During the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon frequently hinted that he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. He refused to release any details until he won office, when he gathered together his closest aides and began the lengthy process of unveiling his complex political strategy: He was going to pretend to be crazy.
Presumably at this point his excited aides asked "Great! What's next?" to which he replied, "Your mom." Because there wasn't a next step. That was it.
The so-called "madman theory" argued that if the enemy thought that Nixon was a dangerously unstable raving lunatic who might launch an unstoppable barrage of nukes if someone so much as farted in his general direction, the war would be over right away. According to Nixon himself:
We'll just slip them the word that, "For God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry -- and he has his hand on the nuclear button" -- and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.
Â Iraqi News Agency, Joseph Ferris III, U.S. Navy
Others tried versions of this plan, with questionable success.
Henry Kissinger was extremely enthusiastic about the scheme, and the State Department quickly began putting out a ton of "Nixon is nuts" disinformation. Nixon even ordered the U.S. military onto a state of full nuclear alert -- which the U.S. people never noticed, but the Soviets sure did. The whole thing culminated in the Freudian nightmare subtly named Operation Giant Lance, which saw 18 B-52 bombers loaded with fully armed thermonuclear weapons take off and fly full-tilt toward the Soviet Union, then turn back ... and then go at it again. It was the paramilitary equivalent of pretending to punch someone, then laughing and giving them two for flinching. Only, you know, with the fate of the unburned world hanging on whether the Soviets flinched.
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