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Is friendmaking a good strategy?

The first rule of strategy is that there should be unity of command. As Napoleon said, “better a bad general than two good ones.” You cannot have two plans- there can only one.  Therefore, if strategy means acting according to a preconceived plan rather than the ad hoc optimising of what works and minimising of what doesn’t, then a single commander and a highly effective chain of command is required. In effect, a tyranny.

Yet equally effective (especially in a world where air and sea can be crossed with relative ease) is having friends and allies. But the ability to make friends is not usually compatible with being a tyrant. Big men are usually lonely men. One substitute for friend-making ability is sharing a common powerful ideology- Stalin didn’t like Mao but he helped him a great deal.

To change the focus a little, you can observe the tension between tyranny and friend making at something as ordinary as a dinner party. Sometimes a brilliant guest will hold the floor and everyone is mesmerised. Then one tricky customer will start gathering the scattered resistance to such an attention getting performance. The great speaker will be isolated- he had an audience but no friends. Gradually the tricky customer will coordinate a sort of passive resistance, even mockery of the great man, who finally, beaten, wonders again like a wounded Napoleon at the idiocy of lesser men…


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