January 15, 2008


Lately, El Cabrero has been musing on how the study of strategy and conflict can help make the world a less violent and more just place (with help from Sun Tzu). If this is your first visit please click on yesterday's post. There's more in last week's posts as well.

Here's another quick review from Sun Tzu (repetition is good sometimes):

*The highest level of skill is to accomplish goals without a struggle.

*In a conflict, attacking one's opponent is one of the least effective approaches. It's far better to neutralize an opponent's strategies, which keeps them from being able to harm you to start with.

*Next best, is to weaken the opponent's alliances, as discussed yesterday.

A basic tenet of the theory of nonviolent action is that power is not monolithic but depends on many sources of support from many people and institutions. If one deprives the opponent of these sources of support, the power fades.

Good tactics are those which win people to your side and away from that of the opponent. As mentioned yesterday, this has been called removing the "pillars of support."

A classical example of this is involved the nonviolent tactics of the civil rights movement. Their example, combined with the fierce repression unleashed on the demonstrators, won public sympathy to their side. Even some people who were not inclined to support the movement had no stomach for the violence of the defenders of the status quo.

Most of the time, however, winning public support (and depriving one's opponent of it) are less dramatic. Some methods of doing this in America today would include such simple things as public education, coalition building, outreach, and working with the media.

Sometimes, all that is necessary to correct an injustice is simply to draw attention to it. I can think of two recent examples in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia:

*A while back, the recently privatized workers' compensation system here started a policy of cutting off promised benefits for widows and widowers of workers killed on the job at the time when the deceased worker would have retired. This also happened to be in clear violation of state law. (The WV Chamber of Commerce, by the way, supported cutting off the widows.)

In the wake of the Sago disaster and the Aracoma mining fatalities, not too many people were in the mood to see widows and orphans jerked around. The more people learned about it, the more outraged they became. The pillars of support for this policy were removed and the noise level increased. In the end, Gov. Manchin ordered the benefits restored.

Score one for Sun Tzu.

*Something similar happened when the state Medicaid program began cutting off in-home services for seniors with disabilities. This program helped people stay in their homes and was much less expensive to the state than nursing home care. People who cared about the seniors drew public attention and the attention of the legislature to what was happening. Many people were outraged. The pillars of support for this policy collapsed and the cuts were reversed.

Score two for Sun Tzu.

CASUALTIES. The World Health Organization estimates Iraqi casualties since the invasion to be over 150,000. Some estimates from other sources are higher.

THOSE CRAZY COSMOLOGISTS are the subject of this article.

GREENER LIVING. Here are some steps you can take.

TWO WV ITEMS. First, the economy and state revenue growth may be slowing. Second, some are drawing attention to the connections between a state Supreme Court justice and Massey CEO Don Blankenship. Massey recently won a decision there. The story even made the NY Times.

URGENT DINOSAUR UPDATE. Here's one with a crocodile-like head.


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