It’s a lot easier to change a regime if people think the head of that regime is nuts. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
When the US government decides it doesn’t like a foreign regime, it’s become something of a tradition for US politicians — with the help of a compliant media — to portray those leaders as irrational, unhinged, or even downright insane.
This was true of Saddam Hussein, and it was true of Slobodan Milosevic. In both cases, a foreign head of state was condemned as irrational in order to help justify US invasions and bombings of foreign nations that were no threat to the United States.
The US narrative usually goes something like this — as described by Ronnie Lipschutz:
Why would so-called rogues — and these are the only countries that, according to Washington, threaten US forces, allies, or interests — choose to [threaten the US]? No rational reason can be given, and so irrational ones are offered instead. They hate us, but for no reason since we have no designs on them. They desire vengeance, but for no reason since we have never offended them. They wish to injure us, for for no reason, since they have only been injured through their interference with our pusuit of order.
This narrative helps to reinforce the credulous American public’s naive acceptance of the idea that the US government is an untrammeled force for good in the international sphere, and that any opposition to the US must be based on irrational, evil motives.1 If any other head of state is angry with the United States, it’s simply because he absurdly desires world conquest, or to massacre innocents. Or he may even be insane.
Why We Must Claim They’re Crazy
But there’s an even more important motivation behind portraying “rogue” nations as being run by crazy people. It allows advocates for war to claim that deterrence via America’s huge nuclear and conventional arsenals will not work — and thus these leaders present a grave threat to the American public. Lipschutz notes: “if insanity or irrationality are to blame for wars, deterrence cannot work to prevent them.”
A rational head of state, of course, would understand that any existential threat to the US could mean total nuclear annihilation for the offender. On the other hand, if the head of state is just insane, then all bets are off.
To continue reading: Why the War Party Loves to Call Foreign Leaders Insane