Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Revolutionary change is waging war on the status quo.  It is about victory in the initial assault and winning heart and minds to institutionalize the new order.

Throughout history, military geniuses have articulated the philosophy of victory.  Their proven approaches to winning resonate through the ages and beyond the battlefield.  They can guide Trump’s “commanders” as they take to the field.

Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” is the most timeless of guides for those battling in military, political, or business environments. 

Trump has already mastered one of Sun Tzu’s maxims: “As the voice cannot be heard in battle, drums and bells are used.  As troops cannot see each other clearly in battle, flags and banners are used.”  Through social media, and turns of phrase, Trump has sent out vivid signals of what is to come and what must be done.  As President, Trump will need to continue his messaging to keep his troops focused on the outcomes most important to Making America Great Again.  He is implementing the most ancient of rules in the most cutting edge ways.

Sun Tzu also explained, “Thus a victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle”.  Preparation is everything.  That is what Trump and his Transition are doing.  January 20, 2017 is a day for celebration, but also a day for action.  Trump can do what Reagan famously did – delay the post-swearing-in Congressional Luncheon to sign Executive Orders.  Given the volume of Executive Orders needed to end the Obama era and begin the Trump era, the most newsworthy ones could be signed in the Capitol, leaving others to be signed at the White House between the parade and the balls. 

General Ulysses S. Grant and Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter showed the world that the best way to achieve victory was overwhelming your opponent. On April 16, 1863, Porter’s naval fleet ran the gauntlet of Confederate guns along the Vicksburg bluff. Risking the entire Union Fleet on the Mississippi River in one bold act assured victory.  Confederate batteries could not fire fast enough to hit every vessel.  The speed and surprise of the flotilla rendered the enemy ineffective. 

President Trump must move swiftly and broadly to change Washington.  One reform or one piece of legislation at a time gives the forces of the status quo time to mount an effective opposition.  The so-called mainstream media can only report so many stories a day.  Democrats in Congress can only make so many speeches a day. Trump must strike fast and hard and overwhelm the Establishment. 

General Douglas McArthur, and Admirals Chester W. Nimitz and Bill “Bull” Halsey Jr., proved that you do not have to fight every enemy confronting you.  They won World War II in the Pacific by leap frogging Japanese strongholds, isolating them and letting them whither through lack of supplies. 

President Trump should be inspired by how America won the Pacific War.  The Executive Branch is vast.  Many have likened previous reform and budget cutting efforts to “attacking Antarctica with an ice pick”.  Trump and his team need to find key “islands” to assault and leave protected “sacred cows” or programs and personnel to wither.

On August 5, 1864, Rear Admiral David G. Farragut led the Union fleet in attacking and ultimately capturing the key Southern port of Mobile, Alabama.  The Confederates attempted to divert and disperse the Union fleet by launching small torpedo boats into his fleet.  Farragut famously ordered his commanders to “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”  The timeless rule is to not let intermittent issues get in the way of your primary mission.

Trump’s Administration will confront bureaucratic “torpedoes” from the first day onwards.  The most effective way government agencies and programs survive change is to draw incoming political appointees into longstanding tactical squabbles over turf, resources, and ego. 

The career establishment prays that newly confirmed Presidential Appointees will plunge into tactical morasses.  Once pulled in, the original mission is lost.  Valuable political capital, and revolutionary zeal, vanishes before the new Administration realizes it. 

President-Elect Donald Trump values military prowess in his appointments.  These military best practices will also be valued as he changes Washington, DC.

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