Rationality and Predictability
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Presidents need to engage in a decision-making process which makes sense. Leading a country requires not only management skills but also a personal and public operating style that enables decisions to be implemented effectively. The unexpected is acceptable when it is precisely out of the ordinary, not when the form of decision-making is totally unpredictable and unreliable. Whether one supports an individual decision or not is a completely different question than the actual decision making process.
Decisions must be made in a context. Last week’s events in Washington appear to be part of an irrational pattern of decision making. They ought to be seen as presenting serious considerations for the United States, both domestically and globally.
Responding to the Assad Government’s apparent use of chemical weapons against its own people certainly demonstrated a willingness to respond to an horrific and a tragic attack by Syria. It was especially significant when it was distinguished from Obama’s weak response to Syria in 2012, after his famous “red line” remark—threat of retaliztion–about Syria’s use of sarin gas.
Perhaps even more dramatic was Trump’s turnaround in his attitude towards Russia in general and Putin in particular. The President first sought to implicate Putin in acquiescing to Syria’s use of CBW and then of attempting to weasel out of approving its client’s actions. Furthermore, it appeared that after holding Russia to a much lower standard, Trump turned around and now jumped on Russia’s blatant mischief and interference in U.S. politics.
Within the past several days, Trump suddenly changed his position on the importance of the NATO alliance. Having campaigned and then called out since coming to office about the lack of significance of NATO in a Trump “America First” world, the President now asserted his commitment to the importance of the historical defense alliance.
These actions and others on both the domestic as well as the global front suggest a President who is acting from the hip without sufficient thought or planning. Decisions are being made without demonstrating an appreciation of what such activities mean to not only to America’s enemies but its friends as well. Even work on taxes, infrastructure reform, as well as healthcare cannot be expected to succeed, if Members of Congress recognize that the President has considered all the variables which might affect a possible piece of legislation, for his supporters as well as his detractors.
No nation or politician can and will trust a President who acts impetuously or who is unpredictable. In fact the credibility of the U.S. will only suffer if it is governed by a President who continues to believe he can govern by fiat.