To Dare More Boldly
The Audacious Story of Political Risk
John C Hulsman
Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2018, 344 pages
Book Review published on: August 3, 2018
Government policy makers, financial planners, and corporations have for centuries sought advice about the risks they faced in their uncertain world. John Hulsman, president of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a prominent global political-risk consulting firm, has written an insightful work on political-risk analysis and why it is vital for business and political leaders alike. To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk is not an exploration of the realist theory or a continuation of the fight between history and political science. This work utilizes historical analogies and interpretations to illuminate, buttress, and underline his ten commandments for addressing political risk.
Hulsman begins his book by describing the Pythia of Delphi as the world’s first political-risk analyst. Pilgrims from all over the ancient world visited the Temple of Apollo to have their questions about the future answered by the senior priestess called the Pythia. The Pythia’s mystical persona and prophetic oracles were due in part to the effects of breathing ethylene vapors escaping from the fault lines of Mount Parnassus. The Pythia is credited with giving the right advice to Athenians in their decisive defeat of Persia at the naval Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. The Pythia remained the most authoritative and important soothsayer in the ancient world for at least 1,100 years. Hulsman asserts that her 50 percent success rate far exceeds that of contemporary risk analysts.
Critics will be tempted to point out Hulsman’s assertion that there can be fixed rules based on historical examples in determining risk analysis. In doing so, they will miss the insights contained in each of his historical analogies. They would also overlook Hulsman’s admonition that preparation of the unplanned is a last and vital element of a first-class risk analyst.
The genius of Hulsman’s ten commandments are the simple insights they convey. His rule, “Gaming Out Lunatics,” directs the reader to focus on what appears irrational in realizing that the other player may only be playing with another deck of cards, with other objectives and end states. Two other commandments—“Knowing Your Country’s Place” and “Knowing the Nature of Your World”—inform readers about the imperative of seeing the world as it is and understanding time in the analytical equation. Analyzing the world through these two prisms would be beneficial to nations around the world.
Hulsman goes beyond other contemporary risk analysts in offering a more positive outlook for the United States and China in avoiding the Thucydides Trap. He informs us that the United States finds itself in a stronger strategic position in East Asia due to China’s increased aggressiveness in the region. This has enabled the United States to strengthen long-standing alliances in the region while furthering relationships with other nations like Vietnam, India, and Myanmar.
The strength of To Dare More Boldly is the diverse historical analogies that compellingly illustrate successful concepts, benefits, and failures of risk analysis. To Dare More Boldly is a must read for those with an interest in risk analysis or foreign policy.
Book Review written by: Jesse McIntyre III, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas