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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.

A soccer tactic and its parliamentary analog

Friday, July 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a Croatian filibuster on the football field ]
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In extra time, Croatia’s Mario Mandžuki? had a nine-minute, operatic breakdown, a syncopated series of stops, starts, and seizures, which defined the match and took it away from England.

I jeep looking for sports metaphors in political reportage, and now, in a New Yorker article titled World Cup 2018: The Tragicomic Opera of Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic I find out all about players feigning cramps as a delaying tactic when games go into overtime —

— and it’s a clear analog of the Senate’s filibuster tactic. Either one could be a metaphor for the other, soccer for politics or vide versa.

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Sources:

  • New Yorker, The Tragicomic Opera of Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic
  • US Senate, Filibuster and Cloture
  • **

    Oh, and, The England vs. Croatia World Cup Match Made for Some Awkward Television:

    One segment of the pre-game show was given over to a National Geographic Channel report on Russian Buddhism. If this was intended as outreach to soccer fans so ardent that they always burn in suffering, then perhaps it did some spiritual good. But, as an effort at a culture-enriching sideshow, it was unsuccessful, so out of sync with the analysis and hype surrounding it as to be charming. The correspondent said to the monk, “O.K., so, if everything is an illusion, what’s truth, then?”

    I couldn’t exactly miss that, given my interests, could I?

    GeoPol, the Kremlin & Putin’s Games in the New Yorker

    Saturday, July 7th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — see also GeoPol, the White House & Game Theory in the New Yorker ]
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    Playing Hockey Against Vladimir Putin, By Ben McGrath,July 3, 2018:

    In May, playing hockey in an annual charity exhibition alongside a half-dozen former N.H.L. stars, in Sochi, Vladimir Putin scored five goals and assisted on four more. In previous years, despite learning to skate only in his late fifties, he’d scored as many as eight. “Western journalists ask me how it’s possible,” Slava Fetisov, one of Putin’s teammates and a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings, told me recently. “Let’s say Pavel Bure or Sergei Fedorov”—Hall of Famers both—“score two goals, and the President scores five or six or seven. I say, ‘You have to be in the right time, in the right place.’ That’s what our President does. He’s got a good shot. He understands the game. This is unteachable. If it’s in your genes—your blood—you can play.” Fetisov, who serves as a senator in the Russian Duma, referred to Putin as “one of the most popular leaders in the world,” and added, “this is one of the most unique examples in the history of big politicians, to show they can play the hardest possible sport.” He meant this, he explained, in the sense of providing a healthy model for children, who might otherwise succumb to “street challenges,” like alcohol and drugs. He cited other examples of Putin’s “God-gifted” athleticism: “He can ride the horse, he can swim, he can skate, he can ski, he can do judo and sambo and karate.”

    One can be plenty familiar with Putin-related propaganda—the pectoral flaunting on horseback, the black-belt demonstrations—and still be surprised to hear it reinforced so explicitly in conversation. Fetisov is revered by sports fans on two continents, not only for his grace on the ice but for his courage in standing up to the Soviet regime that sought to prevent him from playing in the United States—which, he told me, is the only country other than Russia where he can imagine wanting to live. “The people are so warm, so friendly, so patriotic,” he said of Americans. The fact that relations between the two countries have devolved almost to Cold War levels is a source of distress for Fetisov, he said, and so, two months ago, in the interest of diplomacy, he smuggled an American filmmaker onto the ice in Sochi as a player on Putin’s opposing team.

    The undercover on-ice agent was Jon Alpert, a winner of sixteen Emmy Awards, and the career leader in penalty minutes—“No one is really close,” he says—for a New York- and New Jersey-based beer-league team called Gitler’s Gorillas. Alpert is sixty-nine and skates with the slightly bent ankles of a novice, although, as a hockey-besotted teen-ager, he tried, unsuccessfully, to walk onto the varsity team at Colgate. He has a more distinguished record when it comes to securing journalistic access, calling himself “a normal guy who has gotten into really unusual places.” He founded the Downtown Community Television Center, in 1972, with his wife, Keiko Tsuno; its Web site describes him as “the first American TV reporter to enter Cambodia after the Vietnam War,” “The only Western reporter to interview Saddam Hussein” between 1993 and 2002, and, in reference to Iran, “The last reporter to gain entry into the Embassy where the American hostages were being held.” In conversation, he is no less prone to pointing at the scoreboard. “I did the last interview with a guy before the Taliban cut his balls off,” he told me.

    His presence in Sochi was a kind of audition for a would-be film project he is calling “Putin on Ice.” Alpert wants to face off against Putin, one on one. “I plan to use analogies,” he said. “Cheating on face-offs, keeping your head up, using violence to settle disputes. We can find a parallel in hockey for everything that’s going on between Russia and the United States.”

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    Okay:

    We can find a parallel in hockey for everything that’s going on between Russia and the United States.

    How’s that for sports metaphors?

    Experts Fear Trump Will Give More Than He Gets, redux

    Friday, June 29th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — history repeats itself, &c ]
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    Here we go:

    Is this some new strategy?

    It would be nice to have a DoubleQuote to set beside this one, comparing the N Korean and Iran nuclear deals. Maybe I’ll find one.

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    Sources:

  • New York Times, In Meeting With Putin, Experts Fear Trump Will Give More Than He Gets
  • Quartz, North Korea experts watching the summit will breathe a sigh of relief if…
  • Jessica Dawson on Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — An important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree ]
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    Let me repeat: Jessica Dawson‘s piece for Strategy Bridge is an important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree — a must-read.

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    Prof Dawson writes:

    There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.

    Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:

  • Lapido, Venerating Putin: Is Russia’s President the second Prince Vlad?
  • Lapido, ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité
  • Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.

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    I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:

    Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted von Clausewitz on the topic:

    Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    **

    And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:

    Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    :

    This too is an area I am interested in, as evidenced by my borrowing one of my friend JM Berger‘s detailed maps in my post Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara’”:

    That’s from JM’s ICCT paper, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis

    Indeed, my HipBone Games are played on graphs as boards, with conceptual moves at their nodes and connections along their edges, see my series On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve &c.

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    My specific focus, games aside, has been on notions of apocalypse as expectation, excitation, and exultation — in my view, the ultimate in what Tillich would call “ultimate concerns”.

    As an Associate and sometime Principal Researcher with the late Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, I have enjoyed years of friendship and collaboration with Richard Landes, Stephen O’Leary and other scholars, and contribuuted to the 2015 Boston conference, #GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

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    I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.

    Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:

    This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam

    She also characterizes their actions thus:

    They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.

    Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.

    On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:

  • Julie Ingersoll, Why Trump’s evangelical supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem
  • Diana Butler Bass, For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics
  • As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.

    Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.

    Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!

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    All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.

    Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!


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