Principles of Pragmatic Problem Solving
Fundamental Facts on the World Stage
- There are more politically liberal figures in any country who tend to be more idealistic alongside more conservative figures that tend to be more hard-nosed. Being a conservative does not mean being suicidal, and over three decades of abortive engagement with Iran displays the rule of thumb that conservatives drive a harder bargain yet often last longer and deliver better.
- There are few truly implacable adversaries save for the extremist elements that are on occasion at the very least tacitly tolerated in any event. There are few if any serious actors on the world stage that are irrational enough to refuse to sit at a table that is properly set.
- Every situation has a major key. As those who take a relatively small amount of time and initiative to listen and learn without fear or favor come to recognize in a short period of time, Yemen is the major key where the Middle East is concerned and resolution of the situation there would have better than even odds of opening doors elsewhere wider than they would otherwise be, including in Tehran.
- It is important to accurately identify the national interest, which is the core variable of rational decisionmaking in any country. Doing so requires correctly identifying threats and opportunities and addressing them accordingly. This has objectively not been done in Syria, Iraq and Yemen in at least the past half decade.
- While it is important to keep eyes on the bigger issues, it is also important to keep eyes open for emerging threats and opportunities. The rapid rise of extremist elements in Africa, especially Burkina Faso and Mozambique, may well pose such a scenario. Not addressing potentially sizable problems when they are small risks causing major headaches down the line, especially in an increasingly interconnected world.
- A rational foreign policy recognizes the importance of alliances while balancing them with the core principle that a nation’s priority must be interests rather than allies. Both can and must be continually balanced.
- It is important to recognize which problems have viable military solutions and which do not. Approaching problems, such as those with China, that do not have a viable military solution from the US standpoint in a manner that suggests otherwise risks exacerbating those problems in a counterproductive manner.