Trump is not mentally disturbed: He is dangerously confused




Samir Rihani

It has been said that some 100 psychiatrists expressed doubts about Trump’s mental fitness to be president of the USA. Certainly reports of his heated phone calls with heads of governments of some of America’s traditional allies suggest something is not quite right. And his ramblings on Twitter tend to reveal traits unusual in a president. His first four weeks in office generated a flood of critical media response. To attribute his actions to mental deficiencies is to underestimate the dangers he presents.

Trump is simply the latest blinkered and confused leader trying to drag his bewildered people through an increasingly complex world in which the old simplistic styles of management do not work any more. Command-and-control from the top is plainly counterproductive nowadays but almost all leaders are unaware of that simple fact or they refuse to accept it, as it would question their ‘right to rule’.

Admittedly being the president of the most powerful country on earth Trump’s warped view of how the political economy works threatens national as well as global peace.

‘Leader and follower’ model

For centuries the world followed a model founded on the principle that the affairs of nations, large organisations, etc. should be left to a few gifted people to manage from the top of steep and remote hierarchies. These leaders were of course rewarded well for their assumed talents and their supposed ability efficiently to navigate the affairs of their underlings through good and bad times.

Fundamentally, the top-down model is based on a specific view of how social, political, and economic systems function and, therefore, how they should be managed. Within that conception the ruthless and determined leader has been seen as the ideal manager who achieves results quickly and efficiently. The model went through various transformations and justifications identified by Comte (1798-1857) as Theological era, a Metaphysical era (as was the case in ancient Greece), and finally a Scientific era.

Elites saw this latest ‘scientific phase’ as a justification for their exclusive position and rewards and one that could not possibly be questioned. However, science itself has expanded in recent decades that raised questions about the adequacy of the model (see later).

Trump coming from the relatively simple deal-making field of real estate and not having been exposed to more intricate matters such as the international political economy is completely secure in his simplistic beliefs and is blissfully unaware of the pitfalls.. As explained later, his behaviour is extreme but is no different from other leaders but his position of brute power greatly magnifies the problems and threats. The misguided questions about his mental capabilities are both inevitable and misleading. He knows, and enjoys, what he is doing but is unaware of the dangers.           

Traditional ‘scientific management’

The skewed rewards system for leaders is not simply the result of greedy bosses in positions where they could demand disproportionate benefits. Although there is a large element of self-interest, the matter goes deeper than that: well-respected thinkers have put forward ideas about ‘scientific management’ that supported the concept of the ‘inspired and determined leader’.

Several advocates of ‘scientific management’ have had a lasting impact on future generations. Two are mentioned here but others are equally significant. Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) is credited with being the father of ‘scientific management’, also known as Taylorism. His thoughts were inspired in part by his mechanical engineering background.

Some of today’s popular management concepts could at least in part be traced back to Taylorism. Its rigidity is clearly seen in many leaders’ actions to this day. Trump is no exception.

Another early thinker; this time approaching management ‘science’ from the top down was Henri Fayol (1841-1925). Significantly, he also came from an engineering background. Fayol pioneered a theory of business administration that he felt applies to other disciplines, such as politics. He defined ‘14 Principles of Management’ which included among other topics “authority”, “command”, “hierarchical structures”, and “order”.

The above ideas were influenced to some degree by Newton’s (1642-1726) laws of motion. It was thought that nothing was beyond the wit of humankind if you can predict the movement of the planets in space to the second! The natural sciences, it was concluded, left little to be discovered, and it was only a matter of course before practitioners extended the same ideas to social sciences. After that it was only a small step to apply scientific management to politics and economics.

Trump is wedded to ‘scientific management’

To link Trump to science might offend many people but it is obvious that he is a believer in resolute leadership. In his case this is being taken to extremes as seen in his various pronouncements even in the first month after entering the White House. His background in deal making in real estate and his inexperience in politics determines to a large extent his attitudes and actions. Basically, he cannot help being what he is. He is a believer in zero-sum negotiations: there are only winners and losers. To observers, and looked at superficially, his brutish behaviour mistakenly suggests mental aberration.

‘Scientific management’, however, is itself in the early stages of major revision. Science’s scope is being radically expanded beyond the mechanistic or Newtonian concepts that have been in fashion for so many centuries. That does not mean rejection of previous viewpoints. For certain purposes ‘mechanistic science’ offering good predictability is still the most appropriate way to ‘command-and-control’ certain activities such as an industrial assembly line. It would have been impossible to place a satellite into space or to land a man on the moon without the certainties offered by mechanistic science.    

However, in other fields the certainties offered by traditional concepts have not yielded adequate results. This is especially the case in activities involving human beings: politics, economics, and large-scale businesses. It was discovered in recent decades that there are ‘complex adaptive systems’ that behave radically differently from mechanistic systems. They offer less predictability, and emergent properties that are full of unexpected outcomes. Under these circumstances, softer styles of management based on gradual change and trial and error have been found to provide better results. This would be alien territory that would smack of weakness to the likes of Trump.

Examples of changed management styles can be seen for instance in the Toyota Production System (TPS) and in the ‘productive ward’ that was tried in some hospitals in the English National Health System. Of course the intricately subtle system of government in operation in Switzerland is the ultimate example but that again would be totally perplexing to Trump.

Yearning for the ‘old simpler times’

The traditional model of ‘leader and follower’ worked reasonably well in the past. Humankind has always sought protection from the rough and tumble of life. In the beginning, people put their faith in various forms of religion. In some societies that religious phase continues today as seen for instance in parts of the Middle East. It makes life seem so simple and manageable but it is useless in practical terms as seen in the chaos in that region.

Later on, religion lost ground to science as known at that time. The scientific era continues, but the envelope has expanded in recent decades to embrace complex phenomena along with the more familiar mechanistic systems.

Basically, life is becoming progressively more complex with increasing numbers of interactions that make prediction and control difficult and often impossible. In recent decades this complexity has outstripped the ability of leaders to control events as they did in the past. Crises arise with regular frequency and each one is worse than the one before. Current leaders try to suggest these are separate events but that is not the case. The system is telling us a new, softer style of management is needed.

The age of populist leaders

Unfortunately, this has produced two linked phenomena that are now all too obvious: appearance of ‘extreme leaders’ who come to power on the back of a wave of rampant ‘populism’. They make outrageous promises, mainly along the lines of taking society back to a glorious past. Trump’s promise to “make America great again” is typical of the style. The same is happening in other parts of the world. The precise words might be different but the intentions are the same.

Arrival of Trump, therefore, was only to be expected. These leaders make extraordinary claims that appeal to people suffering the consequences of, and fed-up with, persistent failures of past leaders. They sell moonshine.

The Middle East has experienced that problem for many decades. Its problems have been blamed on invasions, civil wars, Islam and so on. Leaders of the Islamic State and other groups are typical of the breed. The syndrome is also noticeable in Europe as seen in the rise in extreme right and left political leaders. And now the affliction has crossed the Atlantic to appear in the USA. Differences between all these new leaders are matters of style rather than substance.

Trump is not alone in misinterpreting how affairs unfold in politics, economics and large-scale organisations and the new styles of management that these activities impose. Most politicians (and chairmen and chief executive officers of large companies) think precisely the same as Trump. To make matters worse, it is not in their best interests to adopt a different management model that would compromise their position and rewards.

Trump is exceptional only because his misunderstanding of the new demands of leadership in the complex modern world might well prove to be dangerously costly not only to the USA but to the rest of humanity.     

Manufactured Enemies


The Military Industrial Complex

Eisenhower, in his farewell speech in 1961 cautioned the US about the growing might of the Military Industrial Complex. As a distinguished military leader turned successful president he was in a position to know.

Scroll forward to 2014 and you will be left in no doubt of the significance of his warning. William Blum, in ‘Killing Hope’, described over fifty major wars that the USA has prosecuted since WWII. In the last chapter he asks a troubling question, “Is the United States against terrorism?” It is easy to answer that question: obviously ‘the United States’ is against terrorism. This applies equally to Britain and all other nations on earth. It is difficult to imagine any ordinary person to be in favour of terrorism.

One, therefore, has to be more specific: are the intelligence and military industries against terrorism? Here, there is more room for doubt. Millions of people are employed in weapons production. The industry is highly significant to the US and Europeans economies but the same applies, possibly less so, to all permanent members of the UN Security Council, and others besides such as Israel. Even the manufacture of small weapons, so useful in civil wars and little wars, is itself a huge business to many economies; as reported by the BBC for instance. (

Vast Military and Intelligence Industries 

The heavy weapons industry is vast and powerful with annual sales amounting to over $400 billion. The top 100 companies enjoy annual sales of well over $600 million each. SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) produces yearly reports that leave little doubt about the might of the Military Industrial Complex.

The intelligence industry is similarly big and powerful. In the US there is a network of 17 major outfits costing a staggering $68 billion annually. (

Astonishingly, these vast intelligence organisations failed to anticipate the appearance and growth of the latest enemy of the US in Iraq and Syria (ISIL, ISIS, IS) until it occupied major parts of both countries. The Islamic State, it turns out, had advanced weapons, owned and operated many oil wells and refineries and managed to produce, sell, and be paid for the oil! One has to be very gullible to swallow the fiction that this was going on in secret and without the knowledge of the intelligence agencies. But this has been accepted and there is now a huge coalition put together to fight the new menace that emerged out of the blue.

 Benefits from Insecurity and War

So let us go back to the question posed by Blum but amended to apply to the military and intelligence industries. Are they harmed by the new menace that we are required to believe they failed to detect? To answer that question one must imagine a world where peace prevailed everywhere. No more mad mullahs, no more aggressive dictators, and no more jihadists plotting day and night against the West. There would be a glut of weapons and the market would collapse. The economic consequences to some countries could be substantial. To that one must add the effect on shareholders and on the personal wealth of a number of individuals who occupy the top of the military industrial and intelligence hierarchies. Peace might be viewed as a wonderful state by most, but certainly not by all people. An alternative must be found.

On the one hand, war within the industrialised countries is not an option these days. What is left? Incidental wars in distant lands for a start, but that is not enough as conflicts should have a reasonable chance of consuming weapons at a high rate. Civil wars are useful but they do not normally require heavy weapons in adequate quantities. Two variants have been found useful: a short but one-sided intensive war as exemplified by the 1990/1991 Gulf War and the 2003 war on Iraq, or an interminable war as seen in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and the unending war in Afghanistan.

Fertile Environment for Manufactured Conflict

In all the above cases a ‘baddy’ is needed; preferably one who is hot-headed enough to knowingly or unknowingly participate in the carefully choreographed creation of enemies. Islamic connections these days offer added public relations advantages. Third world countries offer a fertile environment: they have minimal governance structures, an uneasy mix of ethnic and religious fissures that could be exploited, and an abundance of ‘strong men’ with hardly any education or experience who could be easily manipulated this way or that. The rest, as they say, is history of the Middle East and North Africa to name just one region.

The New Internationalist magazine published a well-documented article in issue 426, ‘Our Terrorists’ (October 2009) that recounted the dispatch of Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan in 1979 with generous funding by the CIA and others in the Gulf. The article went on to recall how he later created al-Qaeda with the knowledge of the CIA! (

The views put forward in the article seem astonishing in the light of what went on later, from the dreadful tragedy of 9/11 to the assassination of bin Laden by American forces in his hideout in Pakistan. Truth in the military and intelligence world is sometimes stranger, and less believable, than fiction.

Islamic State in Afghanistan in 1992 and in Iraq/Syria in 2014 

The meteoric rise of the fearful ISIL, and its later transformation into ISIS and now IS provided the latest enemy to keep the military and intelligence business ticking over at an acceptable pace. It has certainly provided much excitement. The world, including the ever-vigilant media, seems to have forgotten that an Islamic State was declared in Afghanistan in 1992. It served the same purpose as its latest progeny in Iraq and Syria. At the time, Pakistan, Iran and Gulf states swung into action to fight that entity. The USA was never far away from their efforts. That agitation continued until 2001 when Operation Enduring Freedom launched US overt military operations in Afghanistan. The conflict, which has gone on to present times and involved Taliban and al-Qaeda, has been a bonanza for the Military Industrial Complex and intelligence agencies.

The search never stops for other venues and Iraq was always an obvious candidate. The Iran-Iraq war (1980 to 1988) cost about $400 billion in weapons. As Heikal, Egyptian political commentator, recounted, “whenever one side seemed in sight of victory Washington would begin helping its opponent.” That was not enough.

The Gulf War (1990/1991) was an all American affair. It followed Saddam’s forces move into Kuwait. In 1994, Kapstein writing in ‘Foreign Affairs’ described the one hundred hours of bombing by US forces as “the greatest arms sale show on earth.” That was not enough either. The 2003 war on Iraq continued the business cycle. And that was not enough.

By accident or design, the civil war in Syria offered further opportunities. Volunteers were trained, funded, armed, and transported through Turkey and Iraq. Overnight, a ramshackle group of several hundred fighters turned into a fearsome well-trained and well-equipped force of twenty thousand or more seasoned warriors!

Future Rests on Young Shoulders

So the Middle East is now eager to welcome US and European military presence to overcome this formidable enemy. Obama said this would take many years. Good news for some. That was dully echoed by the British PM. In short we are witnessing the Afghanisation of large parts of the Middle East. Many, on both sides will be killed or maimed but business is business. As Fortune magazine reported on 13 September 2014, “The war on ISIS already has a winner: The Defense industry.”      

The Middle East and North Africa can only plan for the post-conflict era. Western governments do not offer a solution. They are themselves hidebound by their defence and intelligence industries. Domestic solutions will have to be found in the form of better governance, less autocratic governments, focus on health and education, and serious efforts to seek ethnic and religious reconciliation and tolerance. A tall order but that is the only way forward: human history tells us that in no uncertain terms. 

Don’t expect quick results but a stuttering beginning has been made by changes brought about by younger people who came together to demand better conditions during the Arab Spring. The older generation is too exhausted and too indoctrinated to make much difference. Hope must rest on young shoulders: it has always been that way through the ages.  


Now we are told by Jo Biden US Vice President that countries in the Middle East funded al-Qaeda, Nusra, and other ‘Islamic Jihadist’ groups. He also questioned whether there is a ‘middle’ group in Syria that could be relied on to fight the Assad government. It is of course difficult to believe that all that was going on without the knowledge of US authorities. See: 

But then that was said months ago. See:


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