Say what you will about Stratfor, they have a way of clarifing political issues like few others can. How many times have I heard people say that President Bush is stupid? Or that Kim Jong Il is a buffoon? Sorry, you’re wrong — and this excerpt from a recent Stratfor article, summarized by yours truly, says why.
One of the ways to avoid thinking seriously about foreign policy is to dismiss anyone who does not behave as you would. Such a person is unpredictable, scary, and cannot be controlled. You are therefore relieved of the burden of doing anything about him. In foreign policy, it is sometimes useful to appear to be insane or stupid. Insanity is a great tool of unpredictability, and the less predictable you are, the more power you have. Stupidity lulls opponents into falsely believing that they can deal with you at any time they like. Thus some leaders deliberately cultivate an aura of insanity or stupidity to their own advantage.
However, people who climb to the leadership of nations containing many millions of people must be highly disciplined, with insight into others and the ability to plan carefully. Lunatics rarely have those characteristics. Certainly, there have been sociopaths — like Hitler — but at the same time, he was a very able, insightful, meticulous man. He might have been crazy, but dismissing him because he was crazy — as many did — was a massive mistake.
Stratfor has noted on several occasions that the above description applies to a number of politicians, namely President Bush, Kim Jong Il, and President Ahmadinejad. In truth, all these men rose to power through a complex process by which they were vetted by a number of different powerful interests and groups. All three men must answer to a number of backers, many with differing if not competing interests. And none got to where they are by being dumb or nuts. Labeling them as such might feel good, it is neither helpful nor clarifying.