As Americans watched the events unfold in the nation’s capital Wednesday, there were questions in the aftermath about the presence – or lack thereof – of the Capitol Police. The force is tasked with protecting the United States Congress, but failed to do so, as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, forcing an evacuation of the building as lawmakers were conducting the Electoral College vote count.
While it was an obvious breach of Capitol security, the event could also have national security implications for the U.S., said William Inboden, executive director of the Clement Center for National Security at the University of Texas, and an associate professor at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. He pointed out four ways yesterday’s insurrection could affect the US’s standing on a global scale.
A window of vulnerability
“Iran is dramatically increasing its uranium enrichment. China just arrested 53 democracy activists in Hong Kong. North Korea is making noises about possibly another ICBM test. We’re not hearing much about this because we’re so distracted, understandably, by the awful events of yesterday.”
Adversaries further sowing division
“President Trump is almost exclusively responsible for [Wednesday’s events] with his appalling incitement of the riot. But we know that Russian and Chinese disinformation is also still active in our social media, trying to fuel more conspiracy theories about a ‘stolen election’ and so on and so forth.“
A “tarnished” image on the global stage
“I’ve heard from a number of friends around the world and then friends who work in democracy promotion around the world, that America’s example as a democracy is really, really tarnished. The rest of the world is looking at us with this combination of shock and awe and sadness and embarrassment. You know, we are supposed to be better than this. And our credibility as a nation is really shaken.”
Who’s calling the shots?
“There’s a very immediate concern about the chain of command. The reports are still murky. But even though President Trump is supposed to be the commander-in-chief, it seems that it was actually Vice President Pence who gave the order for mobilizing the National Guard yesterday. There’s reports that the National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien may be thinking of resigning in protest if that’s probably the right thing for him to do. But for the next two weeks, who’s in charge? Our president seems incapacitated, does not seem capable of exercising the duties of commander in chief. His top national security aides are resigning or thinking of resigning. It’s a terribly vulnerable moment for us right now.”