“A game in which the winnings of some players must equal the losses of the others. Zero-sum games are mentioned in a political context when it is believed that resources are limited, and every decision will produce both winners and losers. In such situations, political decisions will be made on the basis of trade-offs between competing interests.” – Definition of Zero Sum game.
There has been a trend over the last few years to define all foreign political decisions made by the United States in terms of the zero sum game definition. Whether it is the nuclear agreement with Iran, current policies with Russia or China, or even the effect of American involvement in Africa, the results are postulated as someone wins and someone loses.
The idea that an arrangement can be made where both countries are winners is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Foreign policy is crouched in phrases of how this helps our country and how it hurts our rivals. By adopting that mind-set, policy creators in Washington and other capitals ensure that those results are the only ones that are acceptable. Opinion writers, like myself, feed that acceptance and the public adopts the opinion that there must always be winners and losers.
Real life and foreign policy is not always that easy, of course. Compromise and limited goals are, in many cases, a better conclusion and are of more long-term worth than complete victory. Take the fall of the Soviet Union, for example.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, the Western Powers hailed it as the defeat of Communism and the opportunity to democratize a powerful opponent. It failed. Corruption and resurgent nationalism pushed Russia into a policy of brinkmanship and empire building that, over the last two years, has become a huge problem for the West.
Although a world can be made perfect with “what if” scenarios, the idea of the United States and the other Western powers creating a solution during the 1990s to help the Russian nation with rebuilding their infrastructure, both physical and political, instead of pursuing policies to strengthen Russia’s neighbors at the cost of increased defensiveness of the Russian state may have prevented the current provocation by Putin’s government.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do not condone the actions of the Russian government in their annexation of Crimea and fomenting civil war in the Ukraine, but from the position of Russia creating a defensive cordon of states between them and their traditional enemies in Europe, it makes sense: In a Zero Sum game way.
The surge of economic, political and military power in China gives the United States the opportunity to move away from Zero Sum Politics. This country’s economic health is dependent on a strong China, but a strong China becomes a political and military threat. Zero Sum politics will acerbate that situation and create a mirror of the two super power system that created the Cold War.
Compromise and sensible solutions, for ourselves, our allies and the Chinese people can create a situation where there are no winners and losers, where victory is not an end in itself.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.