Viewing Trump’s insurrection through a counterterrorism lens unlocks some insights about how to deradicalize his most violent supporters. Successful efforts to fight terrorism begin at the top. An ideology may survive and linger, but to curtail a terror threat requires what counterterrorism experts call “leadership decapitation.” (The meaning is figurative.) Society is more likely to heal when an extremist group’s ideological leader is isolated and damaged in the eyes of his supporters.
Keeping Trump in office until January 20 won’t assuage the supporters who falsely believe that the election was stolen from him, but removing him from office a week early would emphasize that he is losing. Recruitment is easier for a winning team. As the Islamic State and al-Qaeda both discovered after their apexes, getting people to take up arms is harder when the cause is in decline.
Trump can still muddy the waters by trying to pardon himself or by declaring himself a candidate for president in 2024. Yet his capacity to gain new supporters is diminished. In the past week, he has been discredited in a host of ways.
Trump’s insistence that, despite all evidence, he won the election helped Democrats win both Georgia seats. Not even his followers can depend on him: Under pressure, he essentially conceded the election on Thursday, which meant either that he is unreliable or that he was lying to them the whole time.