Some statesman, such as Pericles and Themistocles, had it. Most others, such as the often brilliant and charismatic but impulsive Alcibiades, usually did not.
"Foresight" in crisis means sizing up a nation's assets and debits, then maximizing advantages and minimizing liabilities. The leader with foresight, especially in times of irrational despair, then charts a rational pathway victory.
Such crisis leaders do not fall into panic and depression when the media shouts "Catastrophe!" Nor do they preen when the same chorus screams "Genius!" in times of success.
The English poet
Some American military leaders -- such as Gens.
During the Civil War,
In World War II,
Churchill was assured that
Churchill foresaw that the economies of those future allies would be far superior to those of the Axis. And Churchill grasped all this even as defeat loomed and some in his own party were calling for him to negotiate with
Roosevelt promised victory not because he knew it would be quick, but because he calculated that if he just made the right choices, the ensuing advantages of the
Even in the first bleak days of the war, FDR kept reminding the nation why and how America would win. That confidence was not based on fantasies but on rational calculation and justified optimism.
In the present crisis of the coronavirus, what will determine the effectiveness of
Rather, Trump will win or lose on whether he has strategic foresight. If he panics and keeps the country locked down for too long, we will go into depression that will cost more lives than the virus. But if Trump prematurely declares victory and urges Americans to rush back to normal life, he may reboot the virus and reignite another cycle of panic.
Instead, Trump will have to possess the confidence to see how the world's greatest economy, greatest medical talent, greatest military and greatest energy and food production can all be marshaled in a symphonic fashion. That correct formula could fend off a potentially biblical plague without destroying the largest economy in history.
If Trump exhibits such cunning and wisdom, then he can balance the consensus of his medical experts that the virus is existentially dangerous with the warnings of his economic advisers that shutting down a multitrillion economy can become even more ruinous -- and lethal -- for Americans.
Like Churchill, Trump must have the right information but also the instincts to determine which expert advice is suspect and which is inspired, and which orthodox recommendation is wrong and which unorthodox alternative is right.
Do that, and Trump can defeat the virus, save the economy and turn a disaster into a collective American victory over both infection and depression.
Such foresight can also remind the nation never again to outsource key industries to