March 02, 2017

The Upside of Geopolitical Unpredictability and unpredictability in negotiations

Dr. Peter Viggo Jakobsen is an Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Defence College and a Professor (part-time) at the Center for War Studies at University of Southern Denmark. Jakobsen makes the case that some unpredictability is good.

Jakobsen is discussing the claims that Trump is just crazy. Jakobsen says he is crazy like a fox.

Making allies pick up more of the burden and forcing opponents to think twice about provocation

Paradoxically, Trump’s tweets and the theatrics are most likely to enhance world peace. They create unpredictability and anxiety that the United States can use to obtain greater concessions from friends and foes. It is admittedly still early days, but all indications are that Trump will succeed in coercing his allies in both Asia and Europe to increase their defense spending significantly. Few of them will reach 2 percent of GDP in the next year or two, but he has set in motion a process that will make most allies spend far more much faster than they otherwise would have. His unpredictability is also an asset in America’s dealings with its opponents such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. They will all need to think twice about provoking the United States and its allies militarily because they have no way of calculating how President Trump will react. Neither friends nor foes can be certain that Trump will not do something that a rational cost-benefit calculating actor would not. U.S. allies used to regard American threats to withdraw its forces as bluff because the costs of doing so would be prohibitive, and the same logic has induced American opponents to engage in military risk-taking with little fear of U.S. military retaliation. With Trump in the White House, this logic no longer applies. This is good news because the likely result is strengthened U.S. alliances and U.S. opponents that are more likely to favor negotiation over provocation in their efforts to settle differences with the United States and its allies.

Trump has made a crucial difference by completely changing the debate on defense spending in allied capitals, significantly strengthening the hands of the proponents of increased defense spending in allied governments. The 2016 IHS Jane’s Defence Budgets Report consequently expects European NATO allies and partners such as Finland and Sweden to boost their defense spending by about $10 billion over the next five years.



Journal of Experimental Social Psychology - The advantages of being unpredictable: How emotional inconsistency extracts concessions in negotiation

► Emotional inconsistency and unpredictability make recipients comply in negotiation.
► Emotional inconsistency induces recipients to concede more than express anger.
► This effect occurs because recipients feel less control.
► Emotional inconsistency was manipulated by alternating between emotions

Harvard has writings about Diplomatic Negotiations: The Surprising Benefits of Conflict and Teamwork at the Negotiation Table

Madman Theory

In 1517, Machiavelli had argued that sometimes it is "a very wise thing to simulate madness" (Discourses on Livy, book 3, chapter 2). In Nixon's Vietnam War, Kimball argues that Nixon arrived at the strategy independently, as a result of practical experience and observation of Dwight D. Eisenhower's handling of the Korean War.

The Nixon administration employed the "madman strategy" to force the North Vietnamese government to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.[3] Along the same lines, American diplomats, especially Henry Kissinger, portrayed the 1970 incursion into Cambodia as a symptom of Nixon's supposed instability.[4]


The United States spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on defense, or $664 billion annually, the alliance leader in both measures according to NATO figures. Britain, the runner-up in dollar terms, spends $52 billion, or 2.2 percent. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Tuesday that Washington’s allies in Europe and Canada increased their defense spending by 3.8 percent last year, or $10 billion, which is greater than originally expected.

Germany has lagged on defense spending as its economy has consistently grown in recent years. That has made it a primary target of U.S. efforts for a spending turnaround. Germany now spends 1.2 percent of its annual economic output, or $39 billion. To make it to NATO guidelines would require a $36 billion ­annual increase.

German leaders have committed to reaching that level by 2024, although many officials say privately that they see it as unrealistic. An increase of that level would require a radical reorientation of the country’s complicated relationship with its military. Many Germans grew up shunning the armed forces in the aftermath of World War II. Only 22 percent of Germans say they believe they can trust the United States as a partner, according to a poll released this month by German public television. That is down from 59 percent in November.





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