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The Perils of President CEO: 7 Reasons Why Business Icons Don’t Make Great Presidents

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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Let us first start with this declaration: this is not a diatribe against Donald Trump. Rather, it is a tsk, tsk, tsk to the American people for not being careful about what they wish for. For years, if not decades, we have heard how much better off the country would be if the people would only elect an accomplished CEO as president.

This is what we need, so I was told. A CEO would know how to fix things, get things done, and not deal with the ridiculousness, so I heard. I always felt this inflated optimism was dangerously misplaced, but not because of any specific CEO that might become president. Rather, because I was wary that the people were misreading the fundamental characteristics of most super-alpha CEOs, which are actually mismatched with the necessary character qualities of a great president. Since the first year of the current President CEO seems to be showing this wariness to be well-founded, I thought it might be worthwhile to make explicit just what this mismatch is and why. I therefore offer seven simple axioms that explain why any business-tycoon-turned-president in the 21st century might be fated to be a completely ineffective and irrelevant chief executive. In this case, it isn’t so much about the person as it is about the culture:

1.“Yes” people problems

Despite what many CEOs will tell you on the lucrative rubber-chicken public speaking/inspiring leadership book tour circuit, the reality is CEOs have a notorious reputation for being extremely thin-skinned. This reputation manifests itself in two primary ways: in their heart of hearts, CEOs don’t truly value being directly challenged or questioned and therefore surround themselves more with people who will affirm their opinions rather than confront them. In the corridors of executive political power these two things are disastrous. Modern American politics has evolved to the point where the Presidency has almost no veneration whatsoever. As a result, media and social media can be intensely vicious in their criticisms. Trying to counter that by surrounding yourself with “yes” people only exacerbates problems, rather than resolving them.

2.Style over substance

The actual details of being President of the United States tends to be rather tedious, even boring, requiring tons of study time, briefing time, meeting time, etc, etc, etc. This is quite the opposite of the corporate atmosphere preferred by CEOs, who like being able to sketch out the rough details of the big picture and then let the senior executive staff flesh out the explicit parameters of making that picture a reality. Presidents are often anally fastidious and meticulous, wanting to get down in the weeds of policy far beyond a normal human capacity. CEOs decidedly do not seek that unique bureaucratic hell that is quite innate to Washington DC.

3.Tighter tip of the pyramid

While most presidents have not copied the amazing ‘Team of Rivals’ model utilized by Lincoln (where he literally laced his Cabinet with opponents and critics simply because he believed in their talent and their dedication to the country, if not necessarily to him personally), they nevertheless have always tried to build a Cabinet full of talented people whose talent would be largely unquestioned. In many cases, given a two-term President, the people come to expect his successor to emerge from that team, so highly vetted and accomplished they should be. Thus, the top of a presidential pyramid has a much broader top, more convex than pointed, allowing other talented people to be very near the summit of the structure. The top of the CEO pyramid is the tip of the spear. While having a talented executive team is important, it is not nearly as close to the very top as in the White House, where the President is going to be quasi-grooming his/her successor if/when he leaves the position. A CEO is much more of a lone wolf than a president could ever hope to be.

4.Dominance over compromise

This is one of the biggest differences. While some politicians might argue today that compromise is weakness, the reality of presidential politics inevitably involves an ability to not just accept compromise, but be the innovator that initiates it. The CEO environment often takes compromise only as a last-ditch, only-way-to-salvage-the-deal measure, and even then, takes it reluctantly. More preferable to compromise as strategy is old-school dominance: a take-no-prisoners, hear-the-lamentations-of-the-woman-and-children approach that will place the CEO and the company at the top of the mountain with no questioned rivals in view. Do not mistake this as arguing a President cannot be strong: it is just that in politics strength is often measured by how well you can accomplish your goals while still building bridges, not by how much devastation you leave behind in your wake. CEOs conquer. Presidents construct.

5.Selfish over selfless

This is a simple but profound differentiation between the bottom lines of politics and business. No matter what anyone tries to argue in terms of corporate philanthropy, the job of a CEO is to ensure profit, raise stock value, and depress the competition. It is an inherently selfish endeavor justified by the perceived glory of the end results. The job of President is not only selfless, more often than not in the modern world, it can seem thankless. The best presidents are ones not motivated by personal desire or striving for individualistic gain. As president, you are meant to be the literal embodiment of the hopes and dreams of all of America’s diverse population. Selfish motives, therefore, spell doom.

6.“Schmoozing” is not diplomacy:

CEOs are famous for working a room. The mistaken assumption is that what it takes to work a boardroom or business environment is perfectly synonymous with the skills required to perform diplomacy. These skills are not the same at all. In fact, stories are legion of just how poorly ‘insincere’ communicators fare in diplomatic corridors. Photo ops are nice and make for great media. But they rarely turn into actual policy achievement, peace declarations, or conflict resolutions, which are the lifeblood and true purpose of diplomacy. Thus, experience in CEO ‘glad-handing’ is not the ideal training ground to become the Commander-in-Chief and handle critical life-and-death situations that often face that office.

7.The country is NOT actually a corporation

This might be the hardest axiom for people to accept. Since politicians in general are held in such low regard today and since politics are considered by many to be a major part of the country’s problems rather than its solution, I can understand why so many want the ‘outsider-ness’ of a non-politician business icon to lead the country. So yes, while it’s always about the economy and jobs often matter more than anything else (aside from security), the reality is the running of a country is so much more than the decision-making calculus of a corporation. Side issues and multiple layers of complexity force a president to have to think far beyond just single-item issues or quick and convenient solutions. The interdependent interconnectivity of a country, across economics, defense, social welfare, health, and the environment (just to name five out of hundreds), means that the president cannot just look to address problems from a bottom-line-what-is-the best-profit-margin result. Largely because that result will only be approved by a small segment of society and rejected by huge swaths of the other segments. So, while admittedly trite and catchy, treating the country like a corporation from the highest office in the land is actually the worst strategy to employ if interested in having a healthy, happy, and safe nation.

So, there you have it. Seven reasons why a President CEO is perhaps destined to create an ineffective and uninspiring presidency. Keep in mind these seven reasons apply to the sub-type ‘CEO.’ It does not take into consideration a specific CEO who may happen to be president at the moment. But if you take these general explanations and apply them to a specific case study, it may just help you understand why these first nine months of 2017 have been so uneven, so inconsistent, and so haphazard. In some ways, it was inevitable and only the American people have themselves to blame.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University and was just named the future Co-Editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His work is catalogued at: https://brown.academia.edu/ProfMatthewCrosston/Analytics

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Americas

Venezuelan refugee crisis and how it is altering the surrounding regions

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Venezuela’s migration crisis has been in the news lately and recent UN polls show that nearly 2.3 million have already migrated from their homeland over the past few years. However, other estimates show a figure closer to four million Venezuelan immigrants.

This crisis is rapidly sinking its claws in the neighbouring countries and if the amount of people migrating keeps increasing, it might become the worst man-made disasters since the First and Second World Wars after the Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian crisis gave birth to more than six million refugees, and although the number here is still around half of that toll, the Venezuelan crisis doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The inflation over there is nearly a million percent – a number so absurd that the common people around the world are not able to even grasp the sheer magnitude of the situations developing every day in this country. The minimum monthly wage is a few American dollars, putting essentials like food – particularly rations like chicken – into the category of luxurious items. The economy has shrunk by half in five years. To explain the extent of this downfall, Girish Gupta – founder of Data Drum and former investigative, multimedia journalist in Venezuela/LatAm – tweeted: If you’d bought a million dollars in Venezuela’s local currency when President Nicolás Maduro came to power in 2013, it’d now be worth $3.40. Diseases that were once overcome – like measles and diphtheria – are making a comeback. Infant mortality rates are going up while approximately 1.3 million refugees who have already escaped Venezuela were suffering from malnourishment (according to UN officials).

However, these are not the last of the Venezuelans’ problems; the nations to whom the refugees sought to escape to are closing their doors on their faces – literally. Sunday saw Ecuador closing border crossings with Colombia to people who don’t have passports. This was seen as a certain way to reduce the bulk of refugees from entering other countries as passports are fairly difficult to obtain amidst the economical and political chaos. Jonnayker Lien, a migrant standing outside the Peruvian border with his entire family said, “Imagine people like us who have sold everything, down to our beds, to come here, and they close the door on us. We don’t know where to sleep, and we don’t have money to go back.” Crisis broke out in the town of Pacaraima, north Brazil, after local throngs started struggling against the refugees and pushed them back to the border. Already a penurious town, the locals resent sharing their remaining resources with these migrants. However, even a strong military force could not stop these migrants from coming into Brazil. Peru had twenty thousand migrants arriving in the past week.

An emergency regional summit has been called by officials from Ecuador where Venezuela and its neighbours could deal with the crisis. Yukiko Iriyama, a representative in Colombia for the U.N. refugee agency said, “The capacity of the region is overwhelmed. The magnitude of the situation really requires a regional comprehensive approach.” The recently implemented passport checks by Peru and Ecuador aimed to reduce the flow of refugees into the countries. However, all it did was reduce the legal way of entering into these nations and increased the illegal border crossings.  To deal with this disaster and the refugee predicament, representatives from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will meet in Bogota next week. Christian Kruger, the head of Colombia’s migration authoritysaid in a statement, “The exodus of Venezuelan citizens is not a problem exclusive to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador or a single country. This is a regional problem and as such we must address it. Demanding passports from a nation that does not have them and whose government does not facilitate the issuance of this document is to encourage irregularity.” Peru is also calling a meeting at an individual level of the permanent council of the Organization of American States to discuss the migration.

The toll of migrants entering Colombia is around a million in fifteen months but nations like Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru are also receiving these refugees. Low skilled Venezuelans have flooded some Latin American job markets to find work and send money back home. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo that he will set up a UN team that will respond to the crisis. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres “told him that he would put together an internal coordination mechanism to make sure that the UN regional response is well coordinated.” “This is something that is not uncommon in these types of crises,” he added. Dany Bahar of the Brookings Institution suggested declaring this as a refugee crisis in order to seek help, saying, “It is up to the United Nations, together with the Organization of American States, to step up and recognize this problem as a refugee crisis so that the world can turn the proper attention to it and provide solutions.” He also added that none of the nations in the regionhave taken the initiative to provide a sustainable solution to the problem.

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Trump: The Symbol of America’s Isolation in the World

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The president of the United States, who came to power in 2016 with the slogan of “Reviving Washington’s Power”, has become the messenger of failure and defeat of his country in the West Asian region and in the international system. The U.S. numerous military and political defeats in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon were so outstanding that there’s no way Trump can brag about his achievements in the region.

On the other hand, many Democrats in the United States, and even the traditional Republicans, have been criticizing the President’s costly and barren foreign policy in West Asia. In such a situation, Trump attempts to attribute this failure to the country’s previous administrations and condemn them over what is happening in today’s world, especially in the West Asian region, and he blames Obama for Washington’s constant and extensive failures in this area.

Besides, Trump’s other projections about the hard conditions of the U.S. in West Asia are noteworthy. In his recent remarks, Donald Trump said that if he wasn’t at top of the U.S. political and executive equations, Iran would capture the Middle East (West Asia)! This is while Islamic Republic of Iran created stability in the West Asian region, and besides, has stood against the long-term, medium-term, and short-term and destructive goals of the United States and its allies in the region.

Trump’s strategic weakness in the West Asia is an important issue which can’t be easily overlooked. Of course this strategic weakness did exist during Obama’s presidency, but the truth is that it reached its peak during Trump’s presidency. And in the future, this weakness will bring severe blows to the United States.

The fact is that the strategic calculations of the United States in the West Asia region have all failed. And many of the pre-assumptions that Washington called them “strategic propositions”, have never turned into reality for some reasons, including the vigilance of the Resistance movement in the region. This is the reason why America is so confused in confronting the equations of West Asia.

Under such circumstances, the only way before the President of the United States is to leave the region and confess to his defeat; an issue that many American analysts and strategists have noted. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in spite of his campaign slogans for stopping the military intervention in the region, the current president of the United States has intensified conflicts and created constant security crises in West Asia.

The direct, perfect, and comprehensive support of Donald Trump for takfiri terrorists reflects this fact. Trump started his support for ISIL since the beginning of his presence at the White House in early 2017, and he stood for the terrorists until the fall of ISIL in Syria. Even now, Trump is attempting to revive terrorist and takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria.

Despite passing half of his presidency, Trump has claimed that the defeat in Yemen, Syria and Iraq was Obama’s legacy. There is no doubt that Obama and his two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, played a major role in creating terrorist and takfiri groups (especially ISIL), and committed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.

There is also little ambiguity in the strategic, operational and even tactical defeat of the Obama administration in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. However, Trump can’t deny his share in this defeat, and pretend as if he’s the messenger of the victory of the United States in these scenes! The fact is that Trump completed the military and political defeats of the United States in the West Asia region. Today, the United States is defeated in the battlefield, and can well see that its pieces had failed in these wars.

On the other hand, the White House has lost the political arena of the region. The failure of the United States in the Lebanese and Iraqi elections, on the one hand, and the popular support for the resistance groups in Yemen and Syria, has left Trump and his companions disappointed in the region. In such a situation, attributing the recent and ongoing defeats of the United States to the Obama administration is completely expectable, and at the same time, unacceptable!

Finally, we can see that just like Obama, George W Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and Carter, Trump is stuck in this strategic miscalculation in the West Asian region. Undoubtedly, in his last days in power, Trump will also understand that there’s no way he can overcome this strategic weakness through Saudi and Emirati petrodollars.

However, it seems that the scope of Trump’s defeat in West Asia would be wider than the previous presidents of the United States. Undoubtedly, in the near future, Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley will become the symbols of failure in the US foreign policy, especially in the West Asia. In other words, the president of the United States and his companions at the White House will have to admit to defeat in the West Asian region at a great expense, and this is exactly what frightens the American authorities.

first published in our partner Tehran Times

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Weather and White House Turmoil as Elections Loom

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc as it traversed the Florida panhandle.  The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the area since 1881 when records began, its 155 mph winds (only 5 mph short of Category 6) felled massive trees, blew away houses, collapsed buildings and left devastation in its wake.  Relatively fast moving at 14 mph, it was soon gone continuing as a Category 3 into neighboring Georgia and then further up its northeasterly path.  It seemed to signify a stamp of approval for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on holding earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming issued a couple of days earlier.  We are at one degree now so storms can only be expected to get worse.

In northeastern Turkey, a 300-year old stone bridge disappeared overnight.  Villagers convinced it had been stolen called in the police.  Further investigation concluded it had been washed away by a flash flood caused by a sudden summer thunderstorm further upstream — clearly far more intense than in the previous three centuries.

Ever more powerful hurricanes, monsoons and forest fires point to a proliferation of extreme weather events that experts relate to global warming.  Yet President Donald Trump and his administration remain obdurate in climate change denial.

Thins are certainly warming up in the White House.  Nikki Haley announced her resignation in an amicable meeting with the president.  A staunch defender of many of Mr. Trump’s most egregious foreign policy changes, the UN Representative will be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector.  So said the announcement.  An astute and ambitious politician she has probably reassessed the costs versus benefits of remaining in a Trump administration.  Some tout her as a future presidential candidate.  Should she be successful she will be the first woman president, who also happens to be of Indian and Sikh ancestry.

The rap singer Kanye West visited the president in the Oval office.  A ten-minute rant/rap praising him was followed by a hug for which Mr. West ran round the wide desk that had been seemingly cleared of all paraphernalia for the performance.  He is one of the eight percent of blacks voting Republican.  Sporting the Trump trademark, Make-America-Great-Again red hat, he claimed it made him Superman, his favorite superhero.  And some suggested it was all further proof the place had gone insane.

A little over three weeks remain to the U.S. midterm elections on November 6th.  Their proximity is evidenced not by rallies or debates rather by the barrage of negative TV ads blasting opponents with accusations of shenanigans almost unworthy of a felon.  A couple of months of this and you lose any enthusiasm for voting.  Perhaps it is one reason why nearly half the electorate stays home.  Given such a backdrop, the furor over ‘Russian meddling’ in elections appears to be a trifle misplaced.  Others call the whole business a ‘witch hunt’ and state flatly the U.S. does the same.

The old idiom, ‘put your own house in order’ is particularly apt when we realize the beginning of this affair  was a Democratic National Committee email leak showing ‘the party’s leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign’.  It resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Always fair, aboveboard elections?  Not bloody likely, as the British would say.  Given the rewards, it’s against human nature.

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