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Can James Mattis protect Trump from hubris? (2017)

“Americans need someone who will educate, encourage, and if necessary, restrain, an inexperienced president.”

Dominic Tierney, contributing editor, associate professor at Swarthmore College.
The Atlantic, 14 January 2017.
Image: Mike Segar / Reuters

“In ancient Rome, the ultimate honor was to receive a triumph, or a lavish parade through Rome to celebrate a great military victory. The hero would ride a chariot, accompanied by the veterans of the campaign and the plunder of war… a slave stood in the great man’s chariot, held a golden crown over his head, and whispered in his ear, “remember you are a man.”

“Donald Trump is about to enjoy his own triumph – the inauguration as president….. Where is the voice whispering in his ear, urging humility?

“…most people are prone to overconfidence about their own abilities and control over events. In a 2004 survey of almost 1 million high school students, just 2 percent rated their leadership skills as “below average.”

“… Men tend to be more overconfident than women…. Americans are more overconfident than East Asians. …. Elites are more prone to overconfidence, whether they’re top-class chess players or masters of the universe on Wall Street.

“Given all this, Donald Trump seems almost uniquely likely to succumb to hubris. Not only is he male, American, and a member of the elite (for all his talk of populism), but he also instinctively responds to challenges by coming out swinging, and is prone to narcissistic or arrogant behavior…

“It is difficult or impossible to self-regulate against overconfidence…

“The most effective way to check hubris is to empower outsiders, such as a board of directors who can hold a CEO accountable. Trump doesn’t have a board, but he does have a Cabinet… But will Trump listen to his team?

“It’s not clear that the incoming national security adviser, the retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, or secretary of state designate Rex Tillerson will be an effective check on the president…

“Much rests, therefore, on the shoulders of Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense, James Mattis…

“Americans need someone who will educate, encourage, and if necessary, restrain, an inexperienced president. Mattis has been known to carry a book of quotes from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor. With an eye on Roman history, perhaps he can be the chariot whisperer.”

Access the full article here: Can James Mattis protect Trump from hubris?

For more on this topic watch Lord Owen’s presentation for your 2014 conference on ‘Historic toe-holders’

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