Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in 1517 that it’s “a very wise thing to simulate madness.” In other words, behaving like an unpredictable, bug-eyed maniac might scare enemies enough to force them to back down. 

Whether intentional or a simulation, plenty of despots and strongmen since then have engaged in this “madman theory,” too often with terrifying consequences. More recently, Richard Nixon gave it whirl when confronting the Soviet Union and its satellites, telegraphing an irrational anything-goes approach intended to scare the Kremlin into submission. 

Read the rest of Bob Cesca’s piece at Salon.