2017/04/11

'Crazy, erratic leader' deterrence and Syria

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After a while of thinking about what Trump did in Syria I gave his team (not him) the benefit of a doubt and came to a possible explanation.

He did not tweet much about the strike, which makes it look a bit deliberate (though deliberation was likely a mere hours long).
He may play the 'crazy, erratic leader' deterrence play that the Kims of North Korea have been playing since the end of the Cold War.

The military strike makes Trump and his staff incalculable for future conflict, and thus creates some deterrence effect in itself. This is, unless it was agreed-on in advance with Putin*; in this case at the very least Putin would not be deterred from anything by the bombing.

I don't think Trump even only understands the concept of deterrence in its variations and details. He would only create 'crazy, erratic leader" deterrence by accident (or rather nature), but someone on his staff may have come up with it through actual thinking (though I don't think it was McMaster).


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*: Which by now is a conspiracy theory or rumour only, though somewhat plausible considering the marginal destructiveness of the strike. The use of gas may have been unauthorised by Assad and the bombing an agreed-on scheme to save face and score points with the hawkish U.S. media plus it distracts from ongoing scandals and domestic failures.
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7 comments:

  1. Sorry but I believe you're over-thinking the response. Trump was having a really bad week and he lashed out at a socially acceptable target. I suspect this is the beginning of a trend. To make matters worse, the media rewarded him for it. Personally, it makes me ill.

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  2. It is a rather complicated matter. I think that maybe it seemed like a surprise because of the demonstrated lack of resolve shown during the previous administration. Setting up a "red line" that Obama wasn't ready to back up was one of the biggest political mistakes that he had done. He was bluffing and got caught. This had a tangible effect on the credibility of USA.
    I think Trump was kind of forced on this issue because another failure to react to the crossing of the previously established "red line", even if he wasn't the one who established it, would have only solidified the perception of untrustworthiness of the Americans words.

    I can't say that I approve of the illegal nature of such a strike, but I can't completely condemn it either, due to the circumstances surrounding it.

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    1. The previous president didn't want to violate the law and asked Congress to authorise instead of breaking the law by ordering an unauthorised attack. Congress refused.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/world/middleeast/syria.html
      http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/07/politics/kfile-top-republicans-syria-trump/

      Obama wasn't really caught bluffing; his (dilettantish) red line was crossed (likely not intentionally by Assad, but by a subordinate), and the chemical agents fixation was used to have huge amounts (originally believed to be practically all) chemical agents eliminated. That's what counts as great diplomatic success in most parts of the world.
      I understand "hawks" (warmongers) are not happy about such war-avoiding successes.

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  3. Well, his "thought processes" seem to have a half-life of francium, so he pretty much has "erratic" nailed. And he's so poorly-informed and impulsive that if he's not actually "crazy" if might well look that way from the outside.

    But...this presupposes that this is an INTENTIONAL ploy to use his thoughtless impulsiveness as a tool. But given the unpredictability I think it would be difficult to actually USE this. Well, other than as a sort of generic "look out for that Trump, boyhowdy is he a fucking nut!" kind of thing.

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    1. Well, that's the point. He's a black box to most if not everyone outside the WH and certain Trump Tower Apartments, maybe also Kremlin.

      Economists speak of a "risk premium" in interest rate theory; an increase of the interest rate of loans due to perceived risk. This risk premium now also exists on foreign policy actions and great power games by other countries. They cannot 'calculate' the consequences, so every action that might trigger some hostile response from Trump looks less attractive (more expensive) now.

      I don't think he or anyone of his staff really thinks about this (or knows writings about deterrence or what a risk premium is), but I don't know for sure because it's a black box to me now.

      The supposed "dealmaker" certainly failed to make a deal on this issue, even though Obama had done one in a near-identical situation. He fell way short of making a better, great, yuuge deal at this opportunity.

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    2. I can't really agree with the theory that Trump is that unpredictable. Yes, he is in the details, but he is surprisingly predictable in overall patterns.

      Make stuff up on the fly to support his arguments, lie to cover up the inevitable mistakes, when challenged do the following:

      1. Change the topic
      2. Launch repeated frontal attacks, eroding everybody's credibility
      3. Never admit that he was wrong
      4. Never let anybody else be the center of attention for more than a couple of minutes 5. Go back to #1

      That all.

      I don't know what he is like when things are running smoothly because things never seem to go smoothly for him.

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  4. I really don't get all the hate on Trump. Especially the insults on his intelligence. His personality might seem bufoonish, but in all the in-depth interviews I've seen with him (including the older ones, e.g. with Oprah), he comes across as very smart, controlled and knowledgeable to me. Up until now he doesn't seem worse than e.g. Bush II or Obama (who was a huge warmonger, and I'm not an Anti-Obamite).

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