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Madman Theory

One of the strongest brand clamping down on our nation is Trump. Trump has been tremendously successful at imposing himself as the craziest and most bizarre ‘the Madman’ on the block. In late 2017, Trump told the U.S. trade representative, “You tell [the South Koreans] if they don’t give the concessions now, this crazy guy will pull out of the deal (U.S.-Korea free trade agreement),” and this is not the only time he’s done so. This reminds us of the Nixon-era “madman theory,” used to daunt the other players by showing extreme recklessness that would result in the worst case scenario for all the parties involved.  At the end of the Vietnam War, Nixon played the same strategy. He told Henry Kissinger, the national security advisor, to imply that he is not afraid to use nuclear weapons. Similar to Nixon, Trump wrote to Tillerson that the Secretary of the State is wasting his time trying to negotiate with ‘Little Rocket Man.’ It has come down to a point where even the Americans are fearing for what he might or will do.

In the light of Game Theory, Trump is actually bringing the best result for the United States. North Korea, fully aware of Trump’s recklessness, can assume, with confidence, what decision Trump is going to make. To avoid the worst case scenario, the full blown-out nuclear war, that might jeopardize the whole peninsular, North Korea will step down in their negotiations to find nash equilibrium, the best response to Trump’s decisions. Trump has successfully penetrated the North Korean regime by taking on the invariable stance that forces a decision for North Korea. This is an extremely calculated move, taking account that North Korea’s decision is sorely made by its dictator, rather than its council. Though Kim Jung-Un has a council to assist with when making decisions, ultimately, the fate of the country is left at the mercy of the dictator’s mouth.

However, the article suggests that this is an extremely risky move to pull off to a country with nuclear weapon. In Nixon’s case, Vietnam did not have a nuclear weapon, while the U.S. had the means and the full potential to trigger the nuclear weapon at any time. This case was a little different; the North Korea is apt to use nuclear weapons at any time too. However, I believe Trump is not playing this game as a nation to nation, but as a man to man. Trump has shown an attitude that his personal losses are not affected, no matter which end-game for the two nations is. He is the 45th president of the United States. However, everything at Kim Jung-Un has is at stake. This is not a Prisoner’s Dilemma, but a Hawk-Dove model. The optimal choice for the little man here is to let Trump run over him, where he will lose diplomatically to some extent, but keep his ‘little’ kingdom.


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September 2018