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Conflict of Visions: #Ukrainefail and the Smart Set

March 4th, 2014 · No Comments · Politics

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The conservative blogosphere is reveling in some serious schadenfreude this week. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin have been more than vindicated after being mocked and criticized for statements regarding Putin and the Ukraine.

Not only have they been proven spot-on in their predictions about the Ukraine being at risk, and Putin’s ambitions, but also at least one prominent Ivy League political science major (who writes for Foreign Policy Magazine) has been forced to publicly apologize. Too add insult to injury, the Washington Post who once said “Barack Obama’s clear-eyed view of the road ahead makes him the better choice for president.”, now claims his foreign policy is “based on fantasy.”

It’s particularly challenging for the opposition to wave multiple predictions away as “lucky” especially given the diametrically opposed assertions made by the intelligentsia:

As recent as a week ago, Time Magazine’s Moscow correspondent (and writer for Foreign Policy) Simon Shuster wrote the headline “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine.” Ouch.

Take this statement from Rachael Maddow, who sports a Stanford public policy degree with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in poli sci from Oxford. Here she references Romney’s criticism of Obama’s dealings with Putin:

“The problem is the former governor just doesn’t have any real policy chops in this area. He’s out of his depth, and struggles when the subject takes center stage.
It’s not just that Romney is uninformed; it’s that he hasn’t figured out how to fake it.”

Are Smarts Overrated?

How does one explain that highly educated professionals who sport high I.Q.’s, went to the best schools and possess local knowledge (live in Moscow!) are simply unable to see what a “provincial” University of Idaho journalism major can?

How can a Harvard graduate say “The Soviets have always found the rubles to match our military escalation…to assume that they’re the ones who would buckle is madness.” When the Eureka College grad understood that the Soviet planned economy was not structured to respond adequately to the demands of the complex modern economy?

Vision Trumps Education and I.Q.

Peter Drucker claimed “culture eats strategy for lunch.” In a similar vein, (many) years ago I asserted “give me a slow 68020 running the Mac OS over a fast ‘486 running DOS any day” In other words, a good model running on a slow brain beats a brainiac running a bad model every time.

Constrained vs Unconstrained Thinkers and Foreign Policy

I’ve written many times about Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions. He deals with the differing visions (models) surrounding war and conflict (emphasis mine):

“As in other areas of human life, the unconstrained vision seeks to discover the special reasons for evils involving force and violence—war and crime, for example—while the constrained vision takes these evils for granted as inherent in human nature and seeks instead to discover contrivances by which they can be contained—that is, to discover the causes of peace or of law and order.”

In other words, for the unconstrained conflict is an abnormal condition, hardly something to be counted on.

For the constrained, conflict is the normal condition and should be anticipated, absent safeguards (usually via deterrence).

How can the unconstrained thinkers who seek peace best achieve their goals? In a nutshell, try reset (“overcharge”?) buttons and apology tours:

“Steps for a peace-seeking nation to take to reduce the probability of war therefore include (1) more influence for the intellectually or morally more advanced portions of the population, (2) better communications between potential enemies, (3) a muting of militant rhetoric, (4) a restraint on armament production or military alliances, either of which might produce escalating counter-measures, (5) a de-emphasis of nationalism or patriotism, and (6) negotiating outstanding differences with potential adversaries as a means of reducing possible causes of war.”

How do the constrained promote peace? Sowell claims it’s by:

“(1) raising the cost of war to potential aggressors by military preparedness and military alliances, (2) arousal of the public to awareness of dangers, in times of threat, (3) promotion of patriotism and willingness to fight, as the cost of deterring attack, (4) relying on your adversaries’ awareness of your military power more so than on verbal communication, (5) negotiating only within the context of deterrent strength and avoiding concessions to blackmail that would encourage further blackmail, and (6) relying more on the good sense and fortitude of the public at large (reflecting culturally validated experience) than on moralists and intellectuals, more readily swayed by words and fashions.”

The constrained view aligns closely with the rhetoric of Palin and Romney. Sounds a bit barbaric doesn’t it? Like maybe from a less civilized era? Like maybe something from the “19th century”?


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