[Opinion] On Winning at Nuclear Poker

Nuclear weapons are a touchy subject in geopolitical negotiations.

Almost everyone involved in the negotiations around nuclear weapons knows what the outcomes of launching them against another country could be, which is why, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, regionalism in arms races became a geopolitical concern.

But in reality, the issue with nuclear weapons is not really the weapons themselves. In reality, the issues around negotiating with developers of nuclear weapons is the attitudes, motivations, and psychological desires of the people who run the governments that are either developing nuclear weapons (North Korea, Iran, etc.) or who already have them (Russia, the US, China, etc.)

This is similar to negotiations that go on around issues that are less geopolitical and more commonplace. When you are negotiating with your wife about where to go to dinner, her mindset, attitude, body language, motivations, and your previous history with her, matter more to the outcome of that negotiation, than where you eat.

In our individual and corporate lives there are many nuclear weapons that we hide inside of our interactions. Some of them take years to build and only a minute to deploy and to wreck destruction.

We often don’t talk about our tendency to build up resentment, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, and hatreds, until they are primed and ready to launch. Exploding on another party. Usually, not the party that we want to have them explode upon.

That person (a parent, a child, a former spouse, a family member, a neighbor, a politician) is usually either too far away emotionally, or too distant physically, for us to actually launch our carefully curated and developed personal stockpile of nukes upon them.

Mob behavior, direct democracy, these are both example of personal nuclear behavior writ large, at scale, and just as destructive as at the personal level.  Nuclear poker is played at this level as well: by politicians, pundits, professional prognosticators and others. But here’s the thing, from the geopolitical level all the way to your individual level of your individual world:

  1. Nobody knows how anybody else is going to respond to a nuclear strike—either personal or global.
  2. The appearance of being crazy, or dysfunctional, enough to destroy everything can sometimes act as a deterrent to people actually going ahead and pushing the button to destroy everything—either personally or globally.

The personal (and global) question in any negotiation where the threat of nuclear destruction is on the table, is: How crazy do you want to be to ‘win’ at nuclear poker?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
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