Story Stream
recent articles

There are two foundations to the model. The first is that there is no distinction between economic, political, military and technological affairs. They are convenient ways to organize departments, but in reality, they are simply a different and linked dimension of the nation-state and related socio-political activities. The relative importance of each differs from time to time and from place to place, but they are always present and always interacting. Strategic intelligence must view things from an integrated standpoint.

Second, decision-makers are trapped by a matrix of forces that will break them unless accommodated. Successful decision-makers are those who understand the circumstances in which they find themselves. They make history, but not as Karl Marx put it, as they will. On the surface this is connected to a Marxist mode of thinking. In fact, Marx himself was not the originator of this idea. Adam Smith and his notion of the invisible hand, in which men pursue private interests and unintentionally increase the wealth of nations in the course of these activities, preceded Marx. Smith himself was beholden to Machiavelli, who argued that a prince cannot lift his eyes from war but must focus on the things he is forced to do by circumstance. The virtue of the prince rested in ruthlessly doing what he must, not in dreaming of power he didn't have. Strategic forecasting and Marxism have similar views only in that they both believe the foundation of political life is necessity.

Necessity is predictable, particularly if you are dealing with rational actors, and successful politicians are extremely rational within the space they occupy. The actions required to rise and lead a million people, let alone hundreds of millions, necessitate extraordinary discipline and instinct. Few humans can even begin the climb, and only the most disciplined achieve the heights. It is fashionable among journalists and academics to hold politicians in contempt. They lack the politicians' learning and cleverness. Thus, journalists mistake a radically different mindset and soul for inferiority. This satisfies their need to not feel inferior, but it does little to guide us. Obama and Putin have far more in common with each other than either has with their general publics. Each rose to power in his milieu, where almost no one else did.

If you watch a chess grandmaster play another, you will note that the game is rather predictable. Each understands fully the circumstance and knows that the apparent options are illusory. Each move is met with an expected countermove. On rare occasions, a brilliant player finds a variation. Most games end in predictable draws. A grandmaster is predictable in his game precisely because his understanding is so acute. An amateur is liable to do anything, but of course, the amateur never gets the opportunity to play at the grandmaster's board. The same is true of politicians. The careless and random can't be predicted, but neither do they survive. It is the gifted and disciplined who survive and who can therefore be predicted.