Donald Trump has a secret plan to defeat ISIS and has explained that he can’t reveal its details, lest he tip off the enemy. But a careful study of his rhetoric reveals a crucial aspect of the plan: the strategic deployment of profane threats.
In an interview with Fox News today, Trump promised to “knock the hell out of” ISIS. This may sound simplistic to the untrained ear. In reality, Trump has carefully varied the exact formulation of his policy. He has promised to “bomb the hell out of” ISIS. But Trump has also promised to “bomb the shit out of” them. As a result, ISIS has no way of knowing whether it should defend against a shit-bombing or a hell-bombing. Even more cannily, Trump has also threatened to “knock the shit out of” ISIS and to “knock the hell out of them.”
Does knocking mean the same thing as bombing, or does it imply a completely different tactic? We have no way of knowing, and, more important, neither does ISIS. Trump is forcing ISIS to prepare for having either the shit or the hell bombed or knocked out of them. It could be any of these four things, or maybe all of them. This is exactly the kind of strategy proposed by Sun Tzu, or Clausewitz, or maybe both them.
In his Fox News interview, Steve Doocy pressed Trump for specifics:
It is disappointing to see even Steve Doocy subscribe to the pointy-headed intellectual fallacy of believing a threat of bombing needs some kind of specific element in order to have credibility. The eggheads sitting behind their desks at foreign-policy think tanks and the Pentagon say that the military is already conducting bombing strikes against ISIS, and that Trump has no ideas at all about additional military targets he would strike. They are thinking inside the box by conceptualizing the problem in literal terms. When President Trump reveals the full details of his plan, ISIS will never see what is coming to them: Trump will drop the F-bomb.