, outrageous, shocking, socially unpopular, unconstitutional, or highly threatening to democracy. He will sometimes have several of these going on at one time. This is designed to create ‘noise’ about him in the media. It’s designed to create numerous decoys and distractions for people to go after.
Some presume these are activities designed to get ego boosting attention. They aren’t. They are strategic, planned, and designed to support achieving certain outcomes. In most cases, Trump needs only to instigate, and then wait for the predictable (or unpredictable) response from the media and public.
When there are many of these things going on at one time, it’s designed to overwhelm his opponents who don’t have the resources to address all that he’s doing. If one doesn’t understand this technique, then they will end up spending time on things that ultimately aren’t at the core of what Trump is doing.
When you’re the source of chaos, things don’t seem chaotic because you’re at the epicenter. You’re not surprised by the chaos because you were ready for it. This is an advantage of the person who creates chaos. Here’s an example of the media identifying this.
Here are some articles that illustrate this principle. These are listed in chronological order with the most recent at the top.
- “Amid distractions of his own creation, Trump moves swiftly to change the country dramatically,” by Dan Balz, Washington Post, 29 Jan 2017.
- “Trump’s Muslim ban is a dangerous distraction,” by S, writes Abdul Khabeer, Aljazeera, 29 Jan 2017.
- “Trump administration backs off plan to scrub climate pages from EPA website,” by By Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, 25 Jan 2017. An article about what seemed to a crisis that 24 hours later vanished.
- “Don’t Let Trump Distract You: Public Comment on DAPL Is Now Open,” by Jake Tracy, Yes! Magazine, 25 Jan 2017.
Lies vs Cloaking
At some point during Donald Trump’s campaign he said that he’s not going going to reveal what he plans to do. So, when questions came, rather than saying, “I won’t answer.” He would create an answer. He didn’t really care what the answer was. Sometimes the answers were polar opposites. His goal was to cloak his real plans and positions. It may also be concluded that depending on the audience, he wanted to say something that would boost his support. It also seems that some of his more implausible and outrageous answers or positions were designed to produce fear, confusion, or outrage.
The video below from Robert Reich addresses the extent to which Donald Trump tries to control the media or make it ineffective. The views and opinions expressed in the video are those of Robert Reich and while this document intended to be informative and as impartial as possible, as you’ll see Reich’s video is a critical one.
It’s not too difficult to translate military strategy into political strategy, personal relationships, business management, personnel management, or social action strategy. This seems to be part of Trump’s inventory of resources.
This is not just a random picking of strategies and hoping for a particular outcome. Instead, it seems to be based on the operational art – “the level of command that connects the details of tactics with the goals of strategy.”
Below are some selections from a longer list of military strategies. Think about how each of these could be (or have been) applied to achieving social or political goals. Below are a few examples. As you read the list, think of how it could be applied to political strategy:
- Bait and bleed – To induce rival states to engage in a protracted war of attrition against each other.
- Blitzkrieg – An attack that uses concentrated force and rapid speed
- Coercion – Compelling the enemy to involuntarily behave in a certain way by targeting the leadership, national communications, or political-economic centers
- Deception – A strategy that seeks to deceive, trick, or fool the enemy and create a false perception in a way that can be leveraged for a military advantage
- Distraction – An attack by some of the force on one or two flanks, drawing up to a strong frontal attack by the rest of the force
- Exhaustion – A strategy that seeks to erode the will or resources of a country
- Feint – To draw attention to another point of the battle where little or nothing is going on
- Incentive – A strategy that uses incentives to gain cooperation
- Indirect approach – Dislocation is the aim of strategy. Direct attacks almost never work, one must first upset the enemy’s equilibrium, fix weakness and attack strength, Seven rules of strategy: 1) adjust your ends to your means, 2) keep your object always in mind, 3) choose the line of the least expectation, 4) exploit the line of least resistance, 5) take the line of operations which offers the most alternatives, 6) ensure both plans and dispositions are flexible, 7) do not throw your weight into an opponent while he is on guard, 8) do not renew an attack along the same lines if an attack has failed
- Punishment – A strategy that seeks to push a society beyond its economic and physiological breaking point
- Shock and awe – A military doctrine using overwhelming power to try and achieve rapid dominance over the enemy
- Scorched earth – Destroying anything that might be of use to the enemy while retreating, or advancing
- Theater strategy – Concepts and courses of action directed toward securing the objectives of national and multinational policies and strategies through the synchronized and integrated employment of military forces and other instruments of national power
- Win without fighting – Sun Tzu argued that a brilliant general was one that could win without fighting
Reflecting on the list, imagine how these principles and strategies might have been applied during the primary election, and in the general election, and now in leadership over a nation.
The book 1984 by George Orwell is currently the number one best seller on Amazon. It’s been discussed extensively in the news because of the many parallels between the book and what some perceive to be goals of the Trump administration. For further reading on this topic, see:
- “Teaching 1984 in 2016,” Andrew Simmons, The Atlantic, 20 Nov 2016.
- “The normalization of Donald Trump began in “1984”: How George Orwell’s Newspeak has infected the news media,” Chauncey DeVega, Salon, 21 Nov 2016 @ 6:59 AM CST.
- “What Republicans Can Learn From George Orwell — It’s Not What You Think,” by James M. Lang, WBUR 12 Jan 2016.
Shock and Awe, Blitzkrieg, and Exhaustion
Trump sometimes combines several military strategies at once. “Shock and awe” can be described as a military doctrine using overwhelming power to try and achieve rapid dominance over the enemy. Blitzkrieg is defined a “An attack that uses concentrated force and rapid speed.” These two strategies combined create Exhaustion – “A strategy that seeks to erode the will or resources of a country.” For more see military strategies, see the section on Military Strategies above.
Iowa City artist John Martinek created the following cartoon about Trump’s first week in office. (Source: The Iowa City Beacon).
Some have observed similarities between Trump’s actions and sports strategies:
- “A fascinating theory from the world of sports about Donald Trump’s first 7 days,” by Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 30 Jan 2017 at 12:23 PM EST. Excerpt: “Sally Jenkins is a brilliant sports reporter and columnist. Turns out she knows a thing or two about politics as well. Witness this tweet about President Trump’s approach to his first week in office: ‘An old sports strategy: foul so much in the 1st 5 min of the game that the refs can’t call them all. From then on, a more physical game.’ That’s an absolutely fascinating way to view the flurry of activity — executive orders, tweets and the rest — that has defined Trump’s earliest days in office. Trump’s six executive orders in his first 10 days as president are the most since World War II, according to Smart Politics. But it’s not just the raw number. It’s the subjects on which Trump has seen fit to exert his executive power. One order set in motion the much-promised construction of a wall along our southern border. Another temporarily banned refugees from entering the United States and curtailed all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations. What Trump is doing — under Jenkins’s theory — is defining the landscape on which his presidency will play out. He’s seeing how far he can stretch the system before it breaks and, thereby, setting the outer limits of what he can do very, very far out.”
“Utterly Outrageous” Proposals to Insight Worldwide Fury
On 30 Jan 2017, UK Parliament Member Stephen Pound talked about “Outrageous Proposals” as part of Donald Trump’s operational strategy, referencing the book The Art of the Deal. See the video below for Stephen Pound’s comments:
Unpopularity as a Strength
Sometimes the desire to be popular can get in the way of achieving goals. In some cases it seems that Trump is placing certain goals and campaign promises above being liked. So, the willingness to be disliked seems to be something Trump relies on. Someone set on being liked by everyone, and appeasing others, will have a very high approval rating, but possibly not get anything done. At least that’s the thinking of those who have this mindset. For leaders who work toward equitable compromises between people, the outcomes can serve all parties involve, and quite often, people working together agreeably find their combined efforts produce better outcomes than if they’d been fighting against each other.
“The Art of War”
The Art of War is “an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the 5th century BC. Attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu (“Master Sun”, also spelled Sunzi) the text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare.” This text has been used by people throughout history as guide for conducting business and achieving success in life. It’s not difficult to imagine how the strategies presented in the text could be used in modern times by political leaders. Chapters of interest include: Illusion and Reality (6), Situational Positioning (10), The Use of Intelligence (13).
Some have said that Trump is thin skinned and has a ‘bad temperament’ so that he can be easily manipulated. Trump has created the illusion of reacting in certain ways to specific attacks, but this is simply to create a baseline of unpredictability and throw people off.
Donald Trump’s Secret Playbook
One of the great challenges with regard to Donald J. Trump is that the world remains in the dark about what his thoughts and plans are. If we only had a way of looking inside his ‘secret playbook’ we might be able to understand him better. It turns out that Donald Trump’s secret playbook isn’t that secret. The Kindle edition is available for $7.99 on Amazon and provides many detailed pages on what seems to be a plan that was decades in the making. The discovery of this book brings to mind the scene from My Cousin Vinny where Vinny is wishing he could get a look at Trotter’s files. “If I could just get ahold of his files…” The book is titled The America We Deserve, and below you’ll find the table of contents and introduction on Scribd which are available for free on Kindle.
Here are revisions to this document in chronological order with the most recent at the top.
- 30 Jan 2017 at 5:43 PM CST. The section “Shock and Awe, Blitzkrieg, and Exhaustion” was added.
- 30 Jan 2017 at 2:00 PM CST. The section on Sports Strategies was added.
- 30 Jan 2017 at 1:48 PM CST. The section on “Utterly Outrageous” Proposals used to Insight Worldwide Fury was added with a video from the UK Parliament from today.
- 29 Jan 2017 at 3:46 AM CST. Under the “Distraction, Overload, Chaos” heading, added a link to a Washington Post article that illustrates the principle.
- 28 Jan 2017 at 9:20 CST. The section on ‘Donald Trump’s Secret Playbook’ was added. A section on Media Control was also added.