A President or head of State of a great nation, a major world power we might think would have reached their position through years of responsible achievement and experience in the art of statecraft, in short through development of very special qualities of responsible leadership. It’s instructive to briefly look at the current president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, aka The Donald, from the perspective of qualities of leadership.
The Five Qualities
Some two thousand and five hundred years ago one of my favorite strategic analysts, a Chinese general and Imperial Adviser, Sun Tzu, wrote his tiny but historic text, The Art of War. It’s used today as essential reading all over the world, including by students at the US West Point military academy, the incubator for America’s future generals. In his treatise Sun Tzu describes five essential qualities needed in a successful leader, in his case, a successful general. The qualities apply to anyone in a position of leadership responsibility.
The five essential qualities include one who is both wise and possessing ability to think strategically, to respond quickly to changes, to anticipate the moves of opponents. A second essential quality of a successful leader according to Sun Tzu is a leader who is trustworthy, a person of integrity, one who stands by their word. The third essential quality of a great leader is one not often observed in the West these days, namely benevolence or simply love–the wish to treat people with respect and kindness, thereby winning the hearts of the people. Fourth of the essential great leader qualities is courage or valor, in the sense of the courage to make quick and perhaps risky decisions in difficult situations. Finally, Sun Tzu names the character quality of being disciplined, allowing no ambiguity in the chain of command of the leadership.
Of course a great leader of a great power or nation should have all five qualities in an integrated personality to qualify for the responsibility. This gives us an interesting metric to look at Donald Trump after observing his actions for more than his first 100 days in the highest office in American politics, that of President and Commander-in-chief.
The Donald as True Leader?
Many critical pundits or analysts have believed the narrative that takes the US President as a “man of his word,” one who is serious about making America great again, about draining the swamp, about bringing jobs back to the USA from China, Mexico and elsewhere, about ending Washington intervention into the internal affairs of other countries with its NGOs and Color Revolutions to name just a few important promises. The narrative usually then explains the facts, such as Trump’s naming to every key economic and financial post Wall Street bankers of Goldman Sachs and business partners of the convicted former hedge fund operator, George Soros, or the leaking of scandals that forced Trump “pro-Putin” National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, to resign only days in office to the secret machinations of something they often call the Deep State.
The Deep State exists, no question, a secret state within the state, like some kind of freemasonic Ur-Lodge, unelected by the public, unanswerable to anyone but their secret internal Brotherhood, the Deep State. Donald Trump is not their enemy, or he would have been shot down well before the first Republican primary. He is a creature of that Deep State. He keeps his word, but not to his voters; rather he keeps it, but to his Deep State controllers from Wall Street and the Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex.
If we were to look at Trump through the prism of Sun Tzu’s essential five qualities of a successful true leader, it becomes clearer that Donald Trump–a casino mogul whose prior political expertise before the White Whose Oval Office, was dealing in the politics of international organized crime, of the Resorts International of the murky James Crosby, learning his business “skills” as a protégé of the infamous New York mob lawyer, Roy Cohn—as a true leader of integrity, is found wanting in the essential qualities named by Sun Tzu.
We recall that The Donald is one whose expressed views of females is patriarchic and barbaric to put it mildly. He apparently views women as “things” and not as human beings. He clearly fails the Sun Tzu test in the criteria of benevolence or love in the sense of treating people, male or female, with respect and kindness. Merely recall the Trump “locker room” dialogue with Billy Bush, released during the Presidential campaign.
In terms of being a person who stands by his word, whom we can trust, he fails badly here as well. Before the election candidate Trump spoke out against the regime change antics of the Obama Administration and the tax-exempt foundations sponsored by George Soros. On being inaugurated, he has done nothing to order a withdrawal of US Government NGOs or US Ambassadors working to unseat governments not following Washington orders such as the ongoing CIA coup attempt in Macedonia. That, despite the fact that at least eight Republican Congressmen have brought to his attention the fact that US Ambassador Jess Baily is destroying the government of what was a stable US ally in favor of fostering a Greater Albania scenario that could start a new Balkans War.
As to the essential ability to think strategically, how would we assess one who sends the Seventh Fleet to challenge North Korea, then, some days later, tells Bloomberg News that he “would be honored” to meet the young North Korean dictator? Or a President who casually picks up the phone to speak with the anti-China President of Taiwan, sparking a major diplomatic incident with America’s most important trade partner China, or who drops a Mother of All Bombs on caves in Afghanistan for no clear strategic reason in a fruitless US war that has rumbled on now for 16 years with no result other than support for the world’s largest opium harvests. Or a President who orders a cruise missile strike on Syria during dessert with China’s Xi Jinping at Key Largo Florida, an action that Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross later cynically called, “after-dinner entertainment.” In what can be called an insult of the highest order, Trump did not inform his Chinese dinner guest of his decision to bomb the Syrian airbase until the bombing was already underway, actions more resembling an emotionally infantile practical joker than a statesman with respect for his Chinese guest.
As to the quality of being disciplined, of allowing no ambiguity in the chain of command, we find again a President in sad lack. A President who reportedly refuses to take responsibility for hearing the daily intelligence briefings, who delegates extraordinary powers to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner and his wife, the President’s daughter, in a brazen case of nepotism. A President who delegates responsibility for military foreign policy actions to “the Generals” of whom he has named four to key Cabinet posts including as Defense Secretary.
Finally, is Donald Trump a man of courage, of valor? That too rare quality in today’s political world, such as that exhibited by John Kennedy during the harrowing days of the 1962 Cuba Missile Crisis, is not obviously present among the virtues of a President Trump. Not merely the fact that Trump managed to avoid the Vietnam War draft as a young man. It goes far deeper. True courage is a moral quality– the courage to do the right thing despite going against the consensus. To date, Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to make quick decisions, too quick. But decisions utterly lacking in strategic depth, in clarity, in respect for the rules of law or the laws of nations.
The problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is that we, American citizens, blinded ourselves by wishful thinking that finally someone would stand up and 2make America great again.” Someone would name all the treasonous policies that have destroyed the core of the US economy, who would refocus money and energy on rebuilding America’s staggering $8 trillion infrastructure deficit and de-escalate the buildup of the world’s largest war machine. That would perhaps go a big step towards making America great again. But The Donald clearly has no intention of being the true leader to do that. He is not even interested now that he is in the White House. The world is being played for suckers, especially the 48% of Americans who still believe in The Donald as their saviour.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”