“All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”
– George Orwell
“ Hindsight is not only clearer than perception-in-the-moment but also unfair to those who actually lived through the moment.”
– Edwin S. Shneidman, Autopsy Of A Suicidal Mind
Brinkmanship is defined as the practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. It occurs in international politics, foreign policy, labor relations, and (in contemporary settings) military strategy involving the threatened use of nuclear weapons.
This maneuver of pushing a situation with the opponent to the brink succeeds by forcing the opponent to back down and make concessions. This might be achieved through diplomatic maneuvers by creating the impression that one is willing to use extreme methods rather than concede. During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear force was often used as such an escalating measure. Adolf Hitler also utilized brinkmanship conspicuously during his rise to power. (More on ignoring events and Hitler later on.)
In the last 48 hours, so much news has come out of Europe that has me frankly shaking my head. It is a strange game of brinksmanship they are playing, and it is one we should be paying attention to (as if the brinkmanship played by US politicians over the debt ceiling is not enough). This week we look at what seems to be European leaders taking random walks through the minefield at the very heart of the European Experiment. As Paul Simon wrote, “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.” But first…
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