America: You Need a Policy Chimp

America needs a Policy Chimp. To qualifychimp-9090 as a Policy Chimp, an individual:

  1. Should be perceived as completely nuts.
  2. Should lack self-awareness or a sense of irony.
  3. Should randomly spout threats.
  4. Should be given to verbal flamboyance of the most extreme kind.
  5. Should lack a sense of humor.
  6. Should have a Chuck Schumer-like attraction to cameras.
  7. Should be able to easily scare foreigners and local intelligentsia.
  8. Should have a direct thought-to-mouth interface for maximum performance.

The Policy Chimp should be teamed with a Voice of Reason. The Voice of Reason should actually (or at least appear to) run things. Instead of bad cop/good cop, the Policy Chimp and the Voice of Reason play crazy guy/sane guy. The Policy Chimp is brought out periodically to scare the foreigners and the intelligentsia. After they’re suitably scared, the Voice of Reason appears and warns them in a soothing, perhaps pleading manner, that, if they don’t work with him, the Policy Chimp will escape from his cage and do any number of terrible things (e.g. You must strengthen the “moderates”). The idea that only the Voice of Reason can keep the Policy Chimp in his cage should be impressed on their minds. Trust me, the Voice of Reason should confide quietly yet emphatically, the Policy Chimp really, really wants to get out of his cage.

The key to success in this stratagem is actually keeping the Policy Chimp in his cage. Policy Chimps shouldn’t be allowed near anything resembling actual power. The effectiveness of this stratagem depends upon the audience. It has proven especially effective against sophisticated American foreign policy observers and intelligence agencies.

Some examples of Policy Chimp/Voice of Reason combos (the first to categorize each correctly will get a gold star):

  • Jackson/Van Buren
  • Kissinger/Nixon
  • Khamenei/Ahmadinejad
  • Putin/Medvedev
  • Pinky/Brain
  • Stalin/Molotov
  • Hitler/Hitler

10 thoughts on “America: You Need a Policy Chimp”

  1. Jackson PC / Van Buren VR
    Kissinger VR /Nixon PC
    Khamenei VR / Ahmadinejad PC
    Putin PC / Medvedev VR
    Pinky VR / Brain PC
    Stalin PC / Molotov VR (?)
    Hitler PC / Hitler — the VR appeared all too rarely.

    Don’t forget Reagan (“we begin bombing in five mintues”) / Reagan (mash notes to Gorbachev)

  2. Nixon wanted to try this with his “madman theory” where Kissinger would tell the Soviets that the POTUS was “Out of control” on the subject of Vietnam and that Nixon might, on a lark, drop the Big One on Hanoi.

    Kissinger, by contrast felt that there were certain downsides to telling the other major nuclear superpower that the C-in-C was a lunatic.

  3. The VR/PC pairing is also known as the good cop/bad cop routine. In comedy, the VR is a dunce and the PC is ineffectual or cowardly. The best military combinations often have similar pairs.

    More pairs:
    Danny Glover (VR) / Mel Gibson (PC) (Lethal Weapon)
    Ralf Goergens (VR) / Lexington Green (PC) (Chicago Boyz*)
    Instapundit (VR) / Frank J. Fleming (PC) (Pajamas Media)
    Eisenhower (VR) / Patton (PC) (ETOUSA)
    Oliver Hardy (VR) / Stan Laurel (PC)
    Prince Hal (VR) / Falstaff (PC) (Henry IV part 2)
    Lee (VR) / Stuart (PC); Grant (VR) / Sherman (PC) (US Civil War)

    Maybe this explains the problems with the Bush administrations: Bush 41 lacked a Policy Chimp, and it deteriorated into mumbles and aimlessness, all finesse and no energy; Bush 43 lacked a Voice of Reason, lurching from one crisis to the next, all energy and no finesse.

    * Guys, we can’t all be Policy Chimp all the time. Take turns.

  4. I actually disagree on Grant and Sherman. If you read Liddell Hart’s biography of Sherman, I think his conclusion was that Sherman was the genius and Grant’s job was to (as Alinsky might say) hold Lee in place while Sherman did most of the damage. Had Grant let go of Lee, as Hooker and Meade did, Lee on interior lines might have been able to defeat both of them. By fixing Lee in place, much as the Soviets did the Germans, Grant allowed Sherman to run wild. The Soviet analogy doesn’t work as well since they were taking the heavy casualties and Grant was doing the same.

    Reagan’s famous gaffe about “the bombing begins in five minutes” was, according to a recent book, not a gaffe at all but another example of the Nixon as maniac gambit.

  5. “…according to a recent book…”

    Michael: Which book was that? I never believed “the bombing begins” was anything but intentional on Reagan’s part. He was a successful professional broadcaster and actor and politician. He knew exactly when a microphone was on or off. He was sending a signal to the Russians with that statement, right out of Hermann Kahn.

  6. Both Sherman and Grant were geniuses, though Grant had a better grasp on the overall political effect that the war was supposed to bring to pass than Sherman, as witnessed by the different surrender agreements they initially negotiated.

    Grant clearly played the Voice of Reason. Sherman’s sanity always teetered dangerously close to the brink even when, as Union commander in Kentucky in 1861, his predictions of the number of men he needed were largely born out. Indeed, Sherman would have been put out to pasture if it wasn’t for the influence of his brother, Senator John “Anti-trust” Sherman and his father-in-law (and adoptive father) Thomas Ewing, a former senator and cabinet secretary. I think Sherman relished his role and enjoyed scaring the Southerners, a breed he understood very well after he spent a few years down South and served with Southerners (he may have even preferred them to Northerners). His reply to John Bell Hood is military theater at its highest level. Grant had a dramatic flair as well but it was more understated.

    As a counter argument, there’s this famous quote about Grant: “He habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it.”

Comments are closed.