May 06, 2004


I have overlays on my mind. I'll explain but first a bit of background. I've dealt with a lot of very paranoid people in my lifetime, dissidents who seriously worry about assassination, people who have been turned in and served years in jail for an ill-timed joke. They very often have a conspiratorial mindset and often react very inappropriately to US society because they interpret stupidity as conspiracy, irritating people as a plot to destroy community, etc. And you know what? Sometimes, they are right. It was amazing in the days and months after Ceausescu fell how certain people changed their behavior in the Romanian-American community, like a light switch. Things that were impossible were suddenly possible and it's never gotten as bad as the bad old days ever again.

But I would never agree with the conspiratorial mindset. I always thought, and could often demonstrate how a superior course was to be followed by giving the person the benefit of the doubt and acting as if they were in some sort of Schrodinger's cat, both innocent and guilty simultaneously. I calibrated my reactions to them so that what I said and acted in respect to them were good irrespective of which scenario were actually true. This permitted me, as a very small wheel in the community, to move around and do largely as I pleased without having to expend the huge amount of resources these conspiratorialists expended on the largely fruitless task of sorting the crotchety from the evil.

I essentially took two world views and put them on top of each other like two overlays on an overhead projector. And darned if 99% of the time there wasn't at least one way to get through both world views with honor and effectiveness. Very often there were multiple ways of doing it.

This tactic of skipping the task of determining friend or foe but acting as if they are both friend and foe simultaneously has the advantage of saving an awful lot of time, effort and emotional investment. I think it's a part of what is behind the old saw in diplomacy that nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests. You go after your permanent interests and if your enemy is tricked into helping you get them, well, make a toast, slap him on the back, and go for the next round and try to do it again. And if your friend is obstructing you, ankle biting, and being generally unpleasant, that also means little. Give him a glare and capture him back for the next round.

The general simplifying screen of viewing the players in the geopolitical game as only playing one game at a time has always been over-simplistic. It is even more so today. Geopolitics is overlay on top of overlay. You might be playing 5, 6, even 10 games simultaneously. It's enough to make your head hurt. Sometimes one game becomes so important that all the other games become subordinate to that one game's needs. Wartime is like that most of the time. But this particular war, the Global War On Terror (GWOT) is a bit different. Since GWOT is an asymmetric war, we both need to fight it on our own terms and on our enemies' terms as well. This ends up being an overlay situation. We have to take down the other side's fighters but at the same time we need to fight them to out recruit them in their target populations. These are two very different wars and you have to not foul up one conflict type via your efforts to prosecute the other conflict type.

in any case, these are just two examples of overlay type thought. It's a generalized concept that can often be used to sort through competing claims on resources.

Posted by TMLutas at May 6, 2004 07:09 PM