Friday, April 19, 2013

Can You Smell What The GOP Is Cooking?!? (Why Can't World Leaders Talk Like Pro-Wrestlers?)

As a blogger I take my readership pretty seriously and pay close attention to comments, suggestions, or requests. Sometimes, even without a request, I'll find something interesting or funny to write about based on what people on Facebook or Twitter are telling me. This is one of those cases!

Facebook reader Zach DeBoer (who explicitly wants me to use his actual name) self-described conservative and high-information voter writes:
Basically, what I am saying, is it is people like you [ Anyone Who Disagrees With Him] two that allow this crap [ The Boston Bombings ] to continue because you don't live in the real world. Shit like this is always going to happen. The only goal is to limit it as much as possible. Your plan [ Whatever Plan He Imagines Other People Have ] would open the doors for more attacks and would deter nobody. My plan [ To Have America Threaten Military Retaliation On Any Nation Who "Messes With Us" ] Would make people shit their pants just thinking about it.
Why can't world leaders talk like Pro Wrestlers?
No One Would DARE To Bomb Goldberg!
The basic answer (and note, this article has the humor tag if you feel it's obvious) is that world leaders can't talk like The Rock because unlike characters on TV, every word that comes out of their mouths means something--has actual consequences. When world leaders don't or can't back up what they say, they lose face. Losing face has very real real-world consequences.

In the 1985 geo-political game Balance of Power the players took the roles of the US or USSR and made geo-political moves which gained or lost them prestige. The more the situation escalated the more prestige the situation was worth--and backing down would cost you the points--seeing it through would gain you the points ... and if you pushed things too far: Nuclear War. And everyone dies. This was a very canny game--and was based on real-world geo-political simulations. Apparently you can download it here ("Abandon-ware").
I'm Gonna Send Some Insurgents!
While we don't have "prestige point" monitors on the news, the dynamic is very, very real: if following the Boston bombings a statesman had promised retaliation against some nation-state and then did not follow through (apparently, in Zach-world, against Chechenia--meaning against Russia) it would further weaken the US's footing in world affairs. For proof, let's look at someone who follows the exact advice Zach is giving:
Yeah, He's Being Taken Seriously ...
If you think I'm being unkind by suggesting that someone who considers themselves politically smart is endorsing North Korea, rest assured I'm not:
Zachary DeBoer North Korea has it right. Nobody, including the United States, wants to mess with them. They are pathetic compared to the United States but they seem to be able to keep the U.S. at bay. That is because they are crazy and the United States knows it. You shoot one soldier they might just set off a nuke.
What Zach, apparently, isn't seeing is that North Korea is a pariah state--a rogue nation under crippling sanctions where only a tiny, tiny portion of the populace can live any kind of reasonable lifestyle. Their leadership is a joke--both figuratively as we try to determine if this guy is serious or not--and literally as everyone--everyone makes fun of them. They are already in the geo-political loss-state. They have no further to fall.

Now, it's true that no one messes with North Korea and, sometimes, they get away with military provocations against South Korea ... usually semi-accidentally. Does this mean their "insanity" and "tough talk" is working? No--firstly, despite what Zach says, they are not "crazy." They are brutal, petty, and backwards--but they are wholly rational when playing from that position--which is why their gambit works: Game Theory.

From Wikipedia:
Game theory is a study of strategic decision making. More formally, it is "the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers."
Game Theory tells you what your best-odds move is for a mathematical simulated "game" (scenario). In the case of North Korea, the game is simple: so long as they get the goods necessary to prop up their regime they not only will not attack--they cannot: to attack would be suicide ... and their generals are not suicidal. So long as everyone knows this, the only winning move is just to pay. More deeply to (a) not initiate a regime ending attack (which would provoke a terribly expensive Seoul-crushing* counter-strike) and (b) pay up until they hopefully decay safely from the inside.

It's this calculus that keeps them going--not Kim's tough talk or KAH-RAY-ZEE FACE. Everyone in the game knows this--but to people who aren't paying attention (and the sheltered Nork citizens?) it may well look like Kim really is pushing us around.

For a world leader like America, though, where people want all kinds of things from us? Well, that's a little different--if we were subject to being pushed into corners because our leaders were running their mouths like Kim Jong Un runs his? What might happen?

For one thing, under the Zach-Doctrine, you can bet "Iran" would attack us immediately:
The Saudis always want to "fight the Iranians to the last American" and it is "time for them to get in the game," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tells the French foreign minister in a newly released cable from February 2010.
Zach believes we have "a lot of buttons to push" meaning nuclear ones--but he'd be unintentionally right in that if we adopted a maximal unthinking retaliatory stance? We'd have an awful lot of buttons other people would be pushing too.

Of course we all know Kim is no statesman. We have to hope America's leaders would be. Who did Zach like in the 2012 primaries?

* I know, right?

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