The Best Defense

Where does Best Defense go next?

Now that our wars are fading away -- not ending, perhaps, but becoming someone else's -- I am wondering where this blog should go now. The series of essays on the "future of war" was one effort to answer that. That series is now concluded, and I will have more on it soon -- we have to figure out who the winners are. If you haven't voted, please send me an e-mail, using the e-mail address at the end of my bio, to list your favorite and your 2nd favorite. Put "Contest" in the subject line and write something simple like, "My top choice is no. X and my second is no. Y." (BTW, I suppose it is OK for you to vote for yourselves, but I am not sure about making your spouses do it.)

But I'd also welcome your thoughts on the future of the blog. The nature of the online conversation continues to change. These days I get more responses to my tweets (@tomricks1) than I do to my blog posts. Is there a way to better integrate that into the blog?

Finally, what do you think the blog should be doing more of? Less of? Different?

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone, 26th MEU Combat Camera/Released

The Best Defense

More pathological beliefs about the Ukraine crisis: Putin the master player

By Christopher J. Fettweis
Best Defense guest columnist

3) Putin is a master strategist. He plays chess while we play checkers. 
One of the most popular metaphors to explain the U.S. reaction to the crisis has been to suggest that while Putin plays chess, President Obama plays checkers. Putin is strategic and clever, in other words, while Obama is simple and one-dimensional. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee believes checkers gives Obama too much credit; the president is actually only playing marbles.

As political scientist Robert Jervis observed some time ago, for a variety of reasons all "actors tend to see the behavior of others as more centralized, disciplined, and coordinated than it is." In part because they are far more aware of their own internal deliberations and only see the outcomes of those elsewhere, people tend to believe that the other is unified, strategic, and purposeful. As a result, it appears to some that every enemy the United States has ever faced has played chess while Washington merely played checkers. It is never true.

(Still more to come.)

Christopher J. Fettweis is associate professor of political science at Tulane University in New Orleans. The thoughts in this essay are extensions of his latest book, The Pathologies of Power: Fear, Honor, Glory and Hubris in U.S. Foreign Policy.