Bad or mad?

trump_balloonIt is said that we should not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. But there comes a point where it hardly matter. When the harm being done is severe and possibly irreparable, whether or not there is malicious intent becomes a point of academic interest only.

There may be a considered strategy behind Trump’s efforts to sow disorder wherever he goes. When he simultaneously praises and castigates other Nato members, for example, this may be a quite deliberate ploy to cause confusion and disarray as those he regards as adversaries argue amongst themselves over different interpretations of his comments. Trump can then play the disputing parties off against one another and ensure that there is no unified opposition to his plans.

The purpose of rules is to make behaviour predictable. Large complex societies would rapidly descend into chaos if individuals and groups constantly had to wonder how other individuals and groups were going to act and react. By throwing away the diplomatic rule book, Trump puts others off-balance, making them easier to topple. He may sincerely believe that the best way to remake the world in the idealised image of his business empire is to first smash the existing world order. Or he may simply be incapable of understanding the value of rules.

As I have noted elsewhere, Trump may not be a clever man. But he is possessed of a conscienceless animal cunning such as might allow even a person of low intellect to survive and prosper in business and, apparently, US politics. He is a quintessential bully who acquires the sensation and superficial appearance of strength by placing himself in opposition to weakness.

Trump’s erratic conduct and evident disdain for protocol may have a Machiavellian purpose. On the other hand, it may just be the boorish, blundering, bullying behaviour of a ‘baby blimp’ incarnate. Either way, he is dangerous.


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The hyena’s view

hyenaI smiled at the reference to Theresa May’s “Chequers Brexit compromise plan“. Whether or not it is accurate to call it a “compromise” is open to debate. The term has overtones of a strong negotiating position which are inappropriate. It suggests that May has a range of options. It implies that she’s in a position to play a game of give and take. In reality, what came out of the Chequers meeting was, not so much a compromise negotiating position, more a reluctant and partial acknowledgement of how little scope for negotiation the UK Government has. It was a compromise only in the sense of hubristic delusion seeking an accommodation with harsh reality.

But it was the word “plan” which provoked most amusement. What was set out in the statement issued after the Chequers meeting doesn’t amount to a plan. We might call it a wish-list, but for the fact that the list contains so many things that are unwanted by and/or unacceptable to so many of the parties whose agreement is essential if the “plan” is to mean anything at all.

When Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell gave the ‘Chequers Accord’ a cautious welcome as showing some signs of a dawning appreciation of reality, I suspect what they had in mind was the final paragraph of the statement which pretty much accepts that the “plan” is going to fail. It is just so characteristic of the whole Brexit shambles that a document which purports to set out a firm negotiating position concludes by making it clear that nothing is firm at all. The list of demands is immediately followed by a declaration of readiness to retreat from those demands, or abandon them completely.

Donald Trump sees this. He is not a clever man. He is, however, possessed of a conscienceless animal cunning such as might allow even a person of low intellect to survive and prosper in business and, apparently, US politics. He is a quintessential bully who acquires the sensation and superficial appearance of strength by placing himself in opposition to weakness. He would not be where he is did he not have an unerring instinct for weakness in others. When Trump evidently regards the British political elite with the casual contempt of a predator for its prey, that is an assessment we can trust.


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