MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS | 2017 EDITION | VOLUME 80
Forget animal instincts. If this quick-learning situationally aware hatchling can be threat smart and literally see around corners, why do so many people, and leaders today, lack strategic perspective? Well, Harvard's Professor Kanter agrees: “Smart leaders focus on execution first and strategy second.”
Having falsely denied their role in shaping, even radicalizing public opinion for years, greedy data farmers like Facebook, Google and Twitter — media giants, really — are finally under legal scrutiny. The Data&Society PDF above is a must-read. But remember: “Russian Meddling” wouldn't be possible without U.S. strategic policy naïveté, which benefits China and other actors. Indeed if “focus is the new IQ”, focused strategy execution via disinformation campaigns, exploitation of policy or absence thereof, and unregulated algorithms, is the ultimate IQ in the current world order. From the North Korean nuclear crisis to Russia's distractive scheming to ASEAN, there's never been a more critical time to execute right. Yet insular, arrogant and nonstrategic, divided Americans, military personnel and veterans alike don't understand that Kim Jong-Un's DPRK is only one of 3 extreme jingoism-driven bullies set to be America's worst nightmare by 2025. Regardless how you feel about Donald Trump.In spite of globalization and digital transformation, we still live in a world where local strategic knowledge offers the best obtainable geopolitical intelligence. Thus, when one DPRK defector after another says “War with North Korea is unavoidable”, reality-based leadership execution radically reviews decades of failed ideological policy. Fallen Mugabe and China's snub, equally instructive.Put differently, although there are academic books, courses and papers on international perspective, there's a reason iguanas or birds well-versed in danger don't need formal training. But lacking similar sophistication however, naïve Americans, including “so much winning” Trumpians, policymakers and procrastinators who forget how we got here, also fail to realize that North Korea's back down on Kim Jong-Un's Guam nuclear threats, in fact is a ploy borrowed straight from the likes of China and Russia.Starry-eyed is not an option for animals aware that crocodiles and big cats lie in wait. Because, for those born in treacherous ecosystems, second-by-second survival depends on 100% reality-based agile response and awareness of predator threat, psychology and tradecraft. This explains business, policy and strategic failure. And why smug innovation management talks and content often amuse me.Security and intellectual property protection rarely get a serious mention, nor are they often baked into the discussion or culture from the get go. The same starry-eyed approach to personal and business social networking that gets organizations and democracies alike technically, politically and socially hacked, is instructive, and readily observable. For hubris says: It's “not the relevant forum”. Yet even hatchlings (as above) and birds (as seen in Part 2) demonstrate why like it or not, your threatscape demands commensurate global strategic security awareness. And much less naïvety. Good strategic perspective NEVER minimizes threats. And there are good reasons despite their dominant strength(s), reptilian predators, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, panthers, cougars; even small cats insist on stealth and subtlety. Yet even respected leaders fail to master this principle.
Innovation matters. But we live in a world of subtlety, nuance and sharks. That's why despite its legendary brinkmanship, North Korea's Kim dynasty is no different. Ask anyone well-versed in Cyberwarfare and strategic security. Or click/tap the image to read the acclaimed New York Times report about North Korea's once comical threat. Moreover, it's one thing to hear the business adage: “A lot of snakes in business.” Quite another to live, work, experience geopolitics while observing as well as studying business and strategic security UNSHELTERED, in, and from China for over a decade, and as a result, acutely come to appreciate JUST HOW snakes rule the world. So what do we mean by sheltered?
Sheltered is how most well-paid dignitaries, business people, policy-makers, strategists, organizations or governments and affluent tourists live, work, travel, study or do business abroad: in a bubble. And that often easily leads to bad policy with disastrous consequences. That's why designed to inform policy, decision-making and business strategy, this is an article by a security researcher and lawyer, —about building formidable international and strategic perspective. It draws on personal experience, painstaking research, and readily observable lessons from animals. Particularly, those with the best defensive security mechanisms. The reason?
The average person has an episodic, disconnected, myopic, even narcissistic view of the news. Particularly, international news. They maintain zero genuine interest in solid, objective analysis of how things really are on the ground. Traveling abroad, identifying, engaging over extended periods, and building rapport with disinterested locals to know HOW and WHAT they think, and WHY. Their lifestyle and implications of national and global policy. Plus doing the same with the best, brightest; morally courageous of them while adapting those tactics for business.
This — not Panda diplomacy — is where true, locally-sourced strategic global perspective originates. Yet no one tells you the cost of ignorance in this all-important errand is creating and living in a smug, ideological filter bubble that prevents even presidential or C-Level strategists from knowing adversaries and competitors alike as they really OUGHT to be known, —beyond the façade of pomp.
If you don't want to be outfoxed, overwhelmed, dominated; destabilized politically, in business — locally, globally, geopolitically — even personally, like the U.S., vis-à-vis President Trump, or like cocky Western businesses who rush to China only to be robbed blind and eventually pullout, you're going to need sharper imagination, worldliness, business instincts, and ability to learn quickly. Like the baby iguana. Because as the backstory will tell you, most (50/50) don't make it.Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno like President Obama, famously wrongly predicted: “Donald Trump will never be President” of the United States. His own weak response in handling of Putin's Cyberwar demonstrates a “hope” that legal (or good) would triumph over illegal (i.e., evil, if you like), and with a Hillary Clinton win, Russia would be sidelined as America moved on. So he choked on ideology-based weak cyber deterrence rather than decisive action. And while we're at it, anyone who tells you Russian disinformation didn't swing the 2016 election is a fool or Kremlin accomplice. Don't take my word for it. Talk to Pew Research plus regarded security experts, in case you missed this. This was a President who played nice throughout his two terms with the Mainland Chinese regime to the displeasure of many. It was part of his Doctrine. Meanwhile, both Chinese leadership and State media never cared much for his Presidency as observed from within China. Also, like Russia's, China aggressive, well-documented (cyber) espionage and cyber war (preparations) against the United States flourished. Simultaneously as Putin's Russia steadily and brazenly escalated hybrid warfare against Ukraine vis-à-vis Crimea, U.S. and NATO countries, with impunity. Further, exploiting the fact that most Americans' suffer from information disorder (see further below) and lack strategic acumen.
Whether the order came from the top or not — and usually, it is — President Obama was roundly disrespected at his last G20 Summit in Hangzhou by Chinese jingoists' juvenile power play, involving the pettiness of a choreographed Air Force One red carpet/tarmac snub.
Few Americans, to this day, realize the implications of Obama's: “We don't leave our values behind” response to the unprovoked, rude, humiliating and frankly juvenile incident. But it highlighted the dangers of predictability, over-studied courtesy, failing to read people — Mainland Chinese jingoistic mindset — and adjusting to terrain and threat actors, with commensurate strategic perspective.Not surprisingly, Donald Trump, the beneficiary of Obama's lack of decisive action on Russia, blamed him of collusion. And yet snake, shark, hyena, porcupine or iguana could have seen that coming.
I've already explored qualities of the eagle, the dog vis-à-vis problem-solving and even cheetah. And while it's always good to have cheetahs in your team — not because a cheetah is a cheater(!) — it pays to remember this: You're going to encounter “animals” that just don't care about your values. And knowing WHEN to park ideology and play hardball, or the adversary's chess game matters more than being predictable, clueless, or unable to adapt when most critical.
Never fall for for rosy hype about China. Or any country for that matter. Or up and leave for a visit or accept a job (as I initially did because of flattery) without thorough research about how things really work there. Because as those of us who study leadership, business, security and other strategic blunders — who learned the hard way — will tell you, THAT'S precisely where and how the foxes, snakes, sharks, hyena's and treacherous operators win. Exploiting the ignorance, optimism and naïveté of their prey. And that is as true in Asia as it is in America and elsewhere.
I once met a Black American on my way to Hong Kong who needed all the help he could get except the timing was very bad as I had to exit just one stop after meeting him. He had arrived in China a week prior having been misled much the same way I was lured with a job and lots of flattery years prior. And now frustrated and overwhelmed, he turned to me, saying: “Damn. How come nobody told me everything is blocked around here!”
Not surprisingly, I never heard from him although I gave him a business card. He had too much going on physically and mentally; probably even lost it before reaching his destination.
Another American tourists' rude awakening became a meme of sorts, one of which I've graphically enhanced here (images hyperlinked). Beware of, and tame your ideologies, if you're going to build a robust, competent, reality-based strategic international perspective.
The problem with ideology-based leadership has already been addressed and you should read it later, but it explores both the the positive and negative paranoia behind Putin's ideology-based leadership or Russia. As I told a tipsy business colleague who once asked me: “Ya think porcupines have trust issues?”, Native Americans would tell you what's amazing is that animal's ability to balance naïvety and unwarranted trust as part of its defensive security posture. And good, threat smart leaders take note. For the same reason parking baseline assumptions and ego avoids clouded judgment. For:We've all encountered “been there, done that” folks in business, social settings, international travel and popular destinations. For them, it's about bragging rights. But consultants like myself are in the strategic thinking business. Not the assumptions business. And as I've often reminded and effectively silenced well-to-do expats living in fully-paid, employer-sponsored luxury hotels, condos, and exclusive economic zones with all the social benefits and filter bubble accompanying such lifestyles, that simply isn't the most comprehensive way to KNOW a country.
Ask any Olympic athlete if living in a “global village” qualifies as knowing the soul of that host nation.
From macro geopolitical and global business strategy, risks and their effects on weaker Asian, African and European economies, including Putin's hybrid warfware against Ukraine, NATO, and as of 2016, Ameria, to the sophisticated deception of North Korea-China relations burdening the China-U.S. power balance; even the hustler jumping public queues or vendor out to nickle and dime you with a straight-face even when caught red-handed, a well-dressed snake is still a snake.
And while it is true that most people lie, and Americans and Westerners in particular have made Hollywood hits off the topic, it isn't until you live in Asia Pacific (China in particular), Russia or former Eastern Bloc nations with eyes, ears and senses wide open or study them that you come to understand how much more sophisticated the game is in those cultures. China's continued denial of it's militarization of the South China Sea despite glaring international satellite and U.S. naval proof to the contrary is one such example. Whether it is cyber-espionage, other such attacks (by either Russia or China), or in the case of America's own embattled liar-in-chief, Donald Trump, customary denial is the way of the snake. And to be an entrepreneur or leader ignorant of their designs in an increasingly globalized world is to open oneself or organization to avoidable risks, bad business and hiring decisions as well as partnerships.
I've already explored qualities of the eagle, dogs, vis-à-vis problem-solving; even cheetahs. And while it's always good to have cheetahs in your team — not because a cheetah is a cheater(!) — snakes are particularly crucial in foreign, business, personal relations; geopolitical business strategy execution, competition, espionage operations, and survival. They are quite literally everywhere. Even in your family, and in close circles, as Patrick Bet-David confirms in Part 2. Except in the case of China, they start them young in deception indoctrination.Hence, military expenditure helps. But in the current global Security order, what matters more is the success of strategic and deceptively powerful cyber war and hybrid war assets nations like Israel, China, Russia, North Korea and Iran are successfully deploying against distracted adversaries like America. And the disruption and deterrence reaped.
Nations with the most supply of deception as a culture, I've come to understand, will maintain resilient social, political, economic, strategic and competitive edge for the foreseeable future. At the expense of those not immune to (Russian) social engineering à la America's exhausting Trump-Russia scandal.
Indeed if you lack, and fail to develop formidable strategic international perspective or a team with strong strategic international perspective, like the FBI/CIA joke (“We'll find you. It's what we do.”) snakes and crocs will find and entrap you. And hacking, initial flattery, bullying and treachery are only part of a vast repertoire of tricks in their toolkit.
In the case of corrupt, naive or narcissistic African and Western politicians, entrepreneurs, tourists or expats who are suckers for flattery, Mainland Chinese “snakes” will always outfox them. Which is also another reason hiring is an overlooked attack surface in geopolitical business strategy.To be threat smart, hire people who are hard to social engineer. Ask Tom Friedman who recently brought back from Asia Pacific ample reminders of precisely that vis-à-vis Donald Trump. For those who don't want to be outfoxed in not just business but also other domains and relationships. However, because the average American — including politicians beholden to the Fox News misinformation juggernaut and ignorant viewership — suffers from information disorder (click image), being threat smart requires far more assertive leadership determined to fight it. And you can't effectively mitigate a threat if like President Obama and overly cautious national security “experts” like James Clapper before, you downplay its potency with hesitant deterrence policy. Which only emboldens adversaries, who in America's case further succeed in destabilizing you, with a Presidency like that of Trump's.Naive, greedy, easily impressed people, entrepreneurs, poorly-educated or ill-informed politicians operating from the cushion of their filter bubbles repeatedly make business deals abroad thanks to starry-eyed business personality views or “oriental” music, lady, “great cuisine” or experience they had often easily get robbed blind because they lost their objectivity long before. Their psychological triggers and baseline assumptions open for malicious exploit. And once you do that, you cannot accurately read people let alone objectively predict, appreciate, or mitigate pending risks at a destination, in business or relationships, or from a promising job candidate. Until it is too late.
Revert to Part 2, finish below, or for consultation, connect with me here.
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