I make some pretty strange connections when it comes to foreign affairs. A few months back I wrote about globalization as it related to Cool Runnings. And I wrote about curling as it related to counter-insurgency. (Coming soon: Counter-insurgency theory and Mickey Mouse in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.)
My most recent connection came when I was relooking at the failed states issue of Foreign Policy. As soon as I saw the map of the globe, all I could think was, “Man, that looks like a game of Risk.”
Risk? Yep, the game of global domination, one of the pastimes. We play for hours, get in heated alliances, and generally have a blast. (By the way, I’m not the only one looking to Risk for strategic answers.)
Over time, my friends and I have learned different Risk strategies. The most common lesson is that in Risk, like warfare, concentrating your forces makes sense. So the board starts to look something like this map on Foreign Policy. Different armies of different colors occupy the various states, grouped together to concentrate strength.
Except, whereas in Risk armies lump together for strength, on the failed states map, failed nations lump together; nations that have failed states as neighbors tend to fail themselves. This makes sense: if your neighbor falls apart trade will lower, displaced persons will flood into your country, and disastrous environmental policies will pollute/exploit your resources. All of which erodes the standard of living of all the surrounding nations.
This is all logical, but so what? Well when it comes to Risk, players have strategies to conquer the entire globe; in the realm of failed states no one has a plan. I wish the leaders of America or Europe took this same approach to the rest of the globe. What is our global strategy to pull everyone up to a decent standard of living? What is our approach to spread democracy and stop totalitarianism?
The point is we don’t have one. If we had a global strategy following 9/11, it was to protect our security through expeditionary wars. That only plunged two additional nations into chaos, and did nothing for the poverty stricken nations of Africa, where extremist terrorists took refuge and remain to this day, continuing attacks on Europe and threatening America again.
(Check out this speech by Obama on the same topic.)