The Il-Logic of the Strategist

Robin Wilton, a colleague from Europe, writes again about the glaring illogic behind Guantanamo.

In the manifesto of the strategist, particularly the one who believes to be in a dominant position, one finds the need to behave as if no rules or laws apply to him.

This is thoroughly explained in Thomas C. Schelling's Strategy of Conflict. (Schelling, I believe, was at one point a "National Security" consultant.)

Of course, this strategic choice to project wanton behavior can turn into a very dangerous game with regrettable results. (Besides the fact that justice, ultimately, does make a difference. It is only a matter of time and patience, as we read in the History of the Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides, not to mention other events such as Ashura, where its prince says that if one cannot keep one's way of life and one's religion, one must stive, at least, to be free of worldly bondage.)

It would literally be more profitable to build relationships of respect, exchange and commerce of the type that leads to long-term, mutually beneficial circumstances than to create so-called "strategic" confrontations with those who seek to be free. This was supposed to be a lesson learned long ago in the U.S. history, and Schelling's students, some of whom are reputed to have helped select targets during the Vietnam War, changed nothing real and created no lasting relationship of control.

Trust through credible commitments of the sort Oliver Williamson talks about requires a different procedure. Williamson speaks of exchange of hostages as a primordial means for building "trust". In today's world, we see this through international cross-investments and joint ventures. In fact, in my opinion, what binds Europe to the U.S. is more this than any cultural similarity.

Comments:

Thanks Masood - thoughtful and thought-provoking as ever. You are depressingly well-read ;\^)

It is revealing to think of cultural, commercial and military international relations as part of a spectrum. I remember the dictum that 'war is an extension of politics'; by the same token, the phrase "trade war" doesn't exist without reason...

And some of the most intractable disagreements in that sphere are between the US and the EU.

Posted by Robin Wilton on March 07, 2006 at 06:12 PM PST #

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