Almost 200 years ago Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz famously wrote that “war is an extension of politics, but by other means.” But here at Alesia we’ve turned Clausewitz on his head because we think it’s precisely the other way around. Our operational philosophy dictates that ‘politics are an extension of war, but by other means’. And those “other means” entail a battle of ideas waged with words and images within the framework of our liberal parliamentary democracy.
By definition, politics are an adversarial process that begins with a clash of contending philosophies and ends with a vote on the floor of parliament or at the ballot box. Whether it’s a contested piece of legislation or an election campaign, at the end of the day politics are a zero-sum contest. In the final equation – when those votes are counted and ballots are tallied – only one side will win.
At Alesia, not only do we recognise this zero-sum reality, but we positively embrace it. And we’ve pretty much seen it all while serving in political, media and policy advisor roles to Cabinet Ministers in Canberra and the Republican Congressional Leadership in Washington D.C. The razor-sharp political nous we’ve developed along the way will help you to emerge as the victor rather than the vanquished.
ALESIA’S EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL WARFARE
- Study the lay of the political terrain and the nature of your opposition
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neill once observed that: “all politics are local” – meaning every political campaign will be different in its own individual way.
Thus Alesia begins its campaigns with a process of political terrain mapping. By this we mean putting together an accurate intelligence mosaic that reflects local political demography, local political issues, local impact of national political policy and the calibre and character of your opposition.
Without an informed idea of who is opposing you and political terrain over which the campaign will be fought you will flail your way to defeat on election day.
- Remain adaptable because no political battle plan ever outlives a campaign’s initial salvo
The political battlefield is a dynamic environment that is subject to change by a never-ending combination of internal and external factors. It is axiomatic that once political battle has been joined, your campaign plan must adjust in response to circumstances and issues you never originally envisaged.
At Alesia we’ve perfected the art of coup d’œil, a term used by Napoleon to describe the instinctive ability to decipher the battlefield at a glance amidst the ebb and flow of a hard-fought campaign. Our strategists have the political coup d’œil savvy and experience that enables smart and effective adaptation when the state-of-play renders your original plan obsolete.
- Always strive to seize and keep the initiative
Seizing the initiative means creating a dynamic in which your political narrative dominates the media and public debate. When you’re the one driving the form and substance of political discussion, then your opponents are reduced to what we at Alesia call the “yes, but …” syndrome. In other words, they’re forced to fight a defensive battle on political turf of your choosing. And every minute they spend reacting to your agenda is a minute they can’t spend advancing their own.
- Have the presence of mind and strategic agility to exploit targets of opportunity
Whether it be a public gaffe or a flawed policy proposal, you can rest assured – as night follows day – that mistakes will be made amidst the hurly burly of political campaigning. And every error made by your opposition constitutes an opportunity for you.
Alesia’s strategists bring to bear in-depth political experience that enables them discern political targets of opportunity as they emerge. And with our digital expertise we’re perfectly positioned to exploit your opponent’s missteps, thereby maximising your competitive political advantage.
- Employ the art of political jiu jitsu
If there’s one thing upon which you can absolutely rely it’s that once you enter the political arena you WILL be the subject of attack.
Jiu jitsu is a Japanese martial art in which the defender uses leverage and the momentum of an attacker to defeat an assault. At Alesia we’re black belts in the art of political jiu jitsu. We have the political acumen, communications talent and go-for-the-jugular instinct to discern flaws in your opposition’s attacks and turn those assaults back against your assailant.
- Retain a ‘Red Cell’ Mentality
It’s said that doctors should never treat members of their own family and it’s obvious that students shouldn’t be the ones marking their own exams. That’s because human nature prevents us from honestly assessing those issues in which we are emotionally invested.
On 12 September 2001 – before the dust at the World Trade Centre had begun to settle – CIA Director George Tenet moved to address this blind spot within the US intelligence community by creating a new sort of unit – the ‘Red Cell’. And ever since, the CIA Red Cell has functioned as autonomous unit whose job is ruthlessly to shatter conventional wisdoms, destroy preconceived notions and to seek out weaknesses in America’s defences. “Tell me things others don’t and make me feel uncomfortable”, ordered Tenet. In essence, Red Cell’s job is to think like the enemy.
At Alesia, we view politics as “an extension of war, but by other means”. But it’s also a conflict of personalities and passionately held beliefs. And those emotions mean the primary players giving their all at the coal face of politics will never have the dispassionate objectivity required for the brutal assessment of their own campaign’s weaknesses.
For that you need an outside actor who can look at what you’re doing through the cold, hard lens of political warfare. An independent player with no emotional investment who will poke holes in your arguments and find flaws in your strategy before your opponent does.
That’s where Alesia comes in. We will ruthlessly analyse your messaging and strategy through the eyes of your opposition. We excel at finding and fixing chinks in your political armour before they end up in the other guy’s campaign literature and digital advertising.
- Seek allies where you can find them without sacrificing the essence of who you are
The 18th century French philosopher Voltaire wrote: “It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions.” It’s obvious and self-evident that the more political weight you can bring to bear on a particular issue, the more likely your cause is to succeed. Seeking out as many allies as possible is simple common sense.
But political alliances are invariably constructed on a foundation of political common interest, and commonalities of interest often require some measure of compromise. And this is where it can get messy. How far can you go in search of compromise without diluting the essence of who you are? What are the grass roots political implications of the various concessions you’re being asked to make? And what happens when your ally on one part of your agenda is steadfastly opposed to another element of your program? There are no hard and fast answers to such questions because each political situation is composed of different political factors requiring a distinctly different political equation.This is where Alesia’s acumen, instinct and experience come into play. Our intuitive understanding of the Australian political landscape will help you identify and approach potential allies. And then we’ll assist during the negotiation process, advising on the political ramifications of various compromise options and clarifying the distinction between the dispensable and indispensable elements of your agenda. We’ll help you navigate the oft-treacherous shoals of political horse-trading so that you maximise your gain and minimise your pain without selling your political soul in the process.
- Be audacious without being reckless
“You gotta know when to hold’em; know when to fold’em”, sang Kenny Rodgers in The Gambler. And an informed sense of judgement telling you what to do and when to do it is the key to survival and success on the political battlefield.
Amidst the fast-moving tumult of political combat, the difference between being audacious and being reckless is entirely contextual and situational. The same course of action that brings success in one circumstance will reap disaster in the next. Case in point – the cavalry charge by the Light Brigade at Balaclava in 1854 ended in fiasco, while the cavalry charge by the Light Horse at Beersheva in 1917 ended in triumph.
At Alesia we offer finely honed political instincts and savvy sharpened by years in the crucible of national politics in Canberra and Washington. Our sense of discernment, judgement and maturity informs us when to hold’em and when to fold’em. We will work with you to help ensure that on election night you stand at the podium as a Chavel (commander of the Light Horse) rather than a Cardigan (commander of the Light Brigade).
YOU’RE THE BOSS
As advisors, our job is to advise. At the end of the day it’s up to you – as our client – to make final decisions. We will work with you to devise a set of strategies, tactics and standard-operating-procedures that are well within your comfort zone.
We will draw up an initial campaign plan that includes definition of the objective, budgets, calendars and deliverable due-dates. And as that plan changes – as it inevitably will – we will keep you in the loop about what new steps are required and how much they’ll cost.
It’s time to cross the Rubicon into 21st century political advocacy. Give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help you out-fight, outwit and out-campaign your opposition.