What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractible Doofus Runs an Empire?
Miranda Carter, author of George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, provides gloomy answers. She reports on the characteristics of the third cousin, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm.
particular specialty was insulting other monarchs
convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was “personal diplomacy,”
viewed other people in instrumental terms, was a compulsive liar, and seemed to have a limited understanding of cause and effect.
compulsive speechmaker who constantly strayed off script. Even his staff couldn’t stop him, though it tried
“There is only one person who is master in this empire and I am not going to tolerate any other”
determined to be seen as tough and powerful … surrounded himself with generals (though … he didn’t like listening to them)
“He reads very little apart from newspaper cuttings, hardly writes anything himself apart from marginalia on reports and considers those talks best which are quickly over and done with"
entourage compiled press cuttings for him, mostly about himself, which he read as obsessively … A critical story would send him into paroxysms of fury.
the upper echelons of the … government began to unravel into a free-for-all, with officials wrangling against one another.
changed his position every five minutes.
deeply suggestible and would defer to the last person he’d spoken to or cutting he’d read—at least until he’d spoken to the next person.
"Today one thing and tomorrow the next and after a few days something completely different.” … staff … resorted to manipulation, distraction, and flattery to manage him. “In order to get him to accept an idea you must act as if the idea were his”
… never truly controllable. He asserted his authority unpredictably, as if to prove he was still in charge, staging rogue interventions into his own advisers’ policies and sacking [ministers]members of his administration] without warning.
patronage of the aggressive, nationalistic right left him surrounded by [staff] who held a collective conviction that a … war was inevitable and even desirable.
On the surface, this is Carter’s story about Kaiser Wilhelm and the role he played in starting World War I. But it is deeper and even darker. Go back through my listing of personality characteristics and behaviors and change all “was” to “is” and then me who this is really about.
Carter concludes that “you really don’t want a narcissist in control of a global power.” But we have one.