Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Paul Robinson — Strategy Or Improvisation? Predictability Or Unpredictability?

If I had to recommend a single article for foreign policy decision makers to read, it would be Robert Jervis’s 1968 essay ‘Hypotheses on Misperception.’ As I’ve written before, many of the tensions between states derive from misperceptions. People misperceive others; misperceive themselves; and misperceive how they are seen by others. In his article, Jervis hypothesizes 14 misperceptions which are commonly encountered in international politics. Hypothesis number 9 is the following: ‘actors tend to see the behavior of others as more centralized, disciplined, and coordinated than it is.’ Jervis adds that, ‘Further, actors see others as more internally united than they in fact are and generally overestimate the degree to which others are following a coherent policy.’ In my opinion, this is absolutely correct, and we can see a lot of this going on in contemporary analyses of Russia.…
Explaining the "Putin did it" syndrome.

While I think Paul Robinson is correct here, I also think that there is more to it than misperception. There is also the persuasion factor, a key tool in which is creating a focus by demonizing a person or an ideology.

This is much more persuasive that nuanced analysis, since emotion always trumps reason in mass persuasion. So the rhetorical targets are "Putin," "Russia," and "authoritarianism" in whipping up Russophobia.

Strategy Or Improvisation? Predictability Or Unpredictability?
Paul Robinson | Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa

Here is an example of this type of thinking applied to China to "explain" why Trump is right that the US will win a trade war with China, so it is not a big gamble.



LZ said...

I don't argue the U.S. would "win" the trade war or that is not without risk. If you read the post referenced in the article: The Logic of Strategy: Yuan Devaluation and the Road to Trade War, my argument is that there would be coordination between different forces that would coalesce into a larger policy. The thrust of Luttwak's argument is that countries would intentionally weaken their economies by slowing trade with China, for the purpose of slowing China's military modernization. It is the subversion of economics to defend their sovereignty and avoid a military confrontation.

It doesn't matter if Trump is implementing this strategy or not, the countries in Southeast Asia and the US defense department and US manufacturers have their some reasons for supporting his trade policies even if poorly designed and implemented because the benefits might outweigh the costs for them. It's much closer to being an argument for emergent or spontaneous order.

Tom Hickey said...

Thanks for the clarification!