"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."

-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
2 Chapter 7: US-China Relations and Wars4 Chapter 7: US-China Relations and WarsChapter 7: US-China Relations and Wars2020-10-18JournalMy main principle about power is: Have power, respect power, and use power wisely. Having power is good because power will win out over agreements, rules, and laws all the time.  That’s because, when push comes to shove, those who have the power either to enforce their interpretation of the rules and laws or to overturn the rules and laws will get what they want.  The sequence of using power is as follows.  When there are disagreements, the parties disagreeing will first try to resolve them without going to rules/laws by trying to agree on what to do by themselves.  If that doesn’t work, they will try using the agreements/rules/laws that they agreed to abide by.  If that doesn’t work, those who want to get what they want more than they respect the rules will resort to using their power.  When one party resorts to using its power and the other side in the dispute isn’t sufficiently intimidated to knuckle under, there will be a war.  A war is the testing of relative power.  Wars can be all-out or they can be contained; in either case they will be whatever is required to determine who gets what.  A war will typically establish one side’s supremacy and will be followed by a peace because nobody wants to fight the clearly most powerful entity until that entity is no longer clearly the most powerful.  At that time, this dynamic will begin again.  It is important to respect power because it’s not smart to fight a war that one is going to lose; it is preferable to negotiate the best settlement possible (that is unless one wants to be a martyr, which is usually for stupid ego reasons rather than for sensible strategic reasons).  It is also important to use power wisely.  Using power wisely doesn’t necessarily mean forcing others to give you what you want—i.e., bullying them.  It includes recognizing that generosity and trust are powerful forces for producing win-win relationships, which are fabulously more rewarding than lose-lose relationships.  In other words, it is often the case that using one’s “hard powers” is not the best path and that using one’s “soft powers” is preferable.\[1\]* If one is in a lose-lose relationship, one has to get out of it one way or another, preferably through separation though possibly through war.  To handle one’s power wisely, it’s usually best not to show it because it will usually lead others to feel threatened and build their counter-threatening powers, which will lead to a mutually threatening relationship.  Power is usually best handled like a hidden knife that can be brought out in the event of a fight.  But there are some times that, when push comes to shove, showing one’s power and threatening to use it is most effective for improving one’s negotiating position and preventing a fight.  It is valuable to know what matters to the other party most and least, especially what they will and won’t fight for and how they will fight.  That is best discovered by looking at the types of relationships they have had and the ways they used power in the past, by imagining what they are going after, and by testing them through trial and error.  Sometimes mutual testing leads to tit-for-tat escalations that dangerously put both parties in the difficult position of having to choose between fighting and being caught bluffing.  Escalating tit-for-tat wars often take conflicts beyond where either side would logically want them to go.  Knowing where the balance of power lies—i.e., knowing who would gain and lose what in the event of a fight—should always be kept in mind because it is essentially the equilibrium level that parties keep in the back of their minds when considering what a “fair” resolution of a dispute is—like thinking about what results a court fight would lead to when considering what the terms of a negotiated agreement should be.  Though it is generally desirable to have power, it is also desirable to not have powers that one doesn’t need.  That is because maintaining power consumes resources, most importantly your time and your money.  With power comes the burden of responsibilities.  While most people think that having lots of power is best, I have often been struck by how happy less powerful people can be relative to more powerful people.  When thinking about how to use power wisely, it’s also important to think about when to reach an agreement and when to fight.  To do that, it is important to imagine how one’s power will change over time.  It is desirable to use one’s power to negotiate an agreement, enforce an agreement, or fight a war when one’s power is greatest.  That means that it pays to fight early if one’s relative power is declining and fight later if it’s rising.  Of course there are also times that wars are logical and necessary to keep or get what one needs.  That brings me to my main principle about war.* Continue reading… \