CIA analysts who monitor societal collapse abroad recognize some disturbing parallels between those unraveling governments and President Donald Trump's staged displays of strength.
Several current and former U.S. intelligence officials expressed alarm over Trump's awkward attempts to project power over massed protesters resembled clashes between authorities and citizens in autocratic states, reported the Washington Post.
“I’ve seen this kind of violence,” said Gail Helt, a former CIA analyst who monitored China and Southeast Asia. “This is what autocrats do. This is what happens in countries before a collapse. It really does unnerve me.”
Other CIA analysts and national security officials expressed alarm over Trump's Bible stunt at St. John’s Episcopal Church after U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators.
“It reminded me of what I reported on for years in the third world,” Marc Polymeropoulos, who ran CIA operations in Europe and Asia. “Saddam, Bashar, Qaddafi -- they all did this.”
Former intelligence officials said they would flag the administration's militaristic response to the protests as a sign of societal decay, if they were writing an analysis of another country.
“The imagery of a head of state in a call with other governing officials saying, ‘Dominate the streets, dominate the battlespace’ — these are iconic images that will define America for some time,” said Brett McGurk, a former envoy to the Middle East who spent two years in the Trump administration. “It makes it much more difficult for us to distinguish ourselves from other countries we are trying to contest."