Bergen: Coronavirus crisis underlines eight of Trump's failings as a leader

Experts Mar 02, 2020

Bergen works for CNN. He wrote an opinion piece about Coronavirus crisis and Trump's response available here (archive). Most of this story doesn't really stand out to me. It's composed of slurs not arguments. But, I want to highlight something that Mr. Bergen seems to miss.

[His second failing:] He always believes he knows more than the experts about any given subject. During his presidential campaign, for instance, Trump said he knew more about fighting ISIS than the generals leading the fight, an absurd claim since Trump had avoided military service in Vietnam and his knowledge of ISIS and the Middle East was no deeper than the average newspaper reader.

He's almost self-aware. People don't trust the experts, anymore. The experts said Iraq had WMDs. The experts told us about the dangers of H1N1 (remember that one?). Following the experts is what led to ISIS rising in 2013 and 2014, in the first place.

That's the problem, the experts face no issue with being wrong. They can continue to be wrong. And, they have a vested interest in being wrong. The experts in terrorism would fade into obscurity if terrorism were to end. Think about it for a second: if ISIS were to be cut off completely, who would suffer? The people that make their living talking about it. Those that make their living selling intel and defense services.

We have a crisis of trust in the United States right now. What Mr. Bergen points out is something many people like about the President. He doesn't trust the experts. We've had presidents that trust the experts for decades and certain situations never got better. Maybe the experts are incompetent, maybe they don't want it to get better. At this point, it doesn't matter, all that matters is that trust has deteriorated.

The purpose of the scientific is to test hypotheses. If a hypothesis doesn't pass the test it must be changed. I think many people would agree with me when I say much of the policy guided by "experts" hasn't been thoroughly tested. And, when it is tested it never leads to a "we were wrong, this should work better" situation. Where is the scrutiny? Ideas are meant to be tested. If we can't question and test the ideas and assumptions there is no reason to assume they're correct.

If the testing process isn't being followed how can people be expected to trust experts? When there are no consequences for being wrong, how can people be expected to trust experts? When we can point out many times that experts have been wrong, how can be expected to trust experts? The expert label is a pejorative in many circles which Mr. Bergen seems to not realize.

Oh, and ISIS? ISIS came to prominence in 2013 and 2014 (timeline). They started seizing territory in multiple countries. There was more push back in 2016 and Iraq almost recaptured Mosul. And, in January of 2017 (when President Trump was inaugurated) there was an attack in Germany and ISIS players arrested in Austria, Philippines, Arizona, Istanbul, Egypt, etc. By December of 2017, ISIS had lost all the claimed territory with less than 1,000 fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria. Now, they might be biding their time. But, whatever happened during President Trump's first year seems to have gone well.