Trump’s Heat level: Hot- Ego Trumps All

  • Trump’s decision-making is largely reactive, putting him in our ‘Hot’ list this week. 
  • Trump will never be placed under a specific political ideology
  • Such reactions serve his existential quest to win and boost his ego

In our first piece on Trump, “Make Money, Not War,” one of the things we highlighted about Donald Trump was his inherent stance against military conflict and warfare. To this effect, as unlikely as it may seem, he can be said to in fact have a limited set of base values and positions on matters of national and global importance. 

Now, we wouldn’t go as far as saying he has a particular ideology or fits under a particular school of International Relations, but Trump has indeed shown a capability of staying ‘loyal’ to causes that ultimately serve his personal interests and back-pocket. Beyond this, of course, he has portrayed little interest in really learning about international affairs, political theory and the names of countries that don’t immediately threaten his priorities.

Today’s Special: Soleimani on a Plate

If there’s one thing we do know about Trump, it’s that he has never dropped his alpha-male persona that had previously thrived in the cut-throat private sector world, in which he used to reside. An inherent part of Trump’s alpha-male mentality is the constant need for ego boosts, and this has very much transitioned into his behaviour as POTUS. Take the recent assassination of Qasem Soleimani, in which Trump authorised a targeted drone strike on the Iranian General at Baghdad Airport on January 2nd

As such, this ‘option’ was one of several “on the menu” presented to Trump as potential responses to the ongoing Iranian violence in Iraq. Importantly, the officials claim that this option was by far the most extreme and in reality, only served as a means of making the more conservative choices “appear more palatable.” However, the intelligence seemingly forgot that they were dealing with Donald Trump, who naturally was not going to be able to resist the dopamine rush of taking out a revered enemy leader.

The Overlapping of Winners, Sinners & Grinners

Ultimately, Trump has a personality that craves and requires satisfaction, which ultimately can be linked to any opportunity that he has to win. It doesn’t matter how or by what means it takes to get him to that pole position, simply, he is addicted to that big fat W. This was most potently reflected at one of Trump’s 2016 campaign rallies in Montana, in which he claimed to the engrossed crowd that we are going to “win so much you may even get tired of winning and you’ll say please Mr President, it’s too much winning!” As it were, it seems the facet of winning that he enjoys the most is the putting down of his opposition; effectively, the chase. 

Trump revels when given the chance to patronise or belittle, especially in the direction of figures that have the capacity to rival or threaten his alpha status. We’ve all seen the nicknames he’s given to Democrat rivals, like Crooked Hillary or One-Percent Joe! As such, all of this works to reaffirm the logic behind why Trump would have chosen the most extreme option of retaliation, by way of quite literally putting Soleimani down. And boy, wasn’t he running hot when announcing that he was responsible for implementing the order!

Why Are We Still Surprised?

With this all in mind, it does still remain slightly unexpected that people are so surprised by Trump’s behaviour. Instinctively, students and scholars of international affairs will want to try and neatly place Trump’s actions into a well-considered policy framework or school of thought; just as they have been able to for just about any other Head of State or political figurehead. Unfortunately, such an endeavour with the current POTUS is futile, largely on the basis that Trump himself in all likelihood is completely unbeknownst to his next move; let alone whether he is a structural realist or anarcho-syndicalist

The point is, if Trump doesn’t know, how should anyone else claim to? What we can comfortably state is that his political actions, behaviour and decision-making is, for the most part, reactive. In turn, the best thing a political analyst can do to understand Trump is to become increasingly aware of his biases, interests and inhibitions, as a method of becoming better set to predict his otherwise unpredictable reactions.

White House, Are You Listening?

Let’s apply this idea to the military officials who offered Trump his menu of retaliation options against Iran. As such, this variety of choices was no doubt assorted under the same premises and principles that had been protocol when offering Presidents of bygone eras with different strategic options. The fact is, however, these former Heads of State would have no doubt been capable of showing far greater objectivity and rationale when making their decisions, likely taking them toward some form of the middle-ground option.

 The reality is, the current Commander-in-Chief will never be the rational, middle-ground taking President. Without fail, he will serve his own interests and wherever possible, will take the chance to further enhance his status of alpha-male along the way.

You Just Have to Know the Individual

Now, all things said and done, perhaps there was some validity to Trump’s claim that Soleimani was masterminding a set of attacks against US embassies and thereby justifying his pre-emptive attack on the General. However, these claims have yet to be substantiated in any significant manner. To this effect, if this has been a case of Trump simply serving his ego on impulse, then perhaps more needs to be demanded from his advisors. 

After all, we all know about Trump’s erratic, volatile and inconsistent nature, we know of his love to win and now, we can also suggest that he is willing to risk national security over a boost to his ego. His advisors need to recognise this. They need to truly understand who they’re dealing with at a personal level and what will be the driving forces behind his reactions. It certainly won’t be found in a textbook.

Daniel Bloch

R&A Alumno