“The most dangerous creation in the world, in any society, is the man with nothing to lose. “
Al Freeman Jr.
“When there is nothing to lose — Always leave a way out, unless you really want to find out how hard a man can fight when he’s nothing to lose.”
I know I didn’t write the art of the deal <and I could not have written it> but it sure does seem like we are going about trying to make a deal with North Korea in a slightly counter intuitive way.
I certainly have not negotiated Manhattan real estate deals and lucrative licensing deals but I do know something about human behavior, loyalty to habitual behavior and how people assess value to things they do … and what kind of value you need to offer to increase the likelihood in change of behavior.
I do know that if what you have is everything to you … you have nothing to lose to hold on to it with ragged claws.
Your current behavior, while seemingly incredibly irrational on occasion, is actually made up of an internal value assessment.
Increase sanctions and you actually increase the value of the only thing I have. For example … if you start taking all of my things, the one thing I have, my home, becomes more important to me – truly my castle — which I will defend until my last penny .
Increase the presence and power of your military & strength and while it may showcase that my military is smaller it increases the importance of the one thing I do have <my military strength>.
<note: I am not suggesting reminding someone you have a stronger punch doesn’t have some value … it just has a diminishing return in the deal valuation>
Increase your bluster and it actually increases the value in my bluster.
I say all that to point out that’s why the way this deal is so artfully, or inartfully, being done seems totally whack to me.
What would I be tempted to try?
Get them to switch. Offer something in return for giving up their current habit.
Make it so lucrative that they cannot pass on the deal <and you actually “buy the switch in products” — which consumer companies do all the time>.
Their military represents all their pride and country esteem. Think of it like some asshole guy owning a Mustang <with a disturbingly absurd personal relationship with it … probably has given it a name and a vanity plate>.
It’s powerful, muscular and masculine. It is also individual esteem based self actualization emblem.
Now you have a family.
We will ask you to ditch your beloved Mustang and … well … maybe now I want you to buy a large house in a prosperous neighborhood to showcase you are a powerful, responsible, muscular, successful man.
But suffice it to say that I want them to trade their pride & self actualization/esteem in military to something else. In fact … I want to give it to them in one hand and take what they have back in the other hand.
Personally … I would offer them a viable economy and country infrastructure to sustain their population & culture as the deal.
To be clear.
We don’t want to westernize North Korea … how they govern is their choice … what their culture is … is … well … their choice. Therefore, we would have to seek to quickly build a viable North Korea economy based on what they want and what supports their governance and culture.
This means we would have to suck it up and try and stop pushing our values and our beliefs on them and … well … simply make the trade.
I imagine my point <for those who shudder at setting aside ‘our values’ in this deal making> would be is that prosperity tends to make people and cultures more free <or freer than they were before> so that the country becomes a more viable entity to interact with global economy and cultures.
We get a little of what we want in terms of ‘human rights progress’ but, most importantly, we wean North Korea off of military as their self actualization brand and replace it with something else <note: this means keep your eye on the real prize in the deal>.
There would most likely have to be some additional “gives” in terms of military scale down on our side in the region to insure they trade what they have <this is where China can step up by signing an agreement with North Korea that they will militarily support North Korea should the need arise>. This also permits military emphasis to shift from North Korea to China which, while troubling in some ways, is a more palatable diplomacy challenge.
Look. The way Donald J. Trump is going about this may make some Americans feel ‘patriotically powerful’ but it sure doesn’t seem like the right way to go about making a deal.
We need to stop calling the leader of a country a crazy nutjob.
We need to stop threatening them with bluster.
We need to stop stating the obvious … that we have the most powerful military in the world and they don’t <because in this case it is simply semantics of degrees of death & destruction>.
We need to stop taking shit away from them <they aren’t some child who loses their allowance because they did something wrong>. We need to approach this deal as if it was a business marketing to someone that we wanted them to switch from a product they have been loyal to for years to some new product <some people call that “extreme change in behavior”>.
I would suggest to the smarter minds than I, trying to figure this out, that changing behavior is hard … and switching behavior may be even harder … but that is what you are seeking to do in this so-called ‘deal’ we are trying to impatiently reach with North Korea.
What do I know?
I didn’t write the Art of the Deal.
What I do know is that America has really nothing to lose <excepting possibly Donald J Trump’s ego … which is a concern> and North Korea has everything to lose <in their eyes>. Paradoxically this means North Korea is being cornered and has … well … nothing to lose by doubling down on bluster, military self esteem posturing and … well … defending the only thing they have.
Pride, self esteem & all that Maslow stuff is really really powerful stuff.
Someone in this deal making needs to remember that this is less about military and nukes than it is all this other powerful stuff.
And they need to remember …
… unless you really want to find out how hard a man can fight when he’s nothing to lose