Donald Trump is too much of a Narcissist to blow up the World. At least, deliberately.
Perhaps I’m the eternal optimist. Perhaps I’m clutching at straws. But I’d like to put forward the notion that Donald Trump is unlikely to deliberately initiate a full scale nuclear war. Not because he has an atom of consideration for humanity, or indeed for any human on earth who isn’t Donald Trump, but because he’s a classic narcissist. Narcissists don’t want to destroy the world (although they are fully capable of hurting it very badly), because they desperately need other people to tell them how great they are. If Donald Trump kills absolutely everybody, then there will nobody left to tell Donald Trump how great he is. There now – now isn’t that a relief?
Browsing the Mayo Clinic definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you quickly note that Trump satisfies every diagnostic test for an extreme narcissist…
At the root of Trump’s problem is a kind of extreme ego weakness. Trump, alone in his room, fears that he will disappear completely. He is a weaker character than you or I or anybody else that you or I know of. He desperately needs the world to reflect “Trump”, to shout “Trump” back at him if “Trump” is to continue to exist.
Therefore, Trump would be very unhappy in the event of a full scale nuclear conflict. He wouldn’t die of course – because he’d be in a bunker deep underground with an enormous store of dry food, but he wouldn’t have that many people around him. And as those few people around him contemplate the agonizing irradiated deaths of their few remaining loved ones on the surface, they might stop telling Trump how great it is, or stop saying it quite so loudly, or start to lack conviction when they said it. Trump would then dissolve as a personality.
There may be people around Trump who can tell him this, and warn him of the dangers of Trump-praising deficits following a nuclear apocalypse. As a consequence, I don’t think he’ll destroy all life on this planet on purpose. Of course, by denying climate change and burning fossil fuels more aggressively, he might destroy human life anyway – but that’s a different context.
There remains the danger of accidental apocalypse of course – a playing chicken game of brinkmanship – but even this danger may be alleviated by Trump’s other character defects. Like all bullies, he is a coward. He is always boasting about suing people but rarely follows through. His chief legal weapon is the hefty out of court settlement.
In other words, like all bullies – he can himself be bullied.
To deliberately destroy the world requires fanaticism, which in turn involves commitment to something stable and extrinsic to oneself. Trump is not a fanatic and has nothing of the “apres moi le deluge” sensibility of an Alexander the Great or a Hitler. It’s not that he cares about what happens to the world after his death, it’s that he needs to survive to be praised.
This is after all is what we’re all hoping for with Trump… not that his strengths will offset his weakness or that some “better nature” will triumph over his worst instincts, but that his competing petty viciousnesses will somehow cancel each other out. He’s going to kill a lot of people, because he’s never been able to use power without abusing it. Give him the power to kill and he will kill. But he may be disabled in terms of the extent of his abusive power by his lack of any stable convictions and his over-dependence on flattery.
I’ll be told that this sort of diagnosis represents an irresponsible indulgence of unduly sunny optimism regarding the Trump presidency. But I’m a parent, and I need to get up in the morning. Utter despair is not an option.