Not Saussure

September 22, 2006

Back us or we’ll bomb you (II): the madman theory

Filed under: Iran, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 6:32 pm

Garry, at A Big Stick and a Small Carrot, wonders why Musharraf has gone public about American threats to ‘bomb Pakistan into the stone age’ if he didn’t support the invasion of Afghanistan; as Garry writes,

There is some suggestion that the General is pitching this at domestic opinion in Pakistan but I can’t see how that holds together. Musharraf’s rule in Pakistan is shaky and he does have problems with Islamists but how would this statement help him? I don’t know a great deal about Pakistani domestic political situation but I’m fairly sure that this won’t. He’s effectively saying “yes, I agreed to help the US government but only because they threatened to bomb us”.

I wonder whether he may not have said this at the behest of the US, with an eye to the effect on Tehran. There’s a precedent for this in US diplomacy, the so-called madman theory apparently employed by Richard Nixon, who supposedly told Robert Haldeman

“I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

On this reading, the US is concerned to convince Tehran that, despite the widely-held view that an attack on Iran makes no sense whatseover — alluded to in another of Garry’s posts — Bush is crazy enough not to let a little thing like that stop him.

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1 Comment »

  1. That’s an interesting point.

    I do sometimes wonder if the Bush administration follow the madman theory. If they do, I’d have to say they’re doing a fantastic job. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced it’s ultimately an act. I tend to agree with the Colonel that what we’re seeing now is mostly about laying the groundwork for airstrikes.

    Of course, if they were pursuing the madman theory, that’s exactly what they’d want us to believe. It’s enough to make a person dizzy, so it is.

    What swings it for me though is that this sort of bluff would take intelligence, skill and competence. That’d certaibly be a radical departure for the Bush administration, particulary when it comes to foreign policy.

    Comment by Garry — September 22, 2006 @ 11:35 pm


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