VIDEO – To hasten the end of the Vietnam War, US President Richard Nixon had developed the "madman's theory" which consisted in making his adversary believe that we were ready to do anything to push him to capitulate.
The war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has gone so far as to raise the ultimate threat of nuclear attack. Wednesday, a day before the 72nd birthday of theNagasaki atomic attack, which precipitated Japan's surrender in 1945, the US Supreme Commander raised the possibility of using nuclear fire against Pyongyang, although he added that he hoped not to have to use it.
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“North Korea had better not make any more threats to the United States. She will come up against fire and fury, as the world has never seen before,” said Donald Trump, then on vacation at his Bedminster golf course in New Jersey. Strong words which, as noted by the British magazine The Spectator , are reminiscent of those employed by US President Harry Truman after the launch of the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945: “It is the mastery of the fundamental power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its energy has been released to attack those who brought the war to the Far East”.
Reacting to Trump's verbal escalation, Pyongyang on Thursday confirmed its intention to fire four ballistic missiles toward the American island of Guam, a “warning to the United States”, declared the North Korean official agency KCNA which affirms that a “meaningful dialogue is not possible with such a guy who has lost his mind”.
Richard Nixon, the father of the “madman theory”
The magazine The Spectator and other media US raise the possibility that Donald Trump was inspired by the "madman theory" invented in 1968 by newly elected President Richard Nixon, inspired by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, to end the Vietnam War . Nixon explained to his other adviser, Bob Haldeman: “I call it the madman theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I have reached the point where I could do anything to end the war. We'll get the word out to them, “For God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed with communism. We can't control him when he's angry, and this man has his hand on the detonator.” And Ho Chí Minh himself will be in Paris within two days, begging for peace”.
Feign madness, exasperation, irrationality to bend your opponent. A risky bet when the nuclear balance is at stake. "Donald Trump has been playing since the beginning of his mandate on his unpredictability, which can be very useful", comments the geopolitical scientist Hadrian Desuin, but “Donald Trump has nothing to do with Richard Nixon, who was cultured, very shrewd and a great strategist. From this point of view, Donald Trump has much less need to play crazy than his predecessor.
“No military solution in North Korea”
The other difference is the nature of the conflict. "Donald Trump has no military solution to North Korea, he cannot go beyond gesticulation," explains General (2S) Jean-Bernard Pinatel, who believes that the American president, by his language, is addressed above all to the Americans, to make people forget the setbacks of its domestic policy. “What can he do? A preemptive strike? North Korea now has 10 to 20 nuclear weapons, small enough to reach South Korea or Japan, or even Guam Island. There is of course the anti-missile shield, but if he asks his staff: 'what are the guarantees?', his general officers will answer him that there is no such thing as zero risk in military matters. Can he risk North Korean retaliatory strikes that could kill a million in Seoul or Tokyo? I don't think so,” says Jean-Bernard Pinatel. A different situation from that of Richard Nixon who, in December 1972, had dropped more than 15.000 tons of bombs in eleven days on North Vietnam to illustrate his “crazy theory”.
"I do not believe in the irrationality of the North Korean regime, which knows perfectly well that all players in the region have no interest in the status quo changing and which knows that Donald Trump can hardly attempt a preemptive strike, feared by both South Korea and Japan,” adds Hadrien Desuin.
China in the US sights
It is not impossible that by using the "crazy theory", Donald Trump is also indirectly addressing China, a historic ally of the Pyongyang regime. A possibility mentioned The Spectator “It's a very risky approach, given the involvement of nuclear power, but it seems to be working. At the United Nations last week, the Chinese delegation voted increasing sanctions against North Korea and, on the same day that Donald Trump promised 'fire and fury', the People's Republic's foreign secretary confirmed that China was willing to 'pay the price' to bring its turbulent ally completely under control. China seems to have listened to Donald Trump's message when he said on Twitter: 'I am very disappointed with China'”. An influence of Washington on China that General Pinatel does not recognize, who believes that Beijing is not fooled by Donald Trump's game. And all the more so since "despite their alliance, North Korea does not obey China, as if Beijing could simply snap its fingers", explains to the review Conflicts , Dorian Malovic, co-author with Juliette Morillot, of North Korea in 100 questions, who adds that “North Koreans are very attached to their autonomy”.
For Richard Nixon, the “crazy theory” ended up bearing fruit in Vietnam, since the Paris Peace Accords, signed in 1973, allowed the armistice and the withdrawal of the American contingent. Only partly, because after the departure of the United States, the Vietnamese People's Army launched a series of attacks at the beginning of March 1975. The fall of Saigon, on April 30, led to the victory of the Communist government of Hanoi and the reunification of the country under the aegis of the North. A setback for Washington which Nixon will not attend as President of the United States since he resigns on August 9, 1974, to escape dismissal, following the Watergate scandal.