Aug 7, 2008

The dynamics of the fight

How is the fight shaping up so far? Much as expected, with McCain making a lot of full-frontal attacks, Obama sidestepping and counter-punching deftly. McCain's sarcasm is proving an very effective foil for Obama's seriousness of purpose. The Britney ad and tyre gauge antics are cudgels with which Obama can beat McCain for some time.

In other words: exactly the same thing that happened in the primaries, with Hillary Clinton unleashing attack after attack which Obama sidestepped, then turned back on her. It's been remarked on before: Obama's skill at counter-punching, and his jijitsu-like ability to use an opponents weight and force against them. What no-one seems to have remarked upon is the relevance of all this to the war on terror.

Think about it: America's is currently fighting two asymmetric wars, on two fronts, against smaller forces using guerilla tactics. McCain grew up in a different world: the cold war, in which two equal and opposing nation states duke it out until the last man standing wins. It seems unlikely that America will ever fight that kind of war again. Since 9.11 the battle ground has shifted: America's enemies are now smaller, they move quickly, and disperse as quickly as they came. And yet everything McCain has said about Iraq suggests he is still thinking of Iraq as a class symmetrical nation-state square off.

He could be pandering, of course. It is hard to explain to voters what is different about the battleground in Iraq, but its worth the effort because this is the exactly the kind of fight America has had on its hands since 9/11 and will have for the foreseeable future.

This isn't to say that America shouldn't be prepared for an all out war. But the war on terror requires a different skill set, with its own perpendicular dynamic, and lopsided balance. Its a low centre of gravity thing. What the situation calls for, in other words, is a nimble jijitsu warrior, not a lumbering cold one. What this fight needs is the skinny kid with the funny name who nobody seems able to put down.

No comments:

Post a Comment