Were the Vietnam war American generals mentally ill? Jervis on power and madness (2021)

by Federico Soldani – 8th Jan 2021

Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, has been considered in the public debate during the past few days, for removal based on “mental health” by applying the 25th Amendment of the Constitution. In the past as well, a psychiatric assessment has been debated publicly, however Trump has not agreed to be interviewed for a mental health assessment to be publicly disclosed, with the exception of a relatively limited cognitive MoCA test by his physician who was allowed public disclosure.  

As written previously in these pages, Trump has been “diagnosed” with an unspecified number of mental labels, from formal, to metaphorical, to informal ones on the media, including so-called social media, over the years, probably too many to count.  Among those: narcissist, pathological narcissist, sociopath, anxious, obsessive, compulsive, paranoid, conspiracy theorist, angry, autistic, etc.

Considerations such as those about Trump, as already written elsewhere in these pages, were made by Harvard psychologist Murray on Hitler. The rhetoric used by Murray about Hitler in 1937 closely resembles the rhetoric used in 2020 about Trump.

More recently, DSM-IV former Chief (DSM is the so-called Bible of U.S. psychiatry, encompassing the full list of mental and behavioral disorders) Dr. Allen Frances, wrote in his book “Twilight of American Sanity: a Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump” (2017): “Trump isn’t crazy. We are.”


About the de-politicizing effects of psychological and medical discourses, it might be relevant to read what the Italian psychiatrist Giovanni Jervis in his ‘Manuale Critico di Psichiatria’ (1975) wrote on the American generals of the Vietnam war:

“It is appropriate to consider with suspicion the theses advanced by certain supporters of anti-psychiatry such as R. D. Laing, when they affirm that the warmongering American generals are more dangerously mad than an individual admitted to a madhouse with a diagnosis of psychosis.

To attribute the behavior of generals or of the imperialists to a sort of monstrous irrationality commonly accepted as normal means not allowing oneself to consider that the logic of war, or of the bomb, or of hunger, is not the result of particular psychological processes, but of a social system which is neither mad nor irrational and simply defends with maximum coherence some vested interests.”


Cite this article as: Federico Soldani, "Were the Vietnam war American generals mentally ill? Jervis on power and madness (2021)," in PsyPolitics, January 8, 2021, https://psypolitics.org/2021/01/08/were-the-vietnam-war-american-generals-mentally-ill-jervis-on-power-and-madness-2021/.

Last Updated on February 20, 2021 by Federico Soldani

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