Law #2: Keep Your Frenemies Closer
"Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies." ~ Robert Greene
The second of Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power is essentially a variant of: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," and it's one that Trump has mastered beautifully in his dealings with North Korea all throughout his presidency.
I know that, to many of you, it doesn't seem like it, especially with this recent cancellation of the summit in Singapore and Senators like Ted Lieu saying it's going to lead to war. You wonder how and why Trump appears to be getting along so well with someone you think is a mad man on one hand, while then poking the bear with a flaming stick on the other, risking the threat of nuclear armageddon.
To many of you, it all looks like insanity, but that's actually deliberate. It's supposed to look crazy - to the enemy - because it's all political theatre, and Trump is a master at political theatre.
I know you can't see it, so I thought I'd break it down for you.
Remember back before the election when everyone was running around like Chicken Little with its head cut off, screaming about how Trump's temperament was such that he'd be an embarrassment to us on the international stage if he got elected? That his lack of decorum would make us a laughing stock to other countries and no one would wanna deal with us? No one would take him seriously?
Since then, what's happened? Trump made many historic visits to foreign countries and he's been well-received in China, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.
Apart from Europe and North America, things actually appear to be going well for him.
Part of the reason for this is that Europeans, at least Western Europe, has gotten kind of soft and fat and comfortable in recent years, having the privilege of relative peace and stability that they can afford an air of decorum, grace, and dignity. Places like Canada fit into this as well. The rest of the world, on the other hand, is still very much in chaos for the most part - at least compared to us - and has to rule with more of an iron fist than a gentle palm.
This is the first thing many people don't understand about Trump.
Obama did very well with Europe, but less so in Asia and elsewhere, because his decorum was uniquely suited to the West's sense of refinement, and not to the hostile volatility of other, more brutal parts of the world or its leaders. Nowhere was that better exemplified than his infamous red line in the sand that he eventually backed down from. Contrast that with Trump, who's a bull in a China shop. He may be breaking the West's finery at the moment, but the rest of the world sits up and takes notice with great interest. They see his Syrian missile strikes, for instance, or his tough talk with North Korea and they recognize his strength, his instability, and his willingness to back up his own red lines.
Many of Trump's critics are used to dealing in Obama-esque diplomacy, which works great in some places, but not in others. This is why the West generally has little tolerance for Trump, but the rest of the world very much respects him as a strongman because that is the system they live under.
So the sky very clearly did not fall in that regard.
Much to the chagrin of his detractors, though they continued to scream as if it already had.
We then watched for over a year as Trump tweeted out scary-sounding rhetoric and people again cried REEEEE!! thinking Trump would bring about nuclear war with North Korea, even though we made it clear we didn't want that and would only react defensively, putting the ball in their court. People didn't see the subtle nuance of what Trump was doing, how he was painting a picture for the Kim regime of friendship on the one hand or total annihilation on the other, and then giving them the choice of which path to take.
Fast forward to recent times and North Korea seems to have inexplicably offered to talk peace, even taking a historic photo with President Moon and each leader inviting the other to cross the border line between them and #HealTheDivide. The Never-Trumpers want to claim Trump had no hand in any of this. That it's in spite of everything Trump has done, not because of it. That it was all President Moon's doing; yet President Moon himself didn't seem to think so. He gave Trump credit for it, but that didn't matter to the Never-Trumpers who simply dismissed it as him being gracious and a team player.
Contrast that with the media portrayal of Trump, trying to paint him as a disrespectful villain who dumps his fish food into a Japanese coy pond like some Neanderthal, even though President Abe did the same thing moments before. Add to that this most recent incident of Trump clearly calling MS-13 criminals a bunch of animals, and how the Never-Trumpers ignored that and, rather than admit they were wrong, actually appeared to take sides with these monsters.
The message the media-political complex wishes to paint for us, it seems, is they're willing to do just about anything but give Trump credit when he's due and they suggest we do the same.
So who are we supposed to believe in this case?
He plays these people like a fiddle on a nigh-daily basis because they're so predictable. They just keep falling for it every time like Wile E. Coyote; yet no one apart from a handful of his fans notices yet that it's not luck or coincidence, it's all a clever strategy.
And people wonder why he says the media are dishonest And guess what? He's not the only one.
Likewise, his detractors didn't care about the economic sanctions Trump placed on Korea to squeeze the North's economy, or the way we started going after Chinese companies that helped fund the North.
That's something we certainly didn't do before Trump arrived.
His critics also didn't seem to notice that China and Russia appear to be staying out of the way and letting all this happen - both in Korea and in Syria. How very odd! It's almost like, when he went to meet with their leaders, they had some sort of productive conversation. A negotiation, you might say - a deal even - and planned all this ahead of time. Hmm, that doesn't fit the narrative that Trump is a crazy lunatic who'll embarrass us, so of course that can't possibly be true.
I'm sure it's also a huge coincidence that just as North Korea was at the height of its military power and threatening to hit the U.S. directly - right at the same time as Trump was barking at them about unleashing fire and fury - that one of their nuclear sites collapsed under a mountain.
Of course, we can't know what actually happened to it, but there are rumors that Trump dropped the sky on them with the Rods of God, like Cobra fucking Commander.
Between the economic pressure, the diplomatic pressure, the military pressure, and the social pressure in the form of rhetorical embarrassment in front of the U.N. and Trump's famous linguistic kill shot - his forever name for Kim of Little Rocket Man - it sure seems like a lot of coincidences for anyone who still wants to believe Trump had nothing to do with this.
So then the Kim regime changed its tune and started calling for peace, giving up hostages, which even the media-political complex had to begrudgingly report as a good thing.
For a while, it seemed like there would be talks in Singapore, yet Scott Adams was the only one to call it ahead of time that one side or the other would back away from the deal. More than that, he was even able to explain why:
I'm not saying he gets it right every time, but just how much prognostication does this guy have to do before people start taking him seriously?
Ok, so those of you who don't follow Scott, who haven't read Art of the Deal, probably still can't see the technique in what Trump is doing and, like Senator Ted Lieu, think this is all Trump's fault. He walked away! He's a madman and is screwing this up, risking war!
Calm down, Chicken Little. The sky's not falling. Not even close in fact.
How do I know? Let's take a look at the letter that Trump sent to Little Rocket Man and I'll break it down for you even further. Seriously, this is brilliant persuasion technique right here. I'll even include an image of it so you can follow along:
Ok, so he starts off with "His Excellency." This is priming Kim's ego, elevating him to a level of respect in contrast to the former name-calling that went back and forth between them. It's the very sort of diplomacy his critics claimed he's incapable of, and the sort of flattery that they feared Kim might try to use on him ... but then he walked away, showing his own immunity and strength.
Trump even uses Kim's full honorific:
Kim Jong Un
Chairman of the the State Affairs Commission
of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Some serious pre-suasion going on there, again reflected in calling him "Dear Mr. Chairman." He then humbles himself, saying he appreciates Kim's time and patience. The word "respect" here is a subtle and deliberate use of neuro-linguistic programming, priming his mindset to think about respect, even though that's not how it's used grammatically in the sentence. He then highlights the main goal: negotiations and discussions, reframing their past conversations and insults, elevating them to a higher level.
There may also be specific things he's referring to regarding Mike Pompeo's visit.
The fact that he says it's a summit "long sought by both parties" is fantastic, taking the high ground and bringing them both on the same page. He's making Kim think past the sale here. The sale is, "We're gonna have these talks."
In Kim's mind, he's already visualizing them at the meeting, the only question is, "did we both want this for a long time or was it merely more recent?" That's the technique. He's already sold on the talks by thinking about it. Trump is in his head.
"We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that is totally irrelevant."
Again, putting the onus on them, making it clear to everyone that the United States holds all the cards and is blameless. That we weren't the ones who caved, it was their bad behavior that caused this. We dindu nuttin! We're innocent, and also strong. We can do this all day, no problem. That's the impression he's giving Kim Jong Un here. It's totally irrelevant what you want because we're holding all the cards. We have all the leverage, we are in the right, we are going to get our way no matter what because time is on our side.
But all that's totally irrelevant too because we're also adaptable and don't actually want nuclear war with you. We wanna be your friend, but you started this, not us. If you wanna offer us something, we're willing to hear what you have to say and maybe we can still work a deal if it's in our interest, because we're the reasonable ones - but that stuff you said about Mike Pence? Pfft, that's crossing a line!
It's the same principle Jordan Peterson talks about in teaching children how to behave. When they step out of line, you address it immediately and strictly, but then are just as quick to forgive and forget.
Really great power play.
"Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting."
Here, again, Trump is making Kim think past the sale about exactly how long-planned this meeting was or wasn't, but he's already picturing the meeting. Trump is rewriting history (for the better) and even Kim's memories (in a subtle way) by reframing all the anger on his side and projecting it all onto Kim, making him eat that shit sandwich, which is fucking hilarious! So in the first part, he's pacing Kim, now he's leading him where he wants him to go.
It's sort of like the old familiar exchange:
"No, I quit!"
Two movies, one screen. This looks a bit like gaslighting, and he's deliberately playing with Kim's mind, making him take the blame for the meeting being cancelled and then saying, "No, actually, we're the ones who are insulted by this and we're choosing to walk away. You don't have any power over us, you didn't make us do anything. It's we who are responding to your bad behavior and choosing to move and punishing you for it. Begone, you have no power here!"
Again, to the layperson, that might not make sense, but the technique is that it's not supposed to make sense in the way we normally interact with people. The facts don't matter in persuasion games like that. The facts are on the moon. It's all strategic mental and emotional manipulation.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Welcome to Oz. Now get ready to be sent home.
"Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place."
Again, sapping Kim's power of walking away from the deal while bringing them into alignment, putting them on a level playing field by saying it's "for the good of both sides," making it seem like we're the ones who are in the right, taking the high ground by saying it's "to the detriment of the world," and making Kim feel guilty about being the bad guy. All this couched in flowery language that sounds rather respectful, doesn't it?
This next part's my favorite:
"You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used."
I could not stop laughing when I read that, and then seeing this was the line the failing New York Times decided to quote on Twitter, essentially doing his bidding for him. They continue to be his unwitting pawns, because this line is just brilliant.
It's essentially a glorified dick-measuring comment, much like the red button tweet. Ours is bigger than yours, and the only thing that will save you from the ass-raping you're about to receive is an act of God.
Visual language is highly persuasive because it paints a picture in our minds.
Here, he's also using what's known as strategic ambiguity, which is to deliberately leave out the details so that people can fill them in themselves with whatever they're primed to believe. In the context of all Trump's talk over the last year, as well as just normal military intelligence and spy game stuff, Trump is scaring Little Rocket Man into believing that our capabilities are whatever the most horrifying thing he can imagine is.
Kim has to know he's outgunned in this. The only question is by how much, and short of having actual knowledge (which he doesn't have), he has to assume the worst, which in this case, President Trump has said is so dangerous that only God himself is more powerful.
Just take a moment to appreciate how hilariously entertaining that is.
Saul Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals that power isn't just what you have, it's what your enemy thinks you have. Our own capabilities could be fuck all, but through the tactical use of persuasion, Trump has made himself appear like God in the eyes of Kim Jong Un.
On a subconscious, emotional level anyway.
Logically, he knows Trump isn't God, but that doesn't matter. The facts don't matter to persuasion, because persuasion is emotion-based. So he is probably sitting in his palace shitting himself right now over what to do, wondering if his insult was worth potentially screwing up the only shot he had at saving himself and his people, and how he's gonna have to genuflect before the God Emperor to get out of this alive. Trump just took his Queen and made it seem effortless. Checkmate is staring him in the face and he knows it. Kim has to be thinking that unless he makes a major sacrifice, it could spell his annihilation, so I predict he'll come back to the table again very soon with hat in hand and his tail between his legs.
Contrast is important to persuasion. Giving people a choice between heaven and hell wherein you control what each of those means is very powerful in getting them to do what you want.
So, again, Trump has shown Kim what hell looks like. He's prepared to drop the house on him like the Wicked Witch of the Far East; but in the last two paragraphs, he gives also him a path of redemption and shows what the alternative could be. If done right, Kim should naturally follow the path of least resistance out of a sense of survival, because fear is also a powerful persuasion force.
"I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me ..."
Was it a wonderful dialogue? Really?
It was certainly a dialogue of sorts, but it doesn't matter because the wonderful part is getting him thinking past the sale. The sale was that we're talking. Again, the facts don't matter because ...
"... ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters."
It's just you and me, buddy. Just two men having a civilized chat as equal partners trying to save the world. We're just a couple of bros, like Bill and Ted on an excellent adventure. Don't worry about what my people think or what your people think or what the media thinks or what the rest of the world thinks. It's just you and me, and I'm your friend. We can make this happen together, right here, right now, it's your choice.
I'm showing you the door, but you're the one who has to walk through it.
"Some day, I look very forward to meeting you."
Again, strategic ambiguity. Some day could be a thousand years from now or next year or it could be tomorrow. Whatever you imagine it to be, that's what it is. Again, putting the ball in Kim's court.
He's already got Kim thinking past the sale, picturing meeting with Trump.
"In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated."
Ending as he began by appealing to Kim's better nature, taking the high ground, puffing up his opponent's ego, harkening back to the most recent positive thing he's done while making him forget about all the nasty stuff that happened between him. It's much like a hypnotist telling you something and then making you forget it immediately, and you still act on it when triggered, but you don't know why.
It's also something that is highly visual, and visual persuasion is very powerful. You can picture the hostages coming home and Trump deliberately made that a huge spectacle for this very reason.
Doing it that early in morning also contrasts him with Hillary Clinton and the incident with the Benghazi embassy by showing that he is on-call all day, every day, at any hour, ready to serve America and Americans. You get the impression that no one gets left behind.
This openness is again reflected in the last paragraph:
"If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write."
So reframing it as his choice and giving him options, making it very personal, narrowing the focus to just the two of them in intimate conversation together. If Kim changes his mind, saying that he's the one that has to come back to the negotiation table. Again, we hold all the cards, we're fine doing this either way, but wouldn't it be better for everyone if you just surrendered and did it our way?
By the way, mate in three moves.
He then goes on to outline what he means by better:
"The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history."
North Korea's biggest problem is its people are starving, on the verge of economic and military annihilation. Trump has contrasted that with a vision and an offer of a peaceful, prosperous nation that not only benefits the North Koreans, but the entire world, while guilting Kim into coming back to the negotiating table.
We'll see how long before any of this pans out, but I am hopeful. This is exactly what we're supposed to be seeing at this point in the play.
Again, recall that it's all political theatre. Much like pro wrestling or an epic movie, the drama is all part of the show, with each side posturing and acting out their role, trying to serve their own interests and those of their people to the best of their ability.
So to the Never-Trumpers out there running around like Chicken Little with their heads cut off, panicking that the sky is falling just because Kim Jong Un cancelled a meeting ... to you, I say: relax and enjoy the show. Everything is going exactly as it's meant to be. 38D
(Did you catch my technique at the end there?)
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May you each find love, peace, purpose, happiness, and will in your lives.