Letter Re: Thoughts on Barbara Tuchman and System Fragility

James,
I was reading Tuchman’s seminal work The Guns of August last night and found this quote, where she describes the emphasis in 1910 by author Norman Angell in his book The Great Illusion on how the increasing connectedness of business and nations would assuredly preclude future conflict:

‘By impressive examples and incontrovertible argument Angell showed that in the present financial and economic interdependence of nations, the victor would suffer equally with the vanquished; therefore war had become unprofitable; therefor no nation would be so foolish as to start one.’

This cited work was published in 1910, just prior to the Great War.  Not only does this example from over one hundred years ago point out man’s failure to learn from history, it also illuminates the path for those who choose to learn.  ‘He who has ears, let him hear’ Mathew 11:15.

Recommend your readers who are interested in this idea of interconnectedness and system resilience read, in these books, in sequence:

1)  The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by  Nassim Nicholas Taleb
2)  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism , by Naomi Klein (a Canadian Red Diaper baby but still a valid critique)
3)  The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman

Those who want to delve deeper into the idea of system of systems analysis (SOSA) can look to Complex Interdependence Theory, well articulated by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye. 

As Frank Herbert says in his novel Dune, “The first step in avoiding a trap, is knowing of it’s existence.”  If the “trap” is system fragility, the trap-avoidance tactic/strategy is engendering system resiliency.  Readers of your excellent blog would be well advised to continue their preparations with the addition of strengthening local social, economic, religious and, yes, even political systems. – Tom K.

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