A Twitter thread by Josh Wolfe.

1/ THREAD

A core philosophy I hold is
“RANDOMNESS & OPTIONALITY” (R&O)––

the acceptance of high uncertainty (randomness)
+
the value of having as many OPTIONS as possible

(both ACTIVELY created by you & those inadvertently created for you which you SEE + SEIZE)...

2/ Most of the time the more OPTIONS you have + the fewer options a competitor has the better off you are.

Options may come in form of having more CAPITAL or TIME to try more tactics/strategies––while a competitor is limited by cash, time or available tactics/strategies.

3/ In many conflicts––one side wants something the other has or wishes to have (while the other side wishes to deter them from getting it).

This could be outright zero-sum competition…

4/ …like
-multiple suitors competing for a mate/partner
-multiple VCs competing for an entrepreneur
-multiple companies competing for a customer contract -multiple countries competing for land, resources, power, dominance...

5/ There is a theory called “OFFENSIVE REALISM”

in a world of great uncertainty + insecurity + high ENTROPY (especially wrt intentions of others) it is RATIONAL for countries (or co's) or coalitions of people–– to offensively compete for power + ORDER to not let others get it...

6/ The theory comes from military strategist scholar (also a fellow Cornellian + Brooklynite)

John Mearsheimer who has another theory on

HOW decisions get made to start wars based upon expected outcomes of military conflict––and how to STOP them (a theory of deterrence)...

7/ His theory of DETERRENCE is straightforward:

if a potential attacker THINKS they will succeed with low costs, forget deterrence.

Deterrence only works when the attacker THINKS it may be costly + unlikely…

8/ For both attacker SUCCESS depends on (perception of) OPTIONS (strategies) available.

3 main ones
1. War-of attrition: high uncertainty, high costs (attack unlikely)
2. Limited-aims: fewer risks + costs (attack unlikely)
3. Blitzkrieg: low-risk, low-cost (attack likely)...

9/ I oft say: ‘Failure comes from a failure to imagine failure’.

Most entrepreneurial failures like most battlefield failures

come from the attacker’s OVERCONFIDENCE that it can do a blitzkrieg strategy––but is mistaken...

10/ The frustrating thing (for a rational pacifist):

IF you accept idea that in world of uncertainty + low control THEN actors are motivated to SEEK POWER + CONTROL (lest others seek + seize it)––

THEN you must also seek to deter
which requires escalation of OPTIONS to deter.

11/ OPTIONS are the portfolio of things you can use to signal before needing to use to change the PERCEPTION of a would-be attacker that they are more likely to fail than succeed and should not even try...

could be advanced technology (hard power), relationships (soft power)...

12/ BUT if you relinquish OPTIONS

by giving up technology or relationships (or in startups cash or equity or horizon-setting inspiring mission to retain people) you give up your power to DETER a competitor who may want what you have...

13/ Back to geopolitics––

Mearsheimer perfectly predicted (almost alone in voicing it) that if Ukraine surrendered its nuclear weapons in the mid 90s––giving up an OPTION of DETERRENCE––it would absoluetly face aggression by Russia.

He nailed it with the seizure of Crimea...

14/ His theory says countries will COMPETE to prevent other countries from having global hegemony and to do so will also try to limit them from having regional hegemony (b/c if that is achieved they can influence neighboring countries).

THIS is the CHINA v US conflict today...

15/ His theory correctly predicted that the US would quickly. + decisively liberate Kuwait from Iraq in 1991 (strategy #3, above 'Blitzkreig')––but also that Israel's attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 would fail (as air power could not defeat guerrilla forces)...

16/ Mearsheimer has another VERY key theory on why leaders LIE––and when LYING works:

there must be TRUST for LYING to work.

If you are a pastor or president or CEO with a flock of believers––you can dupe them more as they trust you more....

17/ Interestingly: leaders of democracies are MORE likely to lie to their own people than autocrats are.

Saddam was telling the truth he had no WMDs, while Bush + crew lied.

Leaders of democracies lie to their people to fight wars of choice in foreign places....

18/ Leaders don’t lie to other countries because TRUST is too low to begin with. And you need TRUST for LIES to work.

Distrust is vaccination against lies.

19/ IDEALISTS rightly wish the Great Game would end.

REALISTS rightly see that as long as their is UNCERTAINTY (especially of what perceived competitors may do) there is motivation for pursuit of POWER to control ones’ fate + have leverage