Worlds Apart

'The United States is on the declining part of the life cycle curve" – Ichak Adizes, author and management consultant

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Robert Mueller conducted an extensive investigation into alleged collusion between candidate Donald Trump and Russia to rig the US Presidential election in 2016. His report, which came out in April 2019, found no evidence either of collusion or of obstruction of justice.

In spite of this, partisan accusations continue to fly and America appears more divided than ever. So what does the Mueller Report and its reception teach us about the state of the American system and the capacity of the democracy to self-correct?

To discuss this, Oksana is joined by Ichak Adizes, author and management consultant who has developed analytical tools to help organisations manage change at various stages in their lifecycle.

Ichak Adizes on RT TV's show, Worlds Apart, hosted by Oksana Boyko.
For Ichak Adizes, the Mueller Report 'is a very good sign of the strength of the American system, because, in spite of all the pressures for him to make Trump dirty as much as possible, he gave a real honest report.'

Oksana Boyko: Hello and welcome to Worlds Apart. The uneventful wrapping up of the Mueller investigation may have cleared the American president of treason and collusion allegations, but certainly not of his critics' determination to get rid of him. Is the American system still capable of anything but settling the ideological scores? Well, to discuss that I'm now joined by Ichak Adizes, a best-selling author and management consultant. Dr. Adizes, it's a great pleasure talking to you in person. Thank you very much for your time.

Ichak Adizes: I'm happy to be here. 

OB: Now as I was watching the coverage of the Mueller report, what struck me is that some people on the American Left seem to be just as traumatized by Trump not being found to be a Russian agent as they were traumatized by him being elected. Did it come as a shocker to you that after all, he is not Putin's puppet?

IA: I don't think that people really believed that he was a Russian puppet.

OB: Come on, look at the coverage.

IA: Listen. Politics is dirty, the  dirty business. So they throw dirt at him but Russian spy - President of the United States… It is so far-fetched that I don't think that real population believe in it. I think that another report is a very good sign of the strength of the American system, because, in spite of all the pressures for him to make Trump dirty as much as possible, he gave a real honest report.

OB: I thought it was also a very interesting window into the American psyche because I mean to us, Russians, the idea that we could somehow, not just influence, but put an American president into the White House, it was absolutely unimaginable. Is the United States really so emotionally volatile as it comes across on the cable channels?

IA: I don't know whether  this is special for America. In any quote-unquote free country there is emotionally volatile. Look at Israel. I mean it is unbelievable. I think what we are experiencing something else. I think that the United States is on the declining part of the life cycle curve. All systems born, grow, age and die. I think United States was at its prime after Second World War, 1950s. When the system is ageing, like a human being or any system, it starts falling apart, and what is happening in America is that we are getting disintegrated.  And the manifestation of the disintegration is a high pitch, very emotional feelings and aggressiveness and the left against the right and there is they cannot cross the aisle.

OB: But if you look at the polls, many of the trends that Trump exemplifies: polarization, economic grievances, they were present in the American Society long before him. For example, polarization started growing in the mid-1990s. Lightest polarization, political polarization, it started really intensifying, almost three decades ago. In 2000s,  it was clear that the economic system was structurally flawed and yet it took another decade for Trump to come on stage and to kind of galvanize all that resentment with the system. Why did it take so long?

IA: Well, in a life cycle, you cannot predict how long something takes, but what we do know, I suggest, he is not the cause of the polarization. he is a manifestation. 

OB: Of course.

IA: And is accelerating it and what I have against Trump is not so much what he is doing, it is how he is doing it. It is causing further disintegration of society and that is very dangerous for America, because what America had as an asset. The real asset of America was not technology, others have it, not many others have it, not size, others have it. It was a culture. The culture of being American. You can be German American,  Jewish American, Polish American, Russian American and working together with mutual trust and respect. That is destroying the most important asset in America.

OB: But that is destroyed not just by Trump, I mean, I think it's very common for many countries to blame your mistakes or failures on somebody else on foreigners, but the whole Mueller probe shows that the liberal establishment exclusively externalises.

IA: It's not the cause. It is the one accelerating it. Look. Let me give you something that is not in your questions. When Bush won by a decision of the Supreme Court, the other guy conceded, no problem. If Trump loses the elections next year, it's going to be riots on the streets, it's not going to go easily. It's going to further break down the country.

OB: But look, you're focusing on Trump, but I find it a little bit unfair because he won more than two years ago and for the last two years we had this investigation which, you know, centred around absolutely improbable charges and yet it took two years for him just to clear his name. Is he, at the end, entitled to a little bit of, you know, grievance and the emotional reaction?

IA: Where is entitled, but being the president, you're not entitled to be emotional. Instead of him saying, “I'm proud of the Mueller report, on the fairness of the plan-report. Integrate the society. What did he say? “It is a shame that I was put under this situation, you know your president had to go through this difficult time.” He's making further breakdown of the society.

The Mueller Report on Trump-Russia collusion. A stack of copies.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election was released on 18 April 2019 by the Department of Justice. Although it found no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, the fact that it was published in a redacted version means that many opponents of the US president continue to question its conclusion.. © Reuters /Carlo Allegri

OB: But if I accuse you of something that you're not guilty of and I accuse you for two years every day, every minute, on national television, I'm sure you would also feel a little bit...

IA: Sure. Really, you have a justification and I'm saying is truly, that gets above it.

OB: Okay, now that the Mueller report established that he is indeed not a Russian agent, do you think the liberal community will find it easier accepting that it was them who lost the 2016 elections, that it was, that Trump indeed is a grassroots American response to their policies over the last couple of years?

IA: I don't think the Liberals will accept anything. I mean in politics, you don't accept, because in politics it's a win-lose relationship.

OB: I just came across an interesting American poll by USA Today which suggested that over 50% of Americans agree with Trump's statement that the Mueller probe was a witch hunt and I think it's an interesting number because it's much larger than his core base, which to me suggests that even those who dislike him are tired and fatigued by this constant drama. Do you think that's a right conclusion? Do you think the Americans are ready, the American public, not the American political class, but the American public is ready to move beyond that?

IA: Definitely. I think the American public is tired of the continuous fighting from the left and the right and accusations back and forth, now accusing the Democrats of anti-semitism, the Democrats accusing him of being corrupt. People are tired. It's not only in America. All over the world, democratic systems, people are tired of politicians, period. They are looking for somebody to be a leader, who is not a politician, and that's what's happening. 

OB: He is not a politician. 

IA: That's why they're electing people that are not politicians, that's the ones that are coming out and that’s dangerous too, because you don't know what you're buying.

OB: You said in one interview that the success of any system is determined by how little is wasted on internal fighting and backstabbing, and by that measure, the United States is clearly more dysfunctional than ever. The question is: can you walk back from that degree of polarization and partisanship?

IA: I don't think so,  because to reverse it, it requires a political power, political will, that does not exist. It is so much polarized that I don't see who is going to be able to unite it to make the change, because the change is much more structural. I think it's much bigger than what we see because we live in a society today where materialistic goals, more economic growth, more economic growth is causing the destruction of the environment. I'm claiming that our standard of living is going up, our quality of life is going down.

OB: Well, for some yes, for others, I'm not quite sure, but I agree that the American model, economic model, is based to a large degree on overconsumption so whenever Trump talks about….

IA: But to change that, to change to society of quality of life, and to change towards not the competitive environment, but the collaborative environment, you're talking about a major change which I don't see happening by itself.

OB: From what I read, that level of political polarization was also present after the Vietnam War and yet both parties in the United States found enough strength in themselves to move towards bipartisanship, partially because they had the Soviet Union as a common enemy, and it was only after the Soviet collapse in the mid-1990s that the rate of polarization started growing up invariably. Do you think the United States can be united without an external threat?

IA: I think it will be disunited even with an external threat.

OB: Seriously...

IA: Because I think you have to understand two things which I don't think the Russians understand: first of all, most of the Americans don't know the difference between Soviet Union and Russia.  For them Russia is the Soviet Union, they are very simplified. Most of Americans has never left America, never travelled outside of America, they don't know. And that is one of the causes that Russia is considered to be an enemy although if you come to Russia, they have a market, they have a stock market, they have private property...

OB: We speak English, we read American literature...

IA: There is no communism, but the average American does not know that. Go to the south of the United States they don't know. Russia is the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union is communism, by definition they're the enemy. The next thing is that we have to understand and I did not say that, Eisenhower say that, he called them very bad names, it's called the industrial military complex. The industrial military complex needs to have an enemy to be able to get budgets, to build aeroplanes, to build the armaments and they are dominating. They need to have an enemy, not Americans need to have an enemy, the industrial military complex needs to have an enemy.

OB: Do I understand you correctly that you believe that regardless of whatever findings Bob Mueller came up with, the relationship between our countries will not change?

IA: The industrial military complex is driving foreign policy because the real enemy for me is not Russia, it is China, but China is a big market. Big market, we will make a deal because it's the business. Business is driving decision making.

OB: Okay, well, Mr. Adizes, we have to take a short break now but we will be back in just a few moments, stay tuned. Welcome back to Worlds Apart with Ichak Adizes, a best-selling author and management consultant!  Dr. Adizes, just before the break we were talking about the crisis of American democracy and I remember that a few years back people liked to talk about the invisible hand of the market and that all led us to the global financial crisis back in 2008. Do you think that maybe this idea that democracy has self-correcting property also needs to be reconsidered? Because generally speaking, when American politicians talk about democracy, they presume that because you have a diversity of opinions, those differences, you know the system may be slow but ultimately, it will produce the best result. Now it seems to be totally paralyzed by partisanship.

IA: I think the idea of a hidden hand, of Adam Smith, that the market corrects itself, is already discredited. Nobody believes in it anymore because the market takes its time to correct itself, by the time the change is so big there is another change, that disrupts the change. I think that the hidden hand today is very clear. What the hand is - it's called government. The government involvement in the economy is so visible, that now, the whole question about free market economy is a big question mark, what it really is. For democracy, the same thing is, it's not self-correcting itself anymore either.

OB: But it's not self-correcting itself in the United States and in the UK which is another major Western democracy which is paralyzed by partisanship, but in other countries, in other Western countries, I think it's working pretty well.

IA: Where?

OB: In Germany, for example, in the Nordic states, it's still functioning pretty well, I mean, they have their disagreements but they have a functioning state, they can still do some sort of policy. My question to you is whether there is something special about the United States and the UK, maybe their historic trajectory, their understanding of democracy, that led them to the point where they are unable to govern?

IA: The rate of change is accelerating. It's not just accelerating:  too many problems coming one after the other. It's also becoming more what's called …it's multidisciplinary, so changes in technology have an immediate response, impact ,on the economy, and the economy on social activities, social activities on legal and political…It's all becoming very complex. Who is going to solve it? It needs something that can shishkebab the multidisciplinary and solve them and it’s the government. And the government is paralyzed, it's a big bureaucracy and who is making the laws? You know, they're making more and more laws so what's happening is a belief by the legal environment they can regulate, but it's becoming more and more bureaucratic. It's more and more paralyzed, that's what's causing. What we really need is to learn how to decentralize self-governing bodies, not governed by the centre, because the centre is paralyzing everything.

OB: I know that you are not a big fan of Donald Trump but since he's having such a big day today, there is, seems to be, a lot of celebrations in the White House. Let me ask you, how would you handle this major victory that he just got with the Mueller Report? Bloomberg described the publication of that report as a major achievement of his presidency so far.

IA: I don't no have a problem with a lot of what he does, I have a problem with how he does it.

OB: But nobody is perfect. I mean he's delivering on the one front, he's failing on another.

IA: Some people are more imperfect than others, you know. So  I'm worried because he's destroying in my judgment the major asset of America which is its culture. What we do changes from president to president, as long as you don't destroy the platform, the base platform.

OB: That platform stopped delivering for the Americans. Wasn't that the reason why he got elected in the first place? Because from Bush to Obama when it comes to the, you know, ordinary Americans, they didn't notice any changes.

IA: The question is why he was elected. That's a different question. I was already alluding to it in my previous answer to your question. The problems are becoming more and more complex, people are looking for Big Papa who is going to say: "Let me solve it for you." And he comes across as very self-confident. I called him seldom right but never a doubt, you know. He knows everything and some people who are simple-minded and there are a lot of simple-minded people in the world, they love that. They feel confident.

OB: But the American economy is growing, isn't that what ultimately matters? He is capable of delivering. I mean he delivered on some of his campaign promise. 

IA: I know, but at what expense. He is destroying the environment, he pulled out of the control of the environment, he is pulling out the protection of the workers at the workplace, at the workplace. He is making a lot of money but at what price to society? We will see.

OB:: In one of your articles you wrote that he is going to be reckless, he will skirt the law, he will violate the Constitution.  I'm sure of that. Didn't the Mueller report prove you wrong? Because not only they cleared him of the collusion charges but they also did not find him guilty of the obstruction of justice.

IA: But he is constantly trying to push the envelope and see how far it goes. He does not accept the envelope. He doesn't accept the... The personality type which I recognize from executives that I know. And he was an executive before, they don't accept boundaries, always try to push the boundaries to see what the limit is. The only question is when is he going to... Look, example. Every week he has another crisis – it was the wall, now after the wall, China, after China, Russia,  after Russia now... The guy does not stop. He likes to, I called him an incendiary, you know. He likes to start fires all the time. I don't know the Mueller reports exonerates him at all. he just survived one accusation. They’re going to be more.

Robert Mueller speaking on television.
On 29 May 2019, Robert Mueller reignited the debate over Trump's innocence by stating: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”  © Reuters /Joshua Roberts

OB: But don't you think that his re-election in 2020 is a little bit more likely today than it was last week?

IA: Yes, because they don't have a good competitor. They don't have. Even Biden doesn't have the energy.  Trump will eat him for breakfast, so there is nobody on the other side that can stand up to him. Because he also lies. And he's capable of saying things which have no basis whatsoever in reality. But he says it is such a confident voice, that simple people accept it.

OB: Now you're alluded to that you have your own classification of leadership and you describe Trump as the "Big E" where E stands for entrepreneurs...

IA: He’s an arsonist, he starts fires all the time.

OB: What does it mean in broader terms? 

IA: The personality of what I call a "Big E" is very creative and he likes to takes risk,  he likes the energy, he likes the excitement. And he is very self-confident, to the point, He surround himself…there are different words in different languages… people who clap hands. If you don't clap hands you are fired. And people who don't challenge him. Look how many people resigned from the White House. How many people cannot work with him? You can only work with him, it's called yes, yes! Bravo! And you lasted that way.  And because of that, because he likes the excitement. Look, he's still running for re-election, from the day he got elected, he is going having still big meetings and he loves big crowds. He always talks about how many people were in the crowd. The guy's an egomaniac.

OB: But that's in itself is not a disqualification for presidency. I mean, there is nothing in the American founding documents that preclude a person like that.

IA: No, but as long as it’s controllable, as long as it’s controllable. It's good to have an engine. I just wrote a letter open letter to Lopez Obrador, the new president of Mexico. I call him the leftist Trump. Tremendous idea, 360 priorities, blah-blah. No holding back, no focusing. It's like a car with a strong engine, good willing, string wheel, but no brakes. That's what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of Trump -  no brakes.

OB: We began this conversation by you stressing the strength of the American institutions. The Americans usually pride themselves on having institutions, that serve not the political leadership but actually the country. Can they still take that for granted especially again in the aftermath of the Mueller investigation? Can they trust the intelligence community to be free of bias?

IA: Trump like Bibi in Israel. All these guys go after all the institutions because institutions are the brakes and they don't like brakes. Trump went after the central bank. He went after the...

OB: But he didn't go after the central bank. He was frustrated and he fired off a couple of tweets but that's not the closing of the central bank. I mean...

IA: You are very forgiving. As a president, he has to know when to speak and when not to speak. I am claiming the higher you go in the hierarchy, the smaller should be your mouth and the bigger should be your ears. He has a big mouth and small ears. This is not good.

OB: Mr. Adizes, I'm not by any means defending Trump. What I'm trying to ask is that sometimes when you have such a polarizing personality, people who may think that subverting the normal procedure is justified. I think that's a particular quality on the left. I mean there are many studies, academic studies, that show that people on the left are particularly intolerant of in a political difference and they may be more prone to defending the system and violating the law in the process. Don't you think that the American institutions, for example the American intelligence, have been subverted by their own efforts to protect America from Trump?

IA: Maybe, but you know we don't have enough evidence. He's accusing everybody. Look, he's like your Stalin. If you are not for me, you are against me.

OB: But come on! Stalin killed people in their millions, seriously?

IA: I'm talking about personality. The personality is that you're either for me or against me. The danger is that he's not saying: "It's okay, so you disagree with me. Let's have a dialogue, what you disagreeing about. What I can learn from your disagreement." That's not his style. Not only him. All these people that have that personality style, as I said, they're very convincing in their own legend, in their own opinion. Seldom right but never in doubt. And that were the difficulty is. When you go after the CIA and the FBI and the secretary of justice and the central bank and, and... Who is left? That is not healthy. It is accelerating the disintegration of the American society. That's my problem.

Donald Trump standing with hand outstretched.
For Ichak Adizes, Donald Trump's style of leadership is undermining America's biggest asset - a culture of trust. © Reuters /Jonathan Ernst

OB: How do you think it will all, I don't want to say end...What do you think it will all lead to? What kind of leadership style will the Americans looking towards to after Trump leaves the scene, whether it is in 2020 or 2024?

IA: This is, you know, very difficult to predict. But he's going to be re-elected. He will be re-elected in 2020, I believe. And if he doesn't get re-elected we're going to have riots, going to be a very difficult time in America in 2020. Because I'm not going to accept it. He's not the type to walk and lose. He's not a loser. He says: I will accept the vote as long as I win. Which means: if I don't win, I don't accept the vote.

OB: Well, Mr. Adizes, we had a leader like that, Boris Yeltsin, who opened fire at the Parliament with almost 200 people killed. And the American President Bill Clinton called him the next day and said nothing about the victims and supported him at the next presidential elections. So, I mean, we Russians know how it feels. But we also know that sometimes it's good to have what Americans call humble pie, to eat humble pie. Do you think the Americans need that moment of humility when they are humiliated by their own leadership and understand? 

IA: Humility by the leadership, no. I think we need a leader that integrates us. Obama was such. But he totally got discredited by Trump with, err,  endless... Because it's opposite personality totally.

OB: Wasn't he also discredited by his own policies? For example, his Libyan intervention and the destruction of the whole country.

IA: Sure, he made his own mistake.He made a mistake. He made a mistake, no question about it.

OB: But that mistake is much bigger than anything Trump has done yet.

IA: We'll see. I think we will need that, but I don't think we are going to get it. Look, the system calls for his leader. When the system is growing, the leader leads the people. When the system is ageing the people leave the leader. The society gets the leader it deserves because we are here. We are going to elect the next guy, we're going to break us down for them.

OB: Well, this is not a very inspiring note but we have to leave it there. I really appreciate...

IA: I'm not very optimistic.

OB: Well, let's hope for the best.

IA: Thank you!

OB: Thank you very much for your time! I encourage our viewers to keep this conversation going on our social media pages and hope to see you again. Same place, same time here on Worlds Apart.

 

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