Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Things Don't End Well for Madmen

| Aug. 16, 2017

The president prizes "unpredictability," but history isn't on his side.

Donald Trump has repeatedly emphasized the value of being "unpredictable," and has established a pattern of firing off ill-conceived threats that do make him appear slightly unhinged. His apparent hope is that this sort of behavior will persuade both allies and adversaries will do his bidding, for fear that this irrational and impulsive man will fly off the handle and do something terrible.

In other words, Trump appears to subscribe to the so-called madman theory of diplomacy. The best-known articulation of this idea was by former president Richard Nixon in the context of the Vietnam War....

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For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Things Don't End Well for Madmen.” Foreign Policy, August 16, 2017.

The Author

Stephen Walt