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New Energy Developments - Part 2 - President Trump May Fall.

Speculation in Washington that the days of President Donald Trump as the US chief executive may be numbered is gathering pace, in view of his behaviour. Among the rising number of signals to this effect is an article by one of the most respected scholars, Prof. Stephen Walt, who calls Trump a "madman", just published in Foreign Policy (FP).

A most prestigious US journal which started up in 1970, FP covers global politics, economics and ideas. It is published bi-monthly in print and daily online by the Slate Group, a division of the Washington Post Co. (See Prof. Walt's article below). Trump sees the US leading the energy world in the future, focusing on crude oil and LNG exports, while OPEC is trying to price American shale oil out of the market.

The only way for OPEC to price the US shale oil out of the market is for it to wage a real market share war affecting every buyer across the globe. Yet it is easier for OPEC states to price each other out than otherwise, with Tehran having over-taken Israel as Riyadh's worst enemy.

The crude oil price war among the OPEC states in 1986 only ended when the spot market price of their most vital export fell to $7/b. That was before August 1986, after Dubai crude oil traded at that level. (For the key aspects of such conflict see Part 1, oed1OpecVsShaleOil3-17July17).

Things Don't End Well For Madmen is the title of Dr Walt's article. Dr Walt is the famed Robert and Renee Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Here are excerpts from this judged most important: "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.

"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. As Nixon explained it to White House Chief of Staff H.R. 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'.

"[I]s there any evidence that this approach actually0x20works0x20in the real world of international diplomacy? If the madman theory were a useful guide to statecraft, then past world leaders with a well-deserved reputation for unpredictability, impulsiveness, irascibility, violence, and bizarre behavior should have beensuccessful at getting what they want". Then Prof Walt gives the following examples:

Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi:0x20"The late Col. Qaddafi was one wacky guy, whose outrageous behaviorleft almost everyone who dealt with him mystified and concerned. He was able to use Libya's oil wealth to cause a certain amount of trouble including a number of acts of state terrorism but what was the end result of Qaddafi's unpredictable behavior?

"He was isolated and friendless by the end of his rule, Libya was a basket case despite its oil riches, strict international sanctions had forced him to abandon his failed attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and he eventually got murdered by a rebel mob. Mad, perhaps; a total failure, most definitely".

Mao Zedong:0x20"Maoled a successful Communist revolution, helped defeat Japan in World War II, and successfully consolidated power after the Chinese Civil War. He also made famously cavalier statements about nuclear war (saying China's vast population would allow it to survive even if hundreds of millions died), and US leaders were genuinely worried about what he might do after China tested its own bomb in 1964. But equally important, Mao was a disastrous leader whose impulsive, unpredictable, self-centered, and ignorant policiescaused the needless deaths of millions of Chinese.

"In the end, Mao's mercurial and unpredictable nature got him nowhere and held the country back for decades".

Idi Amin:0x20"Anyone's list of mad world leaders has to include Amin, whose violent, autocratic and bizarre behavior (such as declaring himself king of Scotland) convulsed Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Unpredictable he certainly was, if not quite mad, but his antics generated no noteworthy international benefits.

"On the contrary, an ill-advised clash with Tanzania led to his deposition in 1979, and he spent the rest of his life in exile in Saudi Arabia".

Saddam Hussein:0x20"In the unpredictable dictator' category, Saddam Hussein is a poster child. He was a ruthless tyrant, used chemical weapons against his own people and against Iran, and started (and lost) two costly wars. He tried to get nuclear weapons but never succeeded, was mostly isolated and mostly friendless in the Arab world, and he eventually got overthrown and executed after the US invasion in 2003.

"Saddam's "unpredictability" never benefited him; in fact, it was one of the reasons hawks used to justify preventive war against him".

Pol Pot:0x20"As leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Pol Pot bears primary responsibility for one of the great mass killings of the post-World War II period. But being brutal, morally depraved, and unpredictable ultimately got him ousted by a North Vietnamese invasion.

"He is alleged to have committed suicide years later, upon learning he was about to be handed over to an international tribunal".

Adolf Hitler0x20"was unpredictable and willing to take enormous risks, and one could even argue that these qualities worked for him for a while. But not for long:

"In the end he ended up dead in a bunker in Berlin and the country he led was divided in two for more than four decades".

The Kim dynasty in North Korea is routinely depicted as ruthless, risk-acceptant, and dangerously irrational. I personally think this characterization is overstated, and much of their behavior has actually been crudely effective at keeping the regime in power. But apart from that limited objective, it is hard to argue that their reputation for unpredictability has advanced North Korea's cause very much.

"The nation is still isolated and poor, while their southern neighbors have become prosperous and respected around the world. Turns out being a successful madman' still has its limits".

Prof. Walt concluded with this: "[T]here is little or no evidence that the madman theory of diplomacy actually works. In particular, leaders with a reputation for being mad or unpredictable haven't been able to cow their opponents or extract valuable concessions from them. They consistently fail instead, often in spectacular fashion.

"And when you think about it, this isn't at all surprising.0x20When other states deal with a powerful but unpredictable leader, they may tread carefully but they aren't going to make big concessions.0x20After all, if a madman is dangerous now, doing anything that makes them more powerful just makes them more dangerous later.

"Appeasement is sometimes a smart diplomatic strategy, but only if one believes that making concessions will remove grievances, reduce suspicions, make the other side more benign, and allow mutually beneficial relations to emerge. That approach is pointless when dealing with an unpredictable madman, however, because one cannot be confident they won't do something bizarre or provocative tomorrow.

"Moreover, unpredictable leaders also fail because they cannot attract or sustain reliable allied support. This problem isn't surprising either; who would want to link their fates to an unpredictable, erratic, and hotheaded partner?

"It's hardly surprising that most of the impulsive leaders discussed above ended up isolated and eventually became the targets of concerted and powerful opposition. And there's a lesson here for President Trump: When a sensible, middle-of-the-road columnist like Gideon Rachman is calling the United States a "dangerous nation", it shows you where having a reputation for being unpredictable leads.

"Finally, madmen fail because they usually aren't good at designing effective long-term strategies or managing the large organizations that make up a modern state. Madmen thrive on chaos, internal divisions,0x20Game of Thrones-style intrigue, and other performance-killing pathologies. All you have to do is compare the George H.W. Bush White House a model of disciplined policymaking with the weird combination of soap opera and court intrigue that exists in the Trump administration to see the handicaps that unpredictable leaders impose.

"The bottom line is clear: Being unpredictable may make sense in sports or poker, or even on a battlefield, but it's a losing strategy for a great nation's foreign policy. All we need to do now is convince our failing president. Good luck with that!"
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Publication:APS Diplomat Operations in Energy Diplomacy
Date:Aug 21, 2017
Words:1482
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