Donald Trump’s narrow victory could bring a reprise of President Richard Nixon’s “madman theory” of deterrence – except on steroids. Nixon and Henry Kissinger believed that projecting an image of readiness to use nuclear weapons could provide negotiating leverage. They tested this assumption in the 1973 Middle East crisis and during the Vietnam War — with no apparent bearing on Hanoi and Moscow’s choices. Nonetheless, Trump’s reputation for belligerent behavior could reinforce caution by potential challengers. But if he is tested and brandishes the Bomb, the international standing of the United States will decline further, and some allies will scurry for cover. Alliance solidarity could crack if he uses his two favorite Generals, George Patton and Douglas MacArthur, as his lodestar in dealing with nuclear challenges.
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