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jeudi 4 octobre 2012

The Family Theory

Right now, it's hard to say very much intelligent about the MENA political situation since events are unfolding so quickly.

However, your blogger has several meta-thoughts about people and how they relate and interact.


The first is what she has tentatively dubbed the "family theory of politics." A major shortcoming of Political Science is that, by focusing on strategy, it forgets the human emotional component of politics. This has enduring relevance, since both governments and populations make decisions based on criteria other than strategic calculations. For instance, your blogger holds that the consensus on Iran is incorrect. Instead, the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons is mostly about pride and claiming a particular identity and that although Iran has tensions with Israel, they are not really interested in the losses associated with a war.

But in the same vein, pride and hurt feelings play a very large role in international politics. For instance, in the relationships between countries, tone counts a lot. Good advice is meaningless if the way it's delivered denigrates the receiving country. Or even more fundamentally, many leaders, like teenagers, just don't like being told what to do. In fact, even if what they're being told is in their interest, their emotional response may lead them to act differently.

Additionally, "family theory" is applicable to the relationship between allies. Often, the relationship between allies is similar to the one between a parent and a child. Whether or not it should be more a relationship between equals is another question entirely. Yet, in the same way that a good parents encourages a child's independence and self-sufficiency, so too should the "parent" country. Often, the United States plays the role of an over-involved parent. Instead of letting the "child" country take care of its own affairs, the US continues to be involved, day-to-day. Soon, any gratefulness dissipates, and the "child" country begins to feel resentment. Of course, the United States is not the only nation that plays this role, but it is arguably the most visible.

Another aspect of the "family theory" is the idea of apologizing versus infallibility. Candidate Romney has used  President Obama's handling the offensive film/Libya attack as an example of his weakness, and his apparent lack of pride in American exceptionalism. However, it is unhelpful to take the attitude that every action is correct. Parents generally want what is best for their children, and they act accordingly. And yet, sometimes they make the wrong decision. When they do, it's better to deal with the wrong decision honestly. Otherwise, resentment will fester and grow.