A German general explains how to understand Donald Trump

Summary: Trump has been called an authoritarian, a fascist, and another Hitler. What is his true character? The question becomes more important as Trump approaches the White House. An interwar insight from a German general can help us evaluate him. The answer helps explain why Trump did so well on November 8, despite his many obvious faults.

President Donald Trump

“For all Trump’s bluster, missteps, foibles and crassness, nobody can question his astonishing energy.”
— An interesting comment posted by Bernie.

Is it good that Trump has “astonishing energy”? For a perspective on this we can turn to an insight attributed to a German General, Freiherr (baron) Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord.

“I divide my officers into four classes as follows: The clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can under certain circumstances be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.”

Attribute Matrix for Officers
Based on “Germany: Selecting Officers“, Proceedings (of the US Naval Institute), March 1933. Tracked down by the Quote Investigator.

These terms apply to officers’ execution of their duties, not in some abstract or general sense. Where will Trump appear on this chart?

Trump is intelligent (more or less), as shown by his success in the cutthroat real estate business. But he is dumb in the sense of being misinformed — about a great many things. That made little difference in his little world of real estate (but a casual attitude to facts might have contributed to his six companies that declared bankruptcy). But getting fake news from fringe websites about geopolitics and economics could have calamitous results as president.

As for personal energy, I am skeptical that Trump has much of it. I doubt that Trump will be industrious at his often boring duties as president. So at best he will be “stupid and lazy”. High energy combined with his poorly stocked mind might make him more dangerous, putting him in the “dumb & industrious” box. Neither kind of President will work well for America.

Why Trump won

This exercise suggests one reason Trump won. He is everyman, like John Doe — quite unlike Hillary Clinton. Twitter, Facebook, and website comments overflow with the words of folks like Trump — people of both the Left and the Right. People who are cocksure (even about highly technical matters), grossly misinformed, with rigidly ideological thinking. Articulate, friendly and entertaining, usually with completely closed minds.

This might be a long hard four years for America.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Donald Trump, about Trump’s administration, and especially these about what’s coming…

  1. Three big things to expect from the Trump era.
  2. Will Trump and conservatives inflict payback on their foes?
  3. Trump and the 1% lead America back to its past, to its roots.
  4. Here’s the news about Team Trump. See the promises fade away.
  5. Trump assembles a Strategic and Policy Forum to better hear the 1%.
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3 thoughts on “A German general explains how to understand Donald Trump

  1. Nice find. Only thing I would add is that this is in the context of a military command where it’s assumed that all officers share the same overarching goal of victory over an enemy. The desirability of grid placements for enemy officers who are working against one’s goals are, of course, reversed. So stupidity / ignorance leading to tactical losses for things we don’t want to see happen is good.

    But where the analogy breaks down is that collateral damage incurred in these losses is likely to redound on us. It’s like having an enemy officer temporarily in command of a unit of one’s troops. You don’t want them to take their objective but you don’t want them to suffer casualties either. A lose-lose situation.

    Liked by 1 person

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