gsanders + strategy   8

Opinion | The Simple Reason the Left Won’t Stop Losing - The New York Times
The thing is, progressive activists are right about public opinion on some of these issues. Most Americans do favor higher taxes on the rich, marijuana legalization and additional gun control. But too many progressives aren’t doing an honest analysis of the politics. They are instead committing what the journalist Matthew Yglesias has called “the pundit fallacy.” They are conflating their own opinions with smart political advice. They are choosing to believe what they want to believe.
Or look back at the 2018 midterms. In competitive districts, candidates backed by progressive groups like Justice Democrats and Our Revolution were shut out. They lost in either the primaries or the general election. There isn’t a single Sanders-like member of Congress from a purple or red district. There are dozens of moderates.
First, don’t become PINOs (progressives in name only). Decide on a few core ways in which you think moderate Democrats are wrong, and stake out different positions.

Second, stop believing your own spin. Analyze public opinion objectively. Acknowledge when a progressive position brings electoral costs.

Finally, start testing some new political strategies. A single break with orthodoxy can send a larger signal. It can make a candidate look flexible, open-minded, less partisan and more respectful of people with different views.
campaigns  progressFP  strategy 
23 days ago by gsanders
American Should Stop Trying to Promote Democracy and Learn to Live With Despots
Policies aiming for good enough governance have already succeeded. The best example comes from Colombia, where for the past two decades, the United States has sought to curb violence and drug trafficking by providing financial aid, security training, military technology, and intelligence under what was known until 2016 as Plan Colombia (now Peace Colombia). The results have been remarkable. Between 2002 and 2008, homicides in Colombia dropped by 45 percent. Between 2002 and 2012, kidnappings dropped by 90 percent. Since the turn of the century, Colombia has improved its scores on a number of governance measures, including control of corruption, the rule of law, government effectiveness, and government accountability. That progress culminated in 2016 with a peace deal between the government and the guerilla movement the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Yet despite Plan Colombia’s success, it has not transformed the country. Violence has declined, but Colombia is not yet on the path to becoming a consolidated democracy. A narrow elite still dominates the country. Colombia’s high economic inequality has not budged. Elections matter, but they serve mostly to transfer power from one segment of the ruling class to another.
Knowing which leaders are likely to deliver good enough governance—regardless of their commitment to democracy—requires an intimate knowledge of local elites, their beliefs, and their followers. To that end, the U.S. State Department should alter its practice of moving Foreign Service officers from post to post every two or three years and instead institute longer stays so that they can develop a close, deep understanding of the countries to which they are assigned. The department will also need to find ways to allow Foreign Service officers to have greater access to and more influence with top decision-makers.

[The tours thing makes sense to me, and the distinction that Columbia is unconsolidated is fair. However, this piece has some good ideas in a bad framework. Placing bets on leaders is not a new idea and has often failed. Leaning on working with Columbia for a larger point about despotism is extrapolating out of the evidence provided. This is an area where a lot of harm is easily done and it doesn't come close to meeting the burden of proof.]
IR  strategy  democracy 
4 weeks ago by gsanders
How Rivals Such as China and Russia Constrain American Power
As a result, Washington and Moscow are now locked in a dangerous cycle of escalation. The United States and Europe continue to expand their political and military influence into Russia’s near abroad. (Bosnia, Georgia, North Macedonia, and Ukraine all are queuing up for entry into NATO, for example.) Russia, in turn, has launched covert military interventions in Ukraine, carried out dramatic assassination attempts in the United Kingdom, and conducted political interference campaigns across the West.

To de-escalate this conflict, the two sides should strike a bargain: Western nonexpansion for Russian noninterference. The West would cease any further enlargement of NATO and the EU in eastern Europe. In return, Russia would agree to cease its campaign of domestic political interference. (The degree of U.S. government interference in Russia’s domestic politics is unclear, but Washington would also need to disavow such methods.)
A deal with Beijing would center on a few central issues. One is the future of American alliances in the region. The United States’ relationships in East Asia are an important source of U.S. political and military power, so it would be unwise for Washington to sacrifice them for a rapprochement with China. But the United States can refrain from adding new allies and military partners, in particular along China’s borders. Establishing such relationships would ignore Beijing’s concerns in the same way Washington disregarded Moscow’s by extending NATO into the Baltics. And in Asia, the United States would be poking the eye of a rising, not a declining, power.

In exchange for these concessions, Washington could require Beijing to respect the status quo in Taiwan and in other territorial disputes. Out of concern for human rights and for geopolitical reasons, the United States does not want the Taiwan issue settled forcibly, nor does it want the region’s several island or border disputes to lead to violence that could spiral into a wider war. If Beijing were to agree but later stray from its commitments, Washington could use force if appropriate (for example, to defend its allies) or covertly intervene in Chinese domestic politics, calibrating its response based on the severity of China’s transgressions.
strategy  IR  challenging 
4 weeks ago by gsanders
America and the New Spheres of Influence
In the military arena, the same logic applies, but with more complexity. Washington will need partners—but partners that bring more in assets than they introduce in risks. Unfortunately, few of the United States’ current allies meet this standard. The U.S. alliance system should be subjected to a zero-based analysis: every current ally and partner, from Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand to Latvia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, should be considered in terms of what it is doing to enhance U.S. security and well-being, and with what risks and costs. Alliances are not forever. Historically, when conditions have changed, particularly when a focal enemy has disappeared or balances of power have shifted dramatically, so, too, have other relationships among nations. Most Americans today have forgotten an era in which NATO had a counterpart in Asia, SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization), and even an analogue in the Middle East, CENTO (the Central Treaty Organization); both of those are now artifacts in the museum of retired national interests. As Kennan noted, “There is more respect to be won . . . by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives.”
opposition  IR  strategy 
4 weeks ago by gsanders
Why America Shouldn't Dominate the World
Today, the status of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency, which allows Americans to borrow cheaply, rests largely on path dependence, the currency’s stability, and the dearth of attractive alternatives—factors that no longer rely on the global projection of U.S. force that helped usher them in originally. And the quest for primacy is now leading the United States to erode its own financial position by maintaining unnecessary hostilities with states such as Iran, imposing crippling sanctions on them and forcing third parties who use the dollar to follow suit. These actions have compelled European states to seek alternatives to the dollar and have driven down the dollar’s share in global foreign exchange reserves.
First among these is climate change. Nothing better encapsulates the backwardness of U.S. priorities than the fact that Washington directs at least $81 billion per year to its military to ensure the abundant supply of cheap oil around the globe, according to Securing America’s Future Energy, a clean energy advocacy group. The United States should work to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels rather than underwrite it.
A new U.S. strategy would not just green the global economy; it would also democratize it. As Joseph Stiglitz, Todd Tucker, and Gabriel Zucman recently argued in these pages, the next U.S. president should launch a campaign to combat global tax evasion by backing a global registry to reveal the true owners of all assets and by preventing corporations from shifting money to subsidiaries in low-tax jurisdictions. Those moves alone would increase U.S. tax revenue by approximately 15 percent. Still more revenue would come from establishing a global minimum tax to end race-to-the-bottom tax havens. Washington could use that revenue to ensure that U.S. workers benefit from the transition away from fossil fuels. In this way, environmental protection, economic justice, and the restoration of trust in government would proceed in lockstep.
The possibility that China might become more belligerent if it continues to grow stronger is a legitimate concern. To account for this possibility without taking actions that make it more likely, Washington should strengthen the defenses of U.S. allies in Asia in ways that do not provoke China. The United States can provide its allies with so-called anti-access/area-denial capabilities, such as improved surveillance and missile systems, which would severely impede any Chinese attack without signaling an offensive posture. It could then retract its offensive weaponry. In Taiwan, such an approach would fulfill the long-standing U.S. objective of preserving a peaceful status quo, deterring a Chinese invasion while dissuading Taiwan from thinking it could back its independence aspirations with U.S. forces.
challenging  economics  strategy 
5 weeks ago by gsanders
Who was Sun Tzu’s Napoleon?
In the West, though, we tend to imagine The Art of War springing Athena-like from the head of a singularly prescient martial prodigy. Western theorists who treat Sun Tzu as hagiography, such as B.H. Liddell Hart and John Boyd, laud the work not from the vantage point of hermeneutical analysis, but from a flawed assumption that its ambiguously translated verses almost certainly conform to—and therefore validate—their own theoretical preferences.[29] We need to stop untethering the text from the historical and cultural milieu of its origination. The Art of War’s brevity and malleability will ensure it remains a popular and frequently quoted classic in the West. But for those seeking deeper insight into the evolution of Chinese strategic thinking, it remains an important but insufficient means to that end. Sun Tzu’s compact thirteen chapters are merely the start of the journey.
China  strategy 
6 weeks ago by gsanders
Responsible Statecraft
Another thing that I think is perhaps underappreciated. If you’ve ever read Halberstam’s book “The Best and the Brightest,” one of his key arguments is that Americans’ inability, including the Democratic Party’s inability, to rethink America’s position on China ended up predetermining a set of responses not just to China but also toward Vietnam because if you couldn’t see China in a different way, you couldn’t really recognize that communism wasn’t monolithic. And if you couldn’t recognize that communism wasn’t monolithic, you couldn’t recognize that communists taking over Vietnam wasn’t necessarily such a big deal.

And similarly, to a degree that is underappreciated today, the inability to have a different conversation about Israel actually ends up structuring a whole series of other conversations that are not specifically about Israel. So I don’t think that you can understand the current state of American discourse about Iran or even American discourse about Saudi Arabia, American discourse about Yemen and American discourse about Egypt without seeing that an inability to challenge a certain discourse about Israel basically preconditions the set of tendencies toward all these other countries as well.


And so part of the problem is that the moral discourse seems to be so often disconnected from human consequences and more about a certain kind of preening so that the moral position about Iran is to basically want to support sanctions that make it impossible for ordinary people to import life saving medicine. This is really an Alice in Wonderland moral discourse. What’s underdeveloped in Washington is the ability to say, yes there are very very serious moral problems with these regimes, and we should care about that, but that actually a policy of diplomacy and interaction is probably actually in the long run going to be better in terms of actually helping the suffering people of these countries in many circumstances. And that our ability, tragically, is also quite limited to actually affect these things. But that generally cold wars don’t really benefit the people that are on the other side of the cold war. They often just create justifications for increasing the repression we oppose.
There’s something about, there’s a notion that America should be doing great things and I myself am still attracted to those notions in some ways. I think they’re really pretty deeply rooted in a lot of ways. But what’s happened is the notion of us as a nation doing great things, us as a special nation, us as a nation that has a special mission and can make the world better has really been diverted or perverted in some ways that are unhealthy. I still think that if you want to call it a missionary sense, it can be valuable in terms of questions like climate change or fighting global poverty or certainly our capacity to deal with our huge problems at home. But partly because the military has become so dominant in the budgetary process, a lot of that missionary impulse has gotten filtered through the military lens and that’s part of what has become so problematic.
IR  strategy 
12 weeks ago by gsanders
Notes from a Sun Tzu Skeptic
Within two years of Sun Tzu’s offensive, the state of Chu regained its status as a major Chinese power, a position it would maintain for the next three centuries.[9] And what ultimate fate befell Wu, the entity Sun Tzu vowed to strengthen and protect, the realm profiting directly from his personal tutelage? Only three decades after its startling victory at Boju, the state of Wu was completely exterminated—wiped off the map by its implacable enemy to the south, Yue, who decimated Wu with the assistance of a still smarting Chu.[10] As a Western military theorist would later caution: “the ultimate outcome of war is not always to be regarded as final. The defeated state often considers the outcome merely as a transitory evil.”[11] Sun Tzu might have benefited from Clausewitz’s counsel that “the destruction of the enemy’s forces is always the superior, more effective means, which others cannot compete.”[12]


During the Second World War, the military theorist B.H. Liddell Hart met with China’s military attaché to Britain, who told him the cadets at the Whampoa Military Academy often studied his own works. Hart asked, “What about Sun Tzu?” The attaché replied “that while Sun Tzu’s book was a venerated classic, it was considered out of date by most of the younger officers, and thus hardly worth study in the era of mechanized weapons. At this [Hart] remarked that it was time they went back to Sun Tzu.”[13]

Perhaps the Chinese students possessed a superior comprehension of the text and were more perceptive in noting its limitations.
china  strategy  military 
october 2019 by gsanders

Copy this bookmark: