Jan 5, 2024

The Commonality of Megalomania

Photo by Z

“Today I am at the head of the strongest Army in the world, the most gigantic Air Force and of a proud Navy.” 

– Adolf Hitler, Speech to the Reichstag declaring war on the United States, December 11, 1941.”

“Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless.” 

– Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf.”

“I’ve had a lot of wars of my own.  I’m really good at war.  I love war….” 

– Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Iowa in 2015.

The geopolitical bookends of my life may include existing with the megalomania and mendacity of two dangerous individuals: Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump.  Hitler was the dominant force of the geopolitical environment in my first seven years, and now that I’m in my mid-eighties it is possible that Donald Trump will dominate my later years.  I cannot explain why these depraved and pathetic excuses for human beings exercised so much influence and power over seemingly normal people in their countries, but the fact that they were able to prosper politically in socially and scientifically advanced states such as Germany and the United States is stunning.  

Both men governed powerful countries that brandished huge offensive military capabilities.  Hitler had tight control over the strategic aspects of World War II, making terrible and costly decisions that weren’t challenged by his leading generals and admirals.  The example of Donald Trump is particularly worrisome since he faced no checks and balances over the use of nuclear weapons as commander-in-chief from 2017 to 2021.  This is not a matter of debate.  In 2017, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) and ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD) agreed that the president has the sole authority to give that order, whether we are responding to a nuclear attack or not.”

In 1943, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, asked Harvard psychoanalyst Walter Langer to prepare a psychoanalysis of Hitler that accurately predicted there would be a military coup against him and that suicide would be Hitler’s “most plausible outcome.”  These events took place in 1944 and 1945, respectively.  Langer predicted that Hitler would undertake neither surrender nor capitulation nor negotiations, and that he would seek horrendous vengeance on a world he despised in order to achieve ideological immortality.  

Hitler and Trump agreed on the decrepitude of the United States.  A month after declaring war on the United States, Hitler said “I don’t see much future for the Americans…it’s a decayed country.  Everything about the behavior of American society reveals that it’s half Judaism, and the other half negrified.  How can one expect a State like that to hold together?”  

In his inauguration speech in 2017, Trump described the United States in strikingly dark and even apocalyptic tones.  He spoke of “mothers and children trapped in poverty,” “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones,” “the crime and the gangs and the drugs,” and infrastructure in “disrepair and decay.”  Trump spoke of no policy specifics, and his four-year term produced no policy initiatives to address the “American carnage” that he described.  

Trump had Fox News, and Hitler had an excellent propagandist in Joseph Goebbels and the documentary talents of Leni Riefenstahl.  Both men played on the resentments of their followers, which was a shared characteristic of the Nazi and MAGA worlds.  Trump probably never read Mein Kampf, which is virtually unreadable, but his language echoes that of Hitler, with references to those who oppose him as “vermin” and to immigrants as “poisoning the blood” of America.  In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that “those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”  On January 6th, 2021, Trump rallied his insurrectionists with “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

There are other comparisons, but I’m not sure what to make of them.  Both men misogynists.  Both men physically unimpressive; both men uncomfortable in debate or discussion.  Both men nonsmokers and teetotalers.  Most importantly, both men suffering from malevolent narcissistic personality disorders.

The nuclear comparison is the most frightening.  The world was lucky that Germany never achieved the ability to forge nuclear weapons during World War II, but the global community should be concerned with Trump’s ability, if he were to return to the White House, to unilaterally use them.  There is a chain of command for the use of conventional weapons, but no checks and balances for the use of nuclear weapons.  

There have been previous examples of high-level officials worrying about the stability of the commander-in-chief and possible use of nuclear weapons. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger warned his general staff to inform him if there were  any nuclear orders from President Nixon during the last months of his presidency.  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley issued a similar warning during Trump’s last months in office.

The fact that we have ceded the authority to use nuclear weapons to a single individual, who would not have to call an interagency meeting or a a congressional review, let alone consult another elected official, is dangerous.  The fact that Donald Trump, with his vengeful and combative attacks on those who oppose him, could possibly inherit this ability again is particularly terrifying.

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