In an op-ed for Foreign Policy this Wednesday, Micah Zenko writes that in light of what we know about President Trump’s response to early warnings about the impending coronavirus pandemic, his dismissals amount to the biggest intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
“In short, the Trump administration forced a catastrophic strategic surprise onto the American people,” Zenko writes. “But unlike past strategic surprises—Pearl Harbor, the Iranian revolution of 1979, or especially 9/11—the current one was brought about by unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence.”
According to Zenko, the worst characteristics of Trump’s leadership is what allowed the intelligence failure to happen. One example is Trump’s unwillingness to accept information that conflicts with his own worldview. Another is the fact that Trump’s “judgments are highly transmissible, infecting the thinking and behavior of nearly every official or advisor who comes in contact with the initial carrier” — a problem that’s compounded by the fact that Trump surrounds himself with people who “look, think, and act like he does.”
Thanks to Trump’s early conclusion that the coronavirus posed a minimal threat, Zenko writes that there probably wasn’t much his top advisors could have done to convince him otherwise.
“The White House detachment and nonchalance during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak will be among the most costly decisions of any modern presidency,” Zenko writes. “These officials were presented with a clear progression of warnings and crucial decision points far enough in advance that the country could have been far better prepared.”
Read his full analysis over at Foreign Policy.