Perhaps the key point to take away from the last blog post about conflict and war is that these two phenomena have a largely psychological undergirding, whereby the best strategy is to prick away at your opponent rather than slash at them in order to wear them down psychologically and thus render a favorable outcome to the conflict or war. Thus, the psychological aspect of war is far more significant than the physical aspect of war, based on the assessment of both Western and Eastern strategists of the past. Also, conflict and war have to be seen as an art and a bargaining process rather than a guarantee for annihilation and destruction, which is actually a complex and sophisticated way of viewing conflict and war.
But America’s execution of conflict and war over the course of the last twenty years have been anything but artful and shrewd, given that a whole-of-government hegemonic policy leads to wrong-headed and ill-advised strategies which end up in disaster and failure, as we saw in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Instead of being in a strong position to bargain and dictate the terms of dialogue and negotiation with other countries such as Iran, Russia, and China, the United States is in a position where it is confounded by a domestic situation in need of both internal balancing and a solution to a populist upsurge that has not yet receded. Many begin to wonder where Biden’s audacity comes from for pursuing a heavy-handed approach towards other countries, which involves intervention and interference, at a time when America’s internal affairs are so dicey and shaky.
Even folks who are not masters or PhDs in politics and international relations can look at Biden’s actions and thoughts and wonder why it is difficult for him and his administration to grasp reality. I remember attending an orientation and gathering at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) shortly before the coronavirus outbreak here in the United States, where a Nigerian foreign exchange student told the Dean of the school at that time that America needs to get its priorities straight. He spoke about his travels to rural areas in America and to the American South, and he asked where America found the chutzpah to send money to other countries, bring foreigners to study in its universities, and enmesh itself in the affairs of other countries when its own people did not have basic access to education, health care, and basic income. The Dean was dumbfounded by the question, and he did not really have a good answer for that question.
Even my mother, who never went to college but is quite street-smart and has been able to become a successful entrepreneur, asked me why America has so many bases and soldiers around the world when it is buried in immense debt. She intuitively sensed the wrongfulness of a path dependency that has gripped the American system, even though she does not read books and does not conduct in-depth research on international affairs. Common sense – not a master’s degree or a PhD – is a better mechanism for grasping reality. And unfortunately, common sense is exactly what is lacking in the American system at the moment.