Trump clearly has no understanding of fourth-generation warfare theory, guerrilla warfare theory, or counterinsurgency theory. A basic rule of fourth-generation warfare is that you never let your opponents gain the perceived moral upper hand. Having black-suited stormtroopers shooting at middle-aged women, journalists, old men, and military veterans is always a no-no. This is a mistake the Israelis have consistently made, and has had as much effect as anything in turning much of world opinion against Israel. A standard tactic of guerilla insurgents is to take actions that will provoke repression, triggering state overreach, which in turn will turn popular opinion against the authorities. Responding to incidents of vandalism and graffiti as though a Shining Path-like insurgency is taking place is stupid beyond belief. Trump essentially handed his Antifa antagonists a gift.
A major principle of counterinsurgency is that you have to weaken the insurgents by separating them from their popular support, and this separation has to be achieved on the moral level as much as on the physical level. “The people” have to come to see the insurgents as the bad guys, terrorists, criminals, etc. and the counterinsurgents as the good guys who are helping them. Counterinsurgency efforts that seek to remove an insurgent’s popular base through direct attacks on the popular base almost always fail, even if they inflict considerable bloodshed in the process.
The second paragraph of the article below also illustrates an important point about the Trump presidency. Glenn Greenwald pointed out a while back that Trump is too lazy to be a “fascist” and is hardly the calculating strong man his strongest critics make him out to be. He is simply a professional entertainer who responds to whatever gets applause from the audience, and his act is all improvisation. Therefore, when he is confronted with a real crisis or a situation where he has to make an important strategic decision, he has no clue what to do, so he either does nothing or overplays his hand hoping for maximum effect.
Opponents of Donald Trump often describe him as a “political genius” who has a cunning understanding of the anxieties and fears of American society, and is able to create and use crises to his favor. The current standoff in Portland shows, yet again, that this is not the case. While his alleged fight against antifa will satisfy some of his far-right supporters, it increasingly risks further alienating the so-called “moderate” Republicans – which seems mostly used to describe better-off pocketbook Republican voters – who are already feeling uneasy over his Covid-19 handling and the economic fallout of the pandemic.
An almost ignored aspect of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is that Trump failed to use it to push through his authoritarian agenda by increasing executive powers, weakening the powers of other institutions, like Congress, and marginalizing dissent, for instance by banning demonstrations. Almost all other countries implemented a more repressive approach to Covid-19, including those governed by progressive parties (like Spain), while most far-right governments used it to push through draconian repressive measures (such as Hungary and India).