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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