Audio-book Review
 By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

The Chessboard and the Web

By: Anne Marie Slaughter

Narrated by: Jo Anna Perrin

Anne-Marie Slaughter (Author, foreign policy analyst, served as Director of Policy Planning under Hilliary Clinton.)

“The Chessboard and the Web” is not about rebuilding Ukraine. However, Slaughter presents an insightful view of diplomacy that confronts international conflict with an idea that applies to Ukraine’s future.

Ukraine is invaded by Russia in 2022, nearly 5 years after Anne Marie Slaughter’s book is published.

Inevitably, either Ukraine or Russia will sue for peace. Ukraine will survive as an independent nation-state. Neither Ukraine nor Russia will come away from this war with a satisfactory resolution. Ukraine’s challenge will be to rebuild their country within whatever boundary is part of a yet-to-be-determined peace agreement. No one knows what will happen to Putin, but President Zelensky will face the complex task of rebuilding Ukraine.

Slaughter gives several examples of how interconnectedness has changed the course of history in modern times and aided thousands of people impacted by natural disasters and internecine conflicts.

Slaughter argues natural disaster relief and international conflict is more constructively addressed by the interconnectedness of the world wide web.

Slaughter offers examples of how interconnectedness changes the nature of management. Though General Stanly McChrystal is discharged for disrespecting President Obama’s administration, he is instrumental in establishing a rebel fighting force in Afghanistan. McChrystal eliminates Al Qaeda’s leader by creating a web of interconnected Afghan rebels that advise the American military of Al Qaeda’s movements. McChrystal is widely acknowledged as an effective leader and accomplished soldier.

General Stanley A. McChrystal (Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.)

In one way, the world wide web is an unstoppable technological change that invades everyone’s privacy. On the other hand, it offers a tool for cultural understanding, team building, and actionable public policy to deal with natural disasters, war’s destruction and its aftermath.  

Slaughter gives the following example: With web interconnectedness, two former Marines create a 38,000-person volunteer group called Team Rubicon that aids Haiti survivors after a 7.0 earthquake.

Either by design or circumstance, Ukraine citizens set up decentralized teams of fighters to repel the Russian army. Ukrainian fighters’ interconnectedness came, in part, from Elon Musk’s satellites. With that interconnectedness, Ukrainians successfully fought off Russia’s invading army. Zelensky is the leader of Ukraine’s defensive effort. But it is individual group leaders, connected by the web, that have successfully defended Ukraine. Zelensky is the President and leader of the country, but he wisely allows respective team leaders to conduct the war against the Russian invaders. That same system can be used to rebuild Ukraine when peace is achieved.

What Slaughter reveals is an idea that should be adopted by President Zelensky to rebuild Ukraine when Putin’s criminal invasion is defeated. Zelensky has done a heroic job of leading his country in war. He shows the capability of being a leader for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

The team leaders of Ukraine’s defense are prime candidates for team leadership when the war is over. President Zelensky knows who the best team leaders have been during the war.

Slaughter is not arguing this is a simple way of rebuilding a country, managing re-construction after a natural disaster, or resolving political crises. Her point is the complexity of international relations, war, and reconstruction can be met by decentralized teams organized around competent leaders using the internet. Their interconnectedness can address complexity based on intimate knowledge and decentralized command. Zelensky would need to establish a financial review process to monitor team results and discipline bad actors, but field decisions would be left to interconnected on-site leaders.

Human nature is what it is, and some leaders will succumb to the lure of money, power, and prestige.  However, through careful oversight, theft can be mitigated, and team leaders can be replaced as circumstances demand.

No leadership system, interconnected or not, is full proof. Slaughter’s service in Obama’s government, under the wing of Hillary Clinton, did not eliminate mistakes. The murder of Libya’s leader created a political mess during Clinton’s and Obama’s watch. Syria’s use of chemical weapons killed Syrian civilians. Obama is certainly right to not have invaded Syria for that transgression, but Obama and his red-line comment unnecessarily made America look weak. There were Obama successes. By the same token, re-construction of Ukraine will suffer from mistakes, but Ukraine’s President has shown how mistakes can be corrected. Zelensky acted against corruption by Ukranian team leaders who tried to profit from war material scams.

Slaughter’s last chapters explain the difference between leadership styles of the past and present. In the internet age, wide interconnection of disparate interests suggests a new leadership style, more like being a gardener than a martinet who insists on followers doing it her or his way.

The world wide web and interconnectedness is a two-edged sword. As with all ideas, web interconnectedness can be good or evil.  As with any plan for action, there is always potential for unintended consequence. Re-building is going to be a major undertaking for the Ukrainian people and government. Every American hopes the war will be over soon and Ukraine’s reconstruction can begin.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.


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