Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Art of a Third of the Deals

President Trump famously promises to bring a business eye to making better "deals" on behalf of our government. This may help with spending issues on domestic policies--whether the policies themselves are good or bad--but this is not enough for foreign policy.

Foreign policy is far more than just trade policy and even trade policy is more than just about the trade itself. Trade can be used to subsidize allies, make friends, and otherwise strengthen alliances that will pay off only in war (well, and in lining up allies to deter war, of course).

The basic problem with a business attitude toward foreign policy and war is that money is only a third of the reasons nations fight. Money, or "interest", is just one of three reasons nations fight:

Thucydides argued that the three primary real reasons for waging war are reasonable fear, honor, and interest, while the stated reasons involve appeals to nationalism or fearmongering (as opposed to descriptions of reasonable, empirical causes for fear).

Interest--and even this is only partly "money" and can be people, territory, or the resources either control--may be approachable by a business perspective. But that is an incomplete picture.

Fear (and remember to consider fear from an enemy's perspective rather than mirror image them--their reasonable fear may be defined differently than we would define it) and honor (again, no mirror-imaging) are not going to be addressed with a business deal.

I think Trump can figure this out. But how long will it take to realize that not every violent situation can be resolved with a business deal?

So we shall see. Stratfor describes an overall view of Trump's foreign policy leanings; and our military is preparing to show him more vigorous military options on the war side.

We will learn more about Trump's policies--and Trump will learn more about our needs and limitations--as time goes on.

Sadly, our enemies won't just sit there and wait. As they've gotten used to pushing us around they may try to lock in more gains while they can. It will be an interesting time.