Saturday, September 27, 2008

Strategy vs. Tactics: The first presidential debate

Chess is a battle; Go is a war.
In the first presidential debate last night, I think Obama made an excellent point about the difference between a strategy and a tactic. Perhaps it's sometimes hard to tell the difference; it's a matter of scope.
If you compare: invading Iraq verses the troop surge, then the invasion is the strategy and the troop surge is the tactic.
If you compare the troop surge verses force dispersal then the troop surge is a strategy and the force dispersal is a tactic.
Some might say that if you compare the games of chess and checkers, that checkers is the tactical game and chess is the strategic game.
Then again if you compare chess with the game of Go, you might think, as has been said many times, that "Chess is a battle and Go is a war."
Near the end of the debate, Obama made a huge point about strategy verses tactics, that the strength of our military is dependent on the strength of our economy.
Here's a very paraphrased version of what he said. I've trimmed for coherence in writing verses speaking I've cut out things that aren't relevant to my point. Since I've changed it so much, I won't even put quotes around it. See the transcript for exactly what Obama said:
China is active in regions like Latin America, and Asia, and Africa. The conspicuousness of their presence is only matched by our absence, because we've been focused on Iraq.
We have weakened our capacity to project power around the world because we have viewed everything through this single lens, not to mention, look at our economy. We are now spending $10 billion or more every month on Iraq.
There has never been a country on Earth that saw its economy decline and yet maintained its military superiority.
The troop surge might have turned out to be a fine tactic in the context of a bad strategy. It's penny wise, pound foolish. So it's not a matter of making the right moves, it's the game you choose to play. Obama is right about the strategy, and Obama is right about which table we're sitting at, who we are sitting across from, and about the size of the board and the shape of the pieces.

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