Some others were unsuccessful with their games of brinkmanship. Take Daladier and Chamberlain. They went to the bat in September 1938 trying to avoid an open confrontation between Germany on one side and France and England on the other. Their game was to appease Hitler by conceding the Sudeten territories in Czechoslovakia. We all know how that turned out and we also know how Chamberlain infamous pronouncement “we have secured Peace in our lifetime” became a catchphrase for catastrophic diplomatic failure.
In 2013 the world appears to be engaged in a multi player game of brinkmanship. This game involves international situations such as the Iranian Nuclear program, terrorist takeover of countries like Lebanon and Syria and even domestic situations such as the Congressional fight over the budget in our own US of A.
The Iranian looming crisis is of course complex, but it comes down to the Iranian leadership pretending to play by the rules of the West while continuing their development of a Nuclear arsenal and it also involves a West weary of war and trying to appease the Iranians. The latest moves are Europe considering lifting the economic sanctions against Iran and Israel conducting a long distance flight exercise clearly intended to signal their willingness to take matters into their own hands if negotiations fail to shut down Teheran's Nuclear Weapons program. In this case, whether Netanyahu and the other players will be remembered as another Reagan or JFK, or as another Chamberlain it will depend on the final outcome. Historical heroes and villains appeared to be made not only by their actions but also by whether they win or loose.
The so called Arab Spring was a popular rejection of the dictatorial regimes that populated the Arab Middle East and North Africa. Western powers played a game of brinkmanship trying to bring these societies into the fold of Democracy. They lost, with extremist Jihadist as well as Muslim Brotherhood types carrying the day and Russia positioning itself to replace the European Union and the US as the main player in the Arab region. So of course, the play is now recalled as a monumental failure in Foreign Relations.
What is happening these days in our own Congress really defies description. A group of Elected Officials, whom the people put in office to serve them, is holding the country hostage to their party politics. And this goes in fact for both parties. Each Party has valid points. Universal Health Care is indeed a government function and one this country has neglected for way too long, yet what the Republicans are asking is not to scratch it but to delay it because they feel there are many things to work out about it (or so they say). The bottom line is that both sides have been willing to allow this confrontation (valid as it might be) to devolve into a government shutdown which is affecting the lives of millions of American voters and taxpayers. Will History remember these days as the days when an American Administration recreated America? Or as the days when partisanship destroyed the US? The jury is still out on that one, and it will depend – again – on the final outcome.
The one thing about brinkmanship, however, which seems to hold true across time and geography, is that a small number of people play the game for their own reasons, but the price of their decisions is paid by those who deposited their trust on them. I'm not saying the game is wrong...many times brinkmanship is needed to avoid war. What I'm saying is that those playing the game should listen to those affected by their decisions.