Is the World Falling Apart? – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Enquiring minds want to know. (Top experts weigh in on several flash points.)

In different ways, these flashpoints all underline the continued diffusion of power away from the United States to other actors, whether to different regional powers or to nonstate actors. They remind us that such diffusion will multiply the sources of violent conflict in the world. They also are a sober tonic for anyone who started to believe that military force was somehow on its way out in international relations.

Professor Steven Pinker may be right about the overall decline in violence in the world when looked at in a larger historical perspective. But these multiple flashpoints make clear that violence, or the threat of violence by actors of many different types, will continue to shape different parts of the international landscape for the foreseeable future.

Burns Offers Nuanced Perspective On Slew of Crises Facing Obama

A lengthy and helpful take by Nicholas Burns on the challenges facing Obama and the US from abroad:

A growing chorus of critics has called President Obama’s foreign policy “besieged and befuddled,” as The Post’s Fred Hiatt recently put it, but Burns offers a more even-handed, nuanced assessment of Obama’s response to a litany of security crises around the world — an assessment befitting the complexity of the problems the U.S. faces.

The former ambassador said that among these problems, sectarian violence in Iraq is foremost on his mind. Burns said he generally gives Obama high marks on foreign policy, but suggested the president’s legacy on Iraq will be mixed.

What’s to Gain from Gaming World History?

What if you could mix world history into a competetive strategy game where you control a civilization–and match it up against others, both real and imagined?  What if the game could be used to teach diplomacy and negotiation?

Sid Meier has done this, as have others.  To explain, Foreign Policy asked him to delve a little deeper and explain why, exactly, this game works:

FP: So what is the secret of Civ’s longevity?

SM: I think there is a combination of these grand ideas — war and peace, exploration, 6,000 years of history, great leaders — in a playable format. You can easily make a game with these elements that is unplayable or overwhelming. What we’ve tried to do is introduce these elements in a playable, manageable way, so that you as the player can master and experiment with them. Combining these things is the power of Civ.

via You Must First Invent the Universe.

Best Board Game Ever: The Origins of Diplomacy

Consider the one board game to rule them all, at least for diplomats, negotiators, and other would-be hagglers, and it is called Diplomacy.  David Hill writes a tell-all in Grantland this past June–detailing the creation of a game created by Harvard graduate Allan B. Calhamer that sold over 300,000 copies and entered legendary status.

There are two things that make Diplomacy so unique and challenging. The first is that, unlike in most board games, players don’t take turns moving. Everyone writes down their moves and puts them in a box. The moves are then read aloud, every piece on the board moving simultaneously. The second is that prior to each move the players are given time to negotiate with each other, as a group or privately. The result is something like a cross between Risk, poker, and Survivor — with no dice or cards or cameras. There’s no element of luck. The only variable factor in the game is each player’s ability to convince others to do what they want. The core game mechanic, then, is negotiation. This is both what draws and repels people to Diplomacy in equal force; because when it comes to those negotiations, anything goes. And anything usually does.

via The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds «.

Hooked yet? Check out Ira Glass on This American Life for an interview (bleeped version) and more on the powerful effect of negotiation.

Game Theory Secrets for Parents – WSJ

Game theory is, in essence, the science of strategic thinking—a way of making the best decision possible based on the way you expect other people to act. It was once the domain of Nobel Prize-winning economists and big thinkers on geopolitics, but now parents are getting in on the act. Though game theory assumes, as a technical matter, that its players are rational, it applies just as well to not-always-rational children.

A key lesson in game theory, says Barry Nalebuff, a professor at the Yale School of Management, is to understand the perspective of the other players. It isn’t about what you would do in another person’s shoes, he says; it’s about what they would do in their shoes. “Good game theory,” he says, “appreciates the quirks and features that make us unique and takes us as we are.” The same could be said of good parenting.

via Game Theory Secrets for Parents – WSJ.

Summer Reading Book Pick: Futuristic International Relations

Looking for something beach-worthy with a diplomatic twist? How about reading Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds?

Why you’d want to give this to a teen: In this futurist game of Diplomacy, Africa wins. A (mostly utopian) vision of Earth in the future.

Excerpt: “For all that Eunice’s death hit the family hard, it wasn’t long before she was shunted from the headlines. A simmering sex/vote-rigging scandal in the Pan-African Parliament, a dispute between the East African Federation and the African Union about cost overruns on a groundwater bioremediation programme in former Uganda, a stand-off between Chinese tecto-engineers and Turkish government mandarins concerning the precise scheduling of a stress-management earthquake along the North Anatolian fault. On the global scale, continued tensions between the United Surface Nations and the United Aquatic Nations regarding extradition rules and the extent of aug access rights and inter-regional Mechanism jurisdiction. Talk of expanding the scope of the Mandatory Enhancements. A murder attempt in Finland. Threat of industrial action at the Pontianak space elevator in western Borneo. Someone in Tasmania dying of a very rare type of cancer, something of a heroic achievement these days. Only at the household, only in this part of the East African Federation, had the clocks stopped.”

via TED Ideas

The Case Against the Bernanke-Obama Financial Rescue –

Good read on an alternative view on the cause of the US banking crisis:

Their research is now widely cited as demonstrating that the overhang of household debt contributed to the slow pace of the recovery; one such citation came in the 2012 Economic Report of the President. Alan Krueger, a Princeton economics professor who wrote the report and was then the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said he considered their work important for suggesting that in areas where the economic recovery was slow, “that weak demand was the source of their economic problems, not credit market failures.”

Mr. Sufi said he was delighted that policy makers were listening. “It was always the goal for me to write research that would be policy-relevant,” he said. “People asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’m pretty sure I just wanted to be right.”

via The Case Against the Bernanke-Obama Financial Rescue –


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