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January 13, 2012

Strategy’s New Inside-Out Dynamic

by Mike M

Further on the theme of the domestic drivers for strategy in the current era, a pair of fascinating essays appear in the new, anniversary issue of Foreign Affairs, by Francis Fukuyama and Charles Kupchan, about two of the specific issues I cited in my earlier post:  inequality, and ungovernability.  (Each of the Foreign Affairs links is to partial articles; the full version of each crouches behind a paywall, but together they’re worth seeking out the issue.)

Fukuyama and Kupchan don’t necessarily trace the implications all the way to geopolitics—although Kupchan does a fair amount, more so than Fukuyama, just because it’s not so much Fukuyama’s goal.  Both are chock-full of insights and help draw out the internal factors that will mold states into the global actors they will become.

Example:  Fukuyama reminds us that mostly, when domestic economic inequality explodes, social power retreats into the hands of a self-protective few, and grievances among the rest looks for a home–despite the best efforts of classist groups to corral it, that anger generally pools into nationalist or religious causes.  Class warriors just don’t attract the masses—unless, I would add, they marry their clarion call to nationalist or religious iconology (there was a reason it was National Socialism, and infused with Christian symbolism to boot).

Lesson:  From a strategic point of view, the outcome we have to worry about stemming from today’s ungovernable, increasingly unequal, worryingly frustrated states is not some sort of global Occupy Capitalism leftist thing, but rather a surge of aggressive nationalism, or extremist religious parties, transforming lost hope in the present into a leap of faith in utopian promises for radical futures, grounded in romanticized versions of “one true people’s” glorious past.

Anyway:  The significance of internal factors for strategy … a theme of continuing importance.

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