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A chess tactic and its Trump/Putin similar

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — companion to A soccer tactic and its parliamentary analog ]
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Trump and Putin are on their respective ways to a meet in Helsinki. This post offers a chess angle on the importance of symmetry as a technique Putin happily uses on Trump and others. Symmetry is already a keen interest of mine in the arts, where it is a prime key to beauty. In chess, too, and it would seem in diplomacy and strategy, symmetry matters.

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Here’s the game in which Bobby Fischer kills Robert Byrne in an astounding 21 moves:

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What’s of interest to us here is the symmetry at move 11, shown here in two diagrams:

where the blue lines annotate the symmetries in files a, b, c, d, g, and h

and here:

where the red center-line serves as a mirror for those symmetrical files, their positions highlighted in green.

And here’s the site’s comment on symmetry:

It’s quite often the case that in very symmetrical positions such as this one, things go about very slowly, it’s often a bit of a maneuvering game, not a lot of, let’s say, great tactics, or fireworks, things of course can change, but there’s a great amount of symmetry here..

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Well, chess is the game of strategy par eminence, isn’t it? Here’s a quote I just used in my metaphors collection:

Brian Williams: Putin does the most rudimentary things, like mirroring, which communications experts will tell you is a way to kind of endearing yourself to your guest.
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Clint Watts: [agreeing] Ingratiate and mirror.

President Trump openly says If you say to me that you like me, then I like you. He’s just opening the door for this. Putin has done this with other world leaders. .. You want to build rapport with President Bush, talk about religion and the Christian Orthodox church. you do these things to build and ingratiate and build a mirror relationship with the target.

I’m not saying there’s a direct parallel between the chess comment and the Brian Williams / Clint Watts conversation, which just scratches the surface of the communications stragegy of mirroring and similar techniques, and their relevance to the immadiate situation with Trump on his way to Helsinki to meet Putin

with only two translators in the room

— just that the emphasis on symmetry in the celebrated Fischer chess match gives us a clue to the possible importance of symmetry in crucial strategic situations in general — and thus to the coming week’s Trump / Putin situation.

On humility: Clinton, Bush — and Trump

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — another “life imitates art” and a Trumpian ouroboros ]
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In my view, humility shaves ckoser than Occam’s Razor — Occam tends not to shave our assumptions, while humility invites us to consider even our thoughts, even our certainties, as uncertain, as open to question.

Did I mention I’m the proud owner of the domain name, Church of the Open Question?

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Life imitates art:

Upper panel: George W Bush and Bill Clinton on humility:

Lower panel: from Madam Secretary, season 3..

Trumpian Ouroboros:

That’s actually brilliant, IMO. And Trump relishes and repeats it:

Hey, Pope Francis is a close second..

And then there’s this — delicious — from a WaPo piece titled Donald Trump’s Secret Service code name is less humble, more mogul:

During a lightning round of a debate, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump picked a potential Secret Service code name that was truly coded: HUMBLE. When the braggadocious billionaire starts to receive actual Secret Service protection Wednesday morning, agents plan to call him something a bit more fitting: MOGUL.

Okay. Mebbe that’s a bit more modest.

Hm. MOGUL as in magnate, tycoon? Or MOGUL as in speed-bump on the ski slopes?

Traveling Trump, minor issues

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — media keeps wildly guessing re matters of protocol ]
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For example..

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Ah, well, no one can say Trump is not sensitive:

Oops:

And then again:

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Oops again:

Nope, he was bending to receive a medal around his neck.

So far so good — nobody seems to know what’s what, but ni disasters have been spotted. . The first major test is yet to come. As the Washington Post puts it, Trump campaigned against Muslims, but will preach tolerance in Saudi speech.

That will be quite a trick — but not impossible if his speech writer has been reading Will McCants.

And I suspect Melania is the President’s trump card in all this..

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Oh, and now this, for good measure:

I’m reminded of roulette..

Addendum requested: McCants on Gesture

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — vexed questions — to bow or not to bow, hold hands, smooch, that funny handshake, dance moves, veil ]
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WIll McCants has lined up his “friendly advice for the poor speechwriter tasked with crafting Trump’s upcoming speech on Islam” in a Politico piece titled Trump Is Giving a Speech About Islam. What Could Go Wrong? The next word, opening McCants’ sub-head? Plenty.

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Thing is, gestures speak loud as words. Here are some of the slippery issues McCants might like to address in terms of gesture.

Bow:

There’s the question of bowing. President Obama may or may not have bowed, or leaned over to give a double-handed handshake. It’s a founding principle that America doesn’t feel deferential to monarchy, and Obama reportedly didn’t bow to Queen Elizabeth when he met her..

Here’s Bill O’Reilly:

If it were me, I wouldn’t hold his hand, I wouldn’t smooch him, I wouldn’t bow, I’d say “Hey, how ya doin’, King..”

Holding hands:

George W Bush holds hands, Chris Matthews and Jon Stweart riff..

Kiss-kiss, aka smooch:

Wolf Blitzer has this one:

Dancing with drawn sword:

Whoda thunkit? This one is truly remarkable, from my Eurocentric perspective…

That no less remarkable handshake:

Veil:

And then there’s one for the women in Trump’s entourage, Melania and Ivanka to be precise. To veil or not to veil?

Here’s Michelle Obama:

If there is humor in much of the above, it is the humor of contrast with expectation..

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Salaam:

Without getting into the details of who greets whom, who goes first and who responds, and in what words, all of which is proper for a Muslim to discuss, I can at least say that the Quran is deeply invested in courtesy of a kind that diplomats would file under “protocol” — as we see in Sura 4 verse 86:

When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.

New Book- The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House

Friday, March 25th, 2016

[by Mark Safranski / a.k.a  “zen“]

The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House […] by Zalmay Khalilzad

Just received a courtesy review copy of The Envoy, the memoir of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, from Christine at St. Martin’s Press.

Khalilzad was part of a small group of diplomatic troubleshooters and heavy hitters for the second Bush administration, whose numbers included John Negroponte, Ryan Crocker and John Bolton who were heavily engaged during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like the others, Khalilzad had held a variety of important policy posts at State, the NSC and the Department of Defense before assuming ambassadorial duties; the bureaucratic experience, ties to senior White House officials and the exigencies of counterinsurgency warfare would make these posts more actively proconsular than was typical for an American ambassador.   Indeed, the endorsements on the book jacket, which include two former Secretaries of State, a former Secretary of Defense and a former CIA Director testify to the author’s political weight in Khalilzad’s years of government service.

It’s been a while since I have read a diplomatic memoir, so I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how Khalilzad treats Afghanistan’s early post-Taliban years, given that he personally is a bridge from the Reagan policy of supporting the anti-Soviet mujahedin to the toppling of the Taliban in the aftermath of 9/11 and helping to organize the new Afghan state. Khalilzad is also, of course, an Afghan by birth, giving him greater insight into that country’s complex political and social divisions than most American diplomats could muster.

I will give The Envoy a formal review in the future but Khalizad has given a synopsis of where he thinks American policy went awry in Afghanistan over at Thomas E. Rick’s Best Defense blog.


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