Monday, October 10, 2005



By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I will never win any awards. The winner of this year's Nobel economy prize (clue: look at past winners and choke!) is a liberal, Professor Thomas C. Shelling. He came up with the idea that all political, historical and economic information can be modeled on "game theories," thus making human activity easy to reduce and quantify.

It also leads one to learn very little that is useful and indeed, can lead to very dangerous results. I read a number of his things and he can't escape his cultural limitations, thus he talks happily about how politics and international relations are like...chess! Chess is exactly the wrong model. In that, all efforts are focused on capturing a king. All else is incidental. The board is divided in two and have defined limits that don't matter since pieces can go in diagonals or jump over other pieces. It is the "unique leader/assassination" model.

For example, we pretended that to take over Iraq, all we had to do was kill or capture Saddam. BZZZZT. No. Wrong.

Asia's favorite tactical game has been for many centuries, GO. The art here shows a famous general, General Kuan Yu.
Kuan Yu (`Kan U' in the Japanese pronunciation), was canonized as an Immortal in 1128 and deified as the Chinese God of War in 1594.

The first illustration (Print 3-1) shows one of a set of impressive triptychs by Kuniyoshi that he published in 1853-54. It depicts a striking and memorable passage in Chapter 75 of Book XII of the Chinese novel. Kuan Yu's arm has been injured in battle, and he insists on having it attended to without fuss:

"The surgeon, accordingly, pressed down with his knife and made an incision in the flesh as far as the bone, exposing the infected part. With his knife he scraped away at the bone, making a grating noise as he did so. Everyone who was watching, soldiers as well as civilians, averted their faces and turned pale. Kuan Yu drank wine, ate some meat, cracked jokes, and played go, showing not the slightest sign of pain as the basin filled with blood. The surgeon scraped away the last of the infection, then applied medicine and bound up the wound with a silken cord.

Kuan Yu gave a hearty laugh and got to his feet. He turned to his lieutenants and said, `Now I can stretch my arm as before, without trouble. Truly, this is an eminent doctor!'"
One way to win a board game is to gross everyone out! Hey! That is what war is all about, isn't it?

Here is just a sample of the Professor Emeritus about nuclear war: From Daily
If ‘brinkmanship’ means anything, it means manipulating the shared risk of war. It means exploiting the danger that somebody may inadvertently go over the brink, dragging the other with him. If two climbers are tied together, and one wants to intimidate the other by seeming about to fall over the edge, there has to be some uncertainty or anticipated irrationality or it won’t work. If the brink is clearly marked and provides a firm footing, no loose pebbles underfoot and no gusts of wind to catch one off guard, if each climber is in full control of himself and never gets dizzy, neither can pose any risk to the other by approaching the brink. There is no danger in approaching it; and while either can deliberately jump off, he cannot credibly pretend that he is about to. Any attempt to intimidate or to deter the other climber depends on the threat of slipping or stumbling. With loose ground, gusty winds, and a propensity toward dizziness, there is some danger when a climber approaches the edge; one can credibly threaten to fall off accidentally by standing near the brink.
"Shared risk of war." Just that alone makes me laugh. Nuclear war nearly broke out more than once in my own lifetime. Over really stupid things. We were prepared to annihilate all of Europe over possession of Berlin! Bad trade-off! Let's do game theory, you save one Go stone by slicing the board in two with your sword while screaming. There is a famous Go game where this happened. Ahem.

Mutual Assured Destruction was so obvious that warmongers even flinched. They tried hard to convince each other it was winnable...if you spring first! And get all the missiles. But this "tripwire" is a very faulty mechanism. Before WWI, so many nations rigged up so many tripwires that they all blundered into them simultaneously and started what had to be the most moronic, destructive war except for WWII which was started deliberately by insane people who wanted to rule the earth and didn't care how many humans perished, this was their insane plan in the first place! So when bombs were dropping, they hid in deep caves and laughed demonically.

Whoopee doo!

Guess what! Our insane rulers have deep caves which they spent $600+million tax dollars on stocking and fortifying so they can launch a nuclear war and then hide from the results, to emerge like a butterfly of destruction from the pupa after we are all blown to smithereens.

There is only one way to stop insane wars: prevention of insane people running things. Alas, there is no easy way to keep psychopaths from the power they lust. WWI was started by a stupid family of royals, all closely related and a collective IQ of a trepanned monkey.

I don't go mountain climbing with a stumbling idiot. Imagine climbing Mt. Everest with Bush or Cheney. Cheney will stop breathing and fall, but you won't go down a crevasse with him, his fat carcass will fill the gap. But Bush is guaranteed to stumble or worse, push one off the cliff.

And credibly pretending to jump? Gads. Ask any five year old! "I'm going to jump, mommy!" "Yeah, right." (Kid jumps. Mom screams). See?
Without uncertainty, deterrent threats of war would take the form of trip-wires. To incur commitment is to lay a trip-wire, one that is plainly visible, that cannot be stumbled on, and that is manifestly connected up to the machinery of war. And if effective, it works much like a physical barrier. The trip-wire will not be crossed as long as it has not been placed in an intolerable location, and it will not be placed in an intolerable location as long as there is no uncertainty about each other’s motives and nothing at issue that is worth a war to both sides. Either side can stick its neck out, confident that the other will not chop it off. As long as the process is a series of discrete steps, taken deliberately, without any uncertainty as to the consequences, this process of military commitment and manoeuvre would not lead to war. Imminent war — possible war — would be continually threatened, but the threats would work. They would work unless one side were pushed too far; but if the pushing side knows how far that is, it will not push that far.
Tripwires are all over the earth. Kashmir is criss-crossed with them and this earthquake doesn't improve the situation, it makes it more destabilized. Another is anything China wants like Taiwan, a huge trip wire. We pretend we are strong enough to stand on the edge of that cliff daring to drop into WWIII over this trip wire. It will be tripped, or rather, the Chinese will shove us off the cliff after konking us on the head.

Afghanistan is a trip wire but a hellish one is Iraq. For the last 6,000 years, the Middle East/Euphrates Valley has been the world's oldest and nastiest trip wire spot. Ouch. This is why it just might start WWIII! We are not out of it at all and we are making things worse and worse each day and the fundamentals are getting more and more "edge of the abyss"-like and our ruler is an insane psychopath who is jumping up and down on a financial/political cliff, shrieking.
The resulting world — the world without uncertainty — would discriminate in favour of passivity against initiative. It is easier to deter than to compel. Among a group of arthritics moving delicately and slowly at a cocktail party, no one can be dislodged from his position near the bar, or ousted from his favourite chair; bodily contact is equally painful to his assailant. By standing in the doorway, one can prevent the entrance or exit of another ailing guest who is unwilling to push his way painfully through.
I think a sharp umbrella or handy cane would be just fine, my dear. Bang. This is assuming the door blocker is some old fart.

There is the tactic of stepping on toes, too. Even arthritics can do that. Put on really hard soled shoes...crunch.
In fact, without uncertainty all the military threats and manoeuvres would be like diplomacy with rigid rules and can be illustrated with a modified game of chess. A chess game can end in win, lose, or draw. Let’s change the game by adding a fourth outcome called ‘disaster.’ If ‘disaster’ occurs, a heavy fine is levied on both players, so that each is worse off than if he had simply lost the game. And the rules specify what causes disaster: specifically, if either player has moved his knight across the center line and the other player has moved his queen across the center line, the game terminates at once and both players are scored with a disaster. If a white knight is already on the black side of the board when the black queen moves across to the white side, the black queen’s move terminates the game in disaster; if the queen was already across when White moved his knight across the center line, the knight’s move terminates the game in disaster for both players. And the same applies for the white queen and the black knight.
During the Cold War, the two contesting empires used only pawns, luckily for us. Few Americans or Russians died but millions of Africans and Asians and Third World people perished or suffered hideously. Not that we gave a hoot, did we? Peasants and tribal people, hey, thousands can perish namelessly, heck, our own, ditto! Who cares if they die!

Again, chess is a terrible analogy. In Go, you capture not only stones but territory. Consolidation of territory and hemming in the opponent is what matters. Like real life, it flows on many levels. One can hamstring an empire by bankrupting it, for example. Bin Laden is playing that game successfully with us. Fighting to the death to protect one corner of the board while your opponent merrily goes about, every other turn, taking fresh territory, is a great way to lose at GO. This is what we are doing in Iraq: fighting to the death for one corner while losing the whole earth. What a mess.

No one is interested in our King. Indeed, both bin Laden and the Chinese and their new allies, Russia, all assured us that their wanted us to be led by Bush. His is overwhelmingly their favorite opponent! And so he is losing this game as they all expect and he trips over one wire after another and we are being hammered economically and none of this is game theory.

It is an ancient story as to why all empires collapse.

They always end up with some stupid ruling family putting increasingly dumb people into positions of power. All dynasties rot. Reek and rot. And the greater the empire, the worse the rot. For this is what living in a bubble does: it rots the mind and soul. You can't gage what is going on because the bubble protects one from all discomfort. The ultimate bubble is the nuclear bomb shelter. Why we allow our overlords who can launch insane wars, access to a total bubble protecting them from the wars they launch?

No! Absolutely no. I am against these structures. I want the Pentagon to close them down. I want everyone to imagine they will die first in WWIII. This is no game. This is reality.

Of course, disarming is even better but we ain't doing that!


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