Friday, July 28, 2017


"We should stop pussyfooting about the goddamn Russians! We're gonna have to fight them sooner or later anyway. Why not do it now, when we've got the army here to do it with? Instead of disarming these German troops we oughta get them to help us fight the damn Bolsheviks."
--General George S. Patton (Patton)

An ancient tenet of strategic behavior is that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' The idea is that factions normally in opposition will be prone to form coalitions against common adversaries. Enemies become friends ('frenemies') in order to protect or extend their interests against another factions deemed more threatening than the dangers that the coalition parties pose to each other.

A classic frenemy relationship during WWII was the allied US and Soviet Union--two opposing states that banded together to fight a common Axis enemy.

Frenemies are almost by definition temporary relationships. If/when the coalition wins the fight against the common enemy, then frenemies will tend to view each other as opponents once again. The US/USSR coalition quickly dissolved after WWII and the adversarial relationship that followed polarized into a multi-decade Cold War.

In dynamic environments with many factions, frenemy relationships form and dissolve rapidly as each faction seeks to further its interests.

There is no better example of frenemy dynamics than modern politics--particularly politics grounded in democratic (i.e., majority rule) decision-making process. Years ago, for instance, we forecast the tenuous Tea Party/Republican Party frenemy relationship.

The name of the game in the political context is to build a large enough coalition to control the decision--either by winning votes outright or by causing other parties to not win. Factions that normally tear at each others' throats mutually support each other one day only to fight on opposite sides the next day.

Herbert's observations suggest that frenemy relationships become more frequent as democratically motivated factions fight for control of the strong arm of the state. Abundant empirical evidence is available to support claims that we are currently experiencing precisely this.

It is also straightforward to hypothesize that, extended over many periods, the frenemies game played in the political arena serves to hasten the chaos endpoint.

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