Two Kinds Of Madmen

The precipitous and dangerous drama still unfolding between the United States and North Korea, essentially between Dim and Kim, was entirely predictable, for those of us who know how mentally unstable and sadly insecure Tr-mp is. And now that we are fairly confident that the North Koreans are farther along the path to being a nuclear power with ICBMs than most experts had previously estimated (funny how intelligence reports are not questioned by Tr-mp these days), the situation comes down to the decisions of two alleged madmen and whether one or the other or both will be restrained by reason.

For the purpose of this post, I want to define two kinds of madness that I believe is infecting the minds of the men who fate, or a nasty God, has put in charge of weapons of mass destruction. First there is Tr-mp. No need to go on at length about what ails him. His mental challenges have been discussed endlessly here and everywhere (see this 9-minute segment, “Real Doctors Diagnose Tr-mp”). One prominent psychologist, John Gartner, has pronounced him a “paranoid psychopathic narcissist,” for instance. But even if you are inclined to think that such a professional diagnosis is too wild in this case, you have to admit that you really don’t need a PhD to see that Tr-mp’s day-to-day behavior reveals some kind of severely disordered mind. That’s clear to even many of his followers, who seem to like that aspect of his personality, even if they call it something like “unpredictability.”

Then there is Kim Jong-un. If you have followed the news the last several days, you have seen or heard many people try to assess the mental state of Kim. Is he sane? Is he a madman? Is he a rational actor? The fact that no one seems to know for sure is what makes this drama so dumb and dangerous. Tr-mp himself told Philippine President Duterte that Kim “could be crazy.” If so, why tempt him to act on his craziness? Why talk like a middle-school bully and put the lives of millions at risk? What if Ivanka or Tr-mp’s two creepy older sons were living in Seoul? Would he tempt Kim with stupid bluster?

Back in April, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked chief of staff John Kelly (he was Secretary of Homeland Security at the time), “Do you think Kim Jong-un is mentally unbalanced?” Kelly said:

Oh, heck, I don’t know. He seems like someone who knows what he’s doing. I mean, clearly, the number one thing in his mind is to remain in power. I think in the dynamic of a dictatorship like that, he’s got to do that by convincing everyone around him—first of all holding them all in stark terror—and convincing everyone around him that he’s a strong man and is willing to stand up, and all the rest of the rhetoric. I think the only way to decide whether he’s insane or not is to lay him down on the couch and have a battalion’s worth of psychiatrists talk to him and figure it out.

So, Kelly says Kim “knows what he’s doing” but isn’t sure if he’s sane or insane. Okay, then. That clears that up.

Our relatively weak Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has his opinion, which, also in April, he offered to Fox “News”:

All indications…by intelligence agencies, and there have been a number of independent psychologists who have done analysis as best they can, all indications are that he is not crazy. He may be ruthless. He may be a murderer. He may be someone who in many respects we would say by our standards is irrational. But he is not insane.

That observation made me think of something G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book, Orthodoxy:

Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

That’s Kim Jung-un. Clearly, if you examine his behavioral history, you see a madman who has demonstrated no “sane affections.” He seems to only use reason in service to his maniacal pursuit of perpetual power and existence as an unchallengable cult figure to “his” people. Because there does seem to be potential for a transactional understanding with such a madman, there is some hope that diplomacy can somehow de-escalate the present situation until a more solid diplomatic effort (including help from the Chinese and other world players) can find a possible solution to the long-term problem of a nuclear North Korea with world-threatening ICBMs.

Image result for kim jong un and trump face swapThe problem is that Tr-mp, displaying the kind of madness not conducive to the patience of diplomacy, can’t keep his undisciplined mouth out of this situation. I reject the idea, advanced by some silly pundits, that there is a method to Tr-mp’s magniloquent madness, that he and his advisers have a “strategy” behind all the sophomoric bluster. No. To Tr-mp this is a reality TV test of wills—a game of chicken. Except it’s not Tr-mp sitting in the car, but millions of Koreans, North and South, who will pay the bloody price if Kim overreacts and takes the dare or if Tr-mp orders a foolish pre-emptive strike after a minor act of provocation. And that fact, that innocents will die unnecessarily, is what should be the focus of all the news coverage of this crisis.

What we have here is a sick man, acting foolishly as our commander-in-chief, playing a dangerous game with a North Korean madman devoid of natural human emotions. And if this ends without bloodshed this time, this drama will unfortunately have a sequel—unless we can rid ourselves of the madman on our side and then begin to exhaust all diplomatic and non-military solutions before we think the unthinkable.



  1. ansonburlingame

     /  August 11, 2017


    About two days ago I posted a question to my now long retired USNA classmates. The question was “What would you do on ‘your submarine’ if Trump ordered the release of nuc weapons under your command”?

    The first response was along the lines of “how could you even ask such a question. Do you have any doubt the right answer”. I did not respond to that posting and awaited others to respond. The vast majority, some of whom held command positions in the nuclear chain of command said, simply, they would “follow orders”.

    Will North Korea become a part of history books akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis? Maybe in my view and we are closer to that brink than I can recall since 1962, today. But I remain very doubtful, but not certain for sure, that a nuc exchange will result. But I have such an “opinion” despite Trump, not because of him.

    I have reached the following conclusion. I believe America should now rethink our entire nuclear command and control structure, starting at ground zero so to speak. Should one man or woman have the final and single authority to launch such weapons, legally. The Constitution lays down the path if one considers such a launch order to in fact be and act of WAR. Only Congress can declare such, War. But since the 1950’s Congress had delegated, without explicitly saying such, that the President, alone, has that authority, if ………., but has never filled in the blanks.

    Should we the people now demand they do so, fill in the dots to clearly articulate when and if any President under any and all circumstances can order the release of nuclear weapons?

    I know full well how the radical Left would respond, or the alt Right as well. I basically ignore both camps. I want to know what “we the people” think is the next right thing to do regarding the release of nuclear weapons. Is any democracy up to making such a decision, today?



    • Anson, I completely agree with you on the need to ” rethink our entire nuclear command and control structure.” When the present strategy was adopted, it was a different world. There were no satellites and communication was slow and uncertain. Also, under MAD, the threat was a massive ICBM attack by the USSR, not a few missiles from a rogue nation. Communication is now enhanced by fiber optics cables and satellites, essentially instantaneous. It is absurd that a single person has the authority to damage the entire world on an impulse, and especially when that person is the one we have. If we can detail military officers to carry the “football” 24/7 we can surely arrange for secure comms among a select panel to approve (or disapprove) the end of the world as we know it.

      There is precedent for this thinking, i.e. when the SecDef under Nixon, James Schlesinger, effectively short-stopped any launch order by the unstable Nixon. I hope to God that Mattis or someone is doing that now.


  2. What a great photo pair of wacky hair.
    Of course, this game of chicken should give us all pause, but it doesn’t seem to phase much of the GOP Congress because 80+% of them don’t understand how diplomacy, democracy, effective governance, civilization and responsible community work. They have no comprehension of the consequences of Trump’s action and their inaction. Our current constitutional crisis may find us in smoldering ruins.
    Trump doesn’t care as long as he’s still the CEO (I mean “President”) of our rapidly fading republic. The damage he has already done in a few months will take years to repair. Ryan and McConnell and their minions have no integrity and even less a clue of what they are doing and allowing. 52% of Republicans would be willing to forgo the 2020 elections to keep their guy in power. Holy sh-t!!!!!!
    This is all particularly concerning for me personally as my youngest daughter and her husband live in Seoul. — And because millions could die on a whim because Kim and Dim score so high on the idiot scale.


    • Damn. I hope your daughter and son-in-law are sleeping well. I know I wouldn’t be. Here’s to impeachment before more threats are tossed around like elementary school kids fighting over a kickball.

      That survey showing that Republicans would be willing to suspend the next presidential election didn’t even stun me. I guess I’m getting used to the absolutely unhinged positions of almost half the country at any given time.

      I think you are being too optimistic in your assessment of the damage being done. I don’t know at this point if it is irreparable, but I am sure it can’t be fixed if this thing goes to the bitter end. Let’s hope it doesn’t.


  3. Anonymous

     /  August 11, 2017

    It just occurred to me that both of these fools are best buds with Dennis Rodman. How (the f—) did we get here?!

    Kevin Beck


  4. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

    Duane, the Chesterton insight into the matter of madness is brilliant and could not be more applicable than to the present conundrum. The mere fact that NK has actually produced nukes and ICBM’s is evidence of competence and management expertise. I recall that this same state existed in the all-too-prescient world of Orwell’s 1984. Technical competence and programmed paranoia. Also, Senator Al Franken mentioned in a recent New Yorker interview that he had never seen Tr;mp laugh. Not once, ever. I haven’t either.

    And speaking of Franken, I think he is the anti-Tr;mp. Smart, hard-working, warm, humble, and yes, humorous. And, a Harvard grad, never mind SNL. The Democratic Party could do worse in 2020. If we can elect a Tr;mp, we can also elect a real human being.


    • Jim,

      Hey, I’d be all-in with Franken. I think he’s exceedingly smart and, more important, a genuinely good guy who is in politics to do good.

      As for Kim Jong-un’s madness, I also think Chesterton described it all too well. Not just because of the competent and persistent management of the technical advancements you suggested, but because of why Kim is pursuing those advancements. He realizes he is an outcast in the world. He realizes his only friend of convenience is China. And he realizes that without nuclear weapons, his regime is always going to be vulnerable. Thus it is coldly (if disturbingly) rational to pursue the course he is pursuing. And for insurance to get to his goal, he has all those guns aimed at Seoul. No U.S. president in his right mind would put in jeopardy so many millions of lives of one of our allies just to prevent Kim from doing what other leaders in the world have done. It looks like, without competent diplomacy and severe sanctions, both primary and possibly secondary on China, we are stuck with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

      Oh, one more thing. To complicate matters, we don’t have a president in his right mind.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  August 12, 2017

    Duane and Jim,

    As I have observed the current crazy atmosphere concerning NK I began thinking about how we might launch nuclear weapons very quickly, either in retaliation or even as a first strike. Like it or not the ultimate, and single, point of decision rests in the hand of our President, for the last 75 years or “tomorrow”.

    Prior to this blog being posted I had already raised fundamental questions with my own “military think tank” about 300 retired classmates some of whom had nuclear responsibilities such as I had, albeit at a low level in that chain of command. Great input and about what you would expect for former military men (only). “Follow orders” was the strong consensus. I agree basically with such thinking for men IN the chain of command, today. But as expressed herein during the campaign, would I, at least, even want such authority/responsibility today given ……….

    Bottom line for me at least is very few Presidents have the depth of knowledge, very careful and long term “thinking”, on this issue. Not many, none in the last two decades now, have I trusted with essentially “any military thinking” at least in the depth of nuclear exchange issues.

    So here is one scenario, a possible one today. Trump decides a first strike to take out any ICBM launch ability for NK is the right thing to do. For whatever reason, crazy or not, he wants to “do it”. Give him the sense to at least explore such options with others. Would you or the WaPost want to be included???? Would such “leak”? (probably). Then what??

    “What if” the Chairman of JCS decided to order the man carrying the football to leave the “room”, lock up the codes and never let Trump have access to them. Would he be tried for “obstruction of…” or even treason (or even be shot on the spot by someone like Curtis LeMay of long ago)? Would Trump not even let such a “thinker” in the room to object to his idea? (probably). So then what? A “small” launch could be ordered, legally, by Trump. That is clearly a very small possibility, but today it is still a possibility that should NOT be a legal option for anyone, today.

    I also put myself in CJCS (or SecDef) position today, sitting in same room with “Bernie”. I could construct a scenario wherein I would want to shove the football up his ass, screaming “SHOOT NOW!!”.

    I have taken the next step in this line of thinking, in part because of this blog wherein I clearly understand your concerns, and share to a degree, about Tr-ump. I have a column in to the Globe, shorter of course than these responses, calling for “Time to Rethink Nuclear Command and Control”.

    As for “military thinking” on this issue, Duane, something you sometimes ask me about, about 70% of classmates reading the proposed column think in the negative (no need to change our system in place) and the others agree with me, about 30%. Their reasoning (opposed to the column is MAD must still be part of deterrence. I agree with them but NK (Iran, etc.) do NOT have the ability to create the kind of Armageddon that Russia has today. Call it a very one-sided MAD. (Mutual Assured Destruction for those that might wonder)

    So Jim, while technology, sensors, communications, etc. have changed dramatically we still need to have MAD as part of our quiver and yes, our President must have that as an option. BUT I believe we can define Armageddon today, legally and keep other more likely scenarios up to “we the people” instead of only one person.

    Of course the fault line of such thoughts is I cannot imagine Congress coming together to declare war (or even have such a debate that I now call for) of any sort today. And certainly in the case of Armageddon there is not time to do so. But for all the options for NK on our plate today, yes, Congress MUST have the nuclear authority legally in its hands to say yes or no, even if Guam (or Hawaii) evaporates before our eyes, today. If/when a “few warheads” are headed for San Fransisco today we still have time to think about a response and hope to hell our missile defense systems work!!

    Maybe later a column to rethink Star Wars again! That would drive you all nuts, right!! Where do you think Patriot or Thad (spl??) came from however. Thank God we at least have them today, along with Aegis, etc., until some Dem ties them all up to a pier with defense cuts!!



    • Anson, not all “Dem’s” are weak on Defense. I’m not and Duane isn’t either – he has said so numerous times in this blog. We just think that too many defense dollars are spent unwisely for systems and projects that are unwanted, impractical or wasteful. The accident-prone V-22 Osprey program is but one example. That plane took 26 years of controversial development to become operational in 2007, killing 30 in the process. Since 2007 there have been at least 5 crashes and 9 fatalities, probably not including the recent loss west of Australia.

      I understand what you mean about needing an instantaneous response for “Armageddon” (massive strike from Russia or China, e.g.) to validate the concept of MAD, but darned if I can think how to permit that while restricting more-limited launches. I think the MAD concept itself needs to be revisited.

      Speaking of terminology, is “Armageddon” the same thing as “fire and fury”? How’s that for a thought?


    • Anson,

      I have incurred the wrath of more than a few liberals over the years for my stance on national security and a strong defense. I have argued that the way to spread American values is with a strong military that can protect us while we engage in diplomacy and other means to get the nations of the world to embrace democracy and civil rights. The problem now is that look at us. Look at what we have become. How can we, in the age of Tr-mp, ask anyone to follow our example?

      In any case, as far as limiting any POTUS in terms of using nukes as a first-strike option, a couple of Democrats, one in the House and one in the Senate, have introduced legislation that would prohibit the commander-in-chief from launching a nuclear first strike without Congress declaring war first. I don’t know if Congress can go further than that, given the Constitution, but I would say that just preventing a pre-emptive nuclear first strike does not go far enough. I would make it such that no president can use nuclear weapons at all, unless a) the U.S. is attacked with nuclear weapons or b) Congress explicitly authorizes their use or potential use in a given situation.

      In the present situation, I don’t believe Tr-mp has the constitutional authority (although that doesn’t mean much anymore) to pre-emptively take out an ICBM in North Korea. That would clearly be an act of war without sufficient provocation. The mere possession of an ICBM, nuclear armed or not, is not enough to warrant starting a war. If it were, we would be at war with Russia and China right now.

      Now, in your Chairman of JCS scenario, most of us of sound mind hope there is someone in the relevant chain of command who would refuse an order that was clearly unlawful and given by an unhinged man. Whether it cost the officer his career and/or time in prison, that is his job—to protect the country from madmen, whether in the White House or in a palace in Pyongyang. In my opinion, if someone in command is not prepared to disobey an unlawful or clearly ridiculous order (obeying orders is relatively easy), then they should resign and go work for a defense contractor somewhere.

      MAD is a doctrine that essentially applies only to two powers in the world today, Russia and China. Otherwise, as you say, the thing is pretty one-sided. And MAD, as awful as it is, is all we have to prevent the unthinkable-but-possible. Nuclear weapons changed everything, even the calibration of sanity.


      Liked by 1 person

  6. DG

     /  August 12, 2017

    Great piece with thoughtful comments.
    Anson, as the world frightenly turns around the prospects of a new republican war, we can rely on your comments to blame the democrats for something, even before it happens. Instead, I’d like to hear you comment on plans to fix your broken party, or more importantly, comment on your plans to help rid the world of Monster-T. Such comments are not likely however, because loyality to the party over country is the code you republicans live and the rest of us DIE by.
    The only thing I can say about reading your comments Anson, is that they always make me LOL.


    • Anson, as the world frightenly turns around the prospects of a new republican war, we can rely on your comments to blame the democrats for something, even before it happens. Instead, I’d like to hear you comment on plans to fix your broken party, or more importantly, comment on your plans to help rid the world of Monster-T. Such comments are not likely however, because loyality to the party over country is the code you republicans live and the rest of us DIE by.

      This. Absolutely this. He, Trump could be filmed beating kittens to death with a ball-peen hammer on the White House lawn, lighting the corpses on fire and throwing them at homeless Gulf War veterans, and then sodomizing and gomorrizing an underage manatee as bad as you can possibly make it, and if Duane were to post about it, I’m pretty sure the opening words of Preston Brooks’ Anson’s comment would be something along the lines of “But the Democrat [sic] Party”.

      He can’t defend Him, Trump, but he can’t separate the man from the Republican Party, so he deflects to the notional sins of “the Democrat Party”, which apparently combines all the negative features of a Communist sleeper cell with all the negative features of a Satanic cult, while having no positive features of any kind. (He’s right about that last one, at least — existence is a positive feature, and as I pointed out elsewhere, “the Democrat Party” doesn’t exist. There’s a Democratic Party, which is seen a center-left here in the United States and would be regarded as center-right in a civilized country.)

      The only thing I can say about reading your comments Anson, is that they always make me LOL.

      Well, that makes one of us. If I wanted to watch somebody beat up on a straw man, I’d cue up my Wizard of Oz DVD to the scene where the Flying Monkeys attack Scarecrow. The only rationale I can think of for Duane to keep letting Anson inflict his brain-sharts on us is the reason, for instance, ex-Scientology blogs allow RTC parishioners to comment. And that’s being unfair to Scientologists, for three reasons:
      [1] the Scientology “tech”, unlike Republican Party Death Cult policy, frequently provides genuine and lasting help to its practitioners (it would have to do so at least sometimes, being based as it is on the methods of mind training that Hubbard learned from “the late Aleister Crowley, my very good friend”, and which before him were known to St. Ignatius of Loyola, Hillel the Essene and his student Yeshua, Siddhartha Gautama, Laozi, and all those other illuminated souls, throughout all times and spaces, who together form the embodiment of the Teacher.)
      [2] a Scientologist is potentially capable of separating the tech from the Religious Technology Center’s misuse of it (“if anyone wants a monopoly on dianetics, be assured that he wants it for reasons which have to do not with dianetics but with profit” — actual unretouched quote from Dianetics), while a fully-indoctrinated Republican Party Death Cult member like Anson is incapable of believing that any policy outside Republican Party Death Cult doctrine can lead, or be intended to lead, to anything other than bread lines, five-year plans, the reign of the Antichrist, dogs and cats living together, and worst of all, fluoridated water (“There are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk… ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children’s ice cream!“);
      [3] the official Church of Scientology, dba the Religious Technology Center, is only a danger to its own parishioners and walk-aways, and hardly even to those anymore (as witness Leah Remini’s ongoing wins), while the Republican Party Death Cult constitutes a threat, and not a mild one either, to the United States, the civilized countries, and the entire human race.


    • DG,

      Anson will tell you he is not a Republican, even though he is a conservative on most issues (most of them economic). He, for instance, does not like Ozark Billy Long. What he has never really explained all that well is why he distances himself from the Republican Party rhetorically but continues to support Republican candidates generally.

      As far as I can tell, Anson doesn’t like the GOP’s failure to address our deficit and debt issues, which he pretty much sees as an existential threat to the country. But the funny thing is, after years of arguing with him over these issues, I have failed to convince him that massive deficit spending was originally a sin of Reagan Republicans that was cleaned up by Democrats, when Bill Clinton signed a tax increase in 1994. That deficit-cutting act, which Republicans cynically exploited, cost the Democrats 54 seats in the ’94 election (34 incumbent Democrats, including Speaker Tom Foley were defeated) and brought us right-wing Republicans in Congress like Joe Scarborough (who replaced a Democrat) and Richard Burr (who replaced a Democrat and is now in the Senate) and Lindsey Graham (who replaced a Democrat and is now in the Senate) and Sam Brownback (who defeated Democratic incumbent Jim Slattery in your part of Kansas and went on to decimate the state as governor). That “Republican Revolution” also made Newt Gingrich Speaker, which represented a decline in the civility of our politics.

      As you know, by the end of Clinton’s term, thanks in large part to that 1994 tax increase, we ended up with budget surpluses. And as you know, the Republican Party made it their number one priority to repeal those tax increases and, guess what? Deficits increased again and off we went on the path to $20 trillion in debt, which, of course, was then later blamed on the Scary Negro in the White’s House.

      Now, what Anson needs to answer is why he continued to vote for Republicans, including George Bush, Jr., John McCain, and Mitt Romney, Roy Blunt, etc., all those years when it was clear that Republican economic policy was responsible for rising deficits and debt, not to mention that little blip we call the Great Recession.

      Maybe you’ll have more luck than I have had in getting him to answer that question.


      Liked by 1 person

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