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The Madman approach re-visited

Some are arguing that Trump's unconventional and unpredictable, Twitter-enhanced behaviour regarding international affairs in the early stages of his ascent to the presidency, is not the workings of a madman, or more precisely, not just some random emoting of a spoiled teenage kid who has somehow incidentally found himself at the political scene and doesn't know what to do with his position. They are arguing that it's a well-calculated tactic called the Madman approach, previously employed by Nixon, where he is trying to make himself look dangerously unpredictable in the eyes of America's adversaries (and even the allies).

The purpose is to intimidate everybody into making concessions they wouldn't have made in more "normal" circumstances. Latest example: his reaction about that stolen naval drone, which the Chinese were prompt to return after he tweeted some passive-aggressive remarks that they should "keep it".

It's a risky tactic, granted – especially at a moment when the world has become increasingly volatile, and even the slightest spark could ignite one powder keg or another. And especially given the fact that the US has at least nominally tried to present itself as a balancing factor, a peace-bringer, the one who settles conflicts rather than inflaming them. But I suppose that is not a very sexy way to Make America Great Again, right? I suppose it makes America look meek and cowardly in the eyes of the ultra-patriotic wing, and frankly, a bit boring in its predictability. The revamped Nixon approach, now turned Trump approach of the Madman, might be viewed by some as one that brings a refreshing change of pace, a more direct (and honest?) approach to international relations – as opposed to the more covert, more professional way Obama (and many of his predecessors) conducted their geopolitical games: covert spec ops, relentless nation-building, subtle regime change, influencing foreign societies in a political and economic way, blackmailing world leaders, using corporations as Economic Hit-men to bring lesser countries into submission, and fighting limited-scope undeclared wars (drone strikes, etc).

I'll admit Trump is more calculating than people give him credit for, but he is probably more P.T.Barnum than Nixon. As controversial and hated as he was, it is undeniable that Nixon was also quite brilliant. He had a very high IQ, was well-read, and was an intellectual in his own twisted sort of way (he still was a bastard, granted). Trump is the guy who bullied and manipulated the academic system into passing him along because of who his father was and how much money he had. He has said it outright that with guys like him anything goes, just because they are famous and rich. And now he might take a play or two from the Nixon handbook, but to compare the two would be to compare an intellectual giant and an intellectual midget.

That still doesn't mean he won't excel at copy-pasting Nixon's tactics. It yet remains to be seen how that would work out, of course, but the first signs are already there.

Source: Talk politics.

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