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Systems Thinking

Dated: 9 Jan 2012
Posted by JSingh
Category: International
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By Erik Goelz and Jonathan Singh

As 2012 begins, the European debt crisis continues to captivate the attention of all observers and our clients. And with good reason – a recession in Europe could trigger another global economic slowdown. No sustainable solution has been reached for the troubles of the Eurozone and few believe that one will be reached anytime soon. While VMI does not believe that the Eurozone’s troubles can be ignored, there are interesting strategic trends which are playing out in other parts of the world. In particular, Asia and the Pacific Ocean rim promise to raise interesting strategic trends in 2012. The interplay between China, Japan, the United States, both Koreas, and other players as they purse their goals will be a focus for VMI in the coming year.

Perhaps it would be helpful to explore how our analysts at VMI think about international relations. Our perspective is based on systems thinking, which focuses on the interplay between different countries. While in-depth knowledge of an individual country is important remember that no country exists in isolation. As they pursue their goals and prepare for threats, each nation both influences and is influenced by the actions of other actors and interests. This interplay between different countries is the focus of systems thinking. It is also crucial to think pragmatically about the structural factors each nation is endowed with – its geography, demographics, resources, history, economic conditions, and political structure. Structural factors provide an accurate picture of a country as they are less likely to change significantly over the short term. They also explain behavior which might appear illogical or random when viewed from the outside. This accurate picture of a country then allows it to be placed within the international system so that the why of its actions, goals, and threats can be better understood.

In our next post we will explore the interplay between nations in Asia and how this influences the international system. Look for more analysis from VMI throughout the year on systems thinking and its application around the world.