Under narcissist presidents, wars waged by the US have lasted longer

Under narcissist presidents, wars waged by the US have lasted longer
Under narcissist presidents, wars waged by the US have lasted longer
14 September, 17:02PoliticsPhoto: Jeff Mitchell/Reuters
Narcissistic presidents set themselves grander military goals. Aggressiveness and excessive confidence in their own abilities are pushing them to this.

The Journal of Conflict Resolution published a study by Ohio State University political scientists who studied the relationship between the personality traits of US presidents and the duration of the wars that were fought during their reign, reports phys.org. The researchers studied 19 presidents who served from 1897 to 2009, from the time the United States became a great world power to the reign of George W. Bush.

The eight presidents who scored above average on narcissism fought an average of 613 days. The 11 presidents who scored below average on narcissism averaged 136 days of war. This pattern persisted even when taking into account many other factors that could affect the duration of wars. “More narcissistic presidents tend to end wars only when they can claim victory. They continue to fight until they win at least something, the researchers explain. “They want to appear heroic, strong, competent – even if that means the war will go on longer than is reasonable”.

To measure the level of narcissism, the researchers used a dataset created in 2000 to assess the personalities of US presidents. It was compiled using information obtained from polls of historians and political scientists: each of them answered more than 200 questions about the president, in whose study he is an expert. The authors of a new study analyzed aspects of the character of 19 presidents associated with narcissism: an exaggerated sense of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, a lack of modesty, and an inability to empathize with the feelings of other people. Lyndon Johnson scored the highest on the narcissism scale, followed by Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. The least narcissistic were William McKinley, Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge.

War in the study was defined as prolonged fighting between two countries in which at least 1,000 people died in a single year. According to this definition, the United States was involved in 11 wars during the study period.

It turned out that presidents who scored low on narcissism, such as McKinley and Dwight Eisenhower, "separated their personal interests from public interests, considered war as the last resort and sought to end it as soon as possible". At the same time, narcissistic presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Nixon "had difficulty separating their own needs from the interests of the state" and were involved in protracted wars during their reigns.

There are several scientifically sound reasons why narcissistic presidents fight long wars. In addition to focusing on their own personal interests, this is the grandiosity of military goals: due to their own aggressiveness and self-confidence, narcissists are above expectations. In addition, in an effort to maintain their inflated self-esteem at all costs, stressed narcissists often make mistakes and hold on to them despite setbacks. “Narcissistic presidents spend more time looking after their image than other presidents”, - the researchers say. “The desire to maintain their inflated self-esteem leads them to drag out wars longer than necessary”.

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