Tag Archives: grand strategy

Three Alternatives to Strategic Popcorn

Summer has been over for a while, but I’m only now finding the time to do a post.  It’s going to be short – just an update to a couple of my previous posts on reading for strategists (like Geopolitics and Investing and How to Think Like an Intelligence Analyst).

Red, White, Red, White, Red:  Five Forces!

White & Red – Five Forces!

The not-so-subtle idea underpinning those posts is that much of what is called business or investment strategy “literature” is intellectual popcorn:  fun to eat, temporarily satisfying, but with no long-term nutritional value.  Eat only popcorn, and you’ll starve to death.  (Here I could criticize business schools for serving mostly intellectual junk food to  their students, but that’s what happens when you let kids create the menu!)

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Soft Power, Cowering Embassies and Roman Forts

Joseph Nye, an eminent political scientist at Harvard, wrote a book about “soft power” a few years ago.  He followed that volume up by devoting a chapter to the concept in last year’s book The Future of Power.  So what is “soft power”?

According to Nye, whereas “hard power” grows out of a country’s military or economic might, soft power, “Arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies.”  In the Future of Power Nye examines what it means to be powerful in the twenty-first century, and how the US might set about retaining its place in the world.  He thinks soft power will be an important part of the mix, and I tend to agree.

But while I’m generally optimistic about the future of America’s place in the international order , one historical parallel related to soft power disturbs me:  the degree to which the threat of terrorism has led the US to create embassy buildings that appear to cower before contemporary threats.

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The Fragility of the Future (and Your Strategy)

Today I was reminded of the perils of forecasting while reviewing  a Department of Defense document, the Joint Operating Environment 2010.

“JOE 2010” as it’s called, is designed to provide the various branches of the US Armed Forces a joint perspective on likely global trends, possible shocks and their future operating environment.  If you’re interested in geopolitics and strategy, I recommend that you take a look.

Apart from its inherent interest, JOE 2010 opens with a defense planning timeline that business and financial strategy practitioners – and anyone who consumes their work  – would do well to bear in mind.  I have reproduced it verbatim here:

1900 If you are a strategic analyst for the world’s leading power, you are British, looking warily at Britain’s Age-old enemy, France.

1910 You are now allied with France, and the enemy is now Germany.

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