Friday, May 11, 2007

Opinion (Allen Quicke): The zugzwang of terror

In chess there is a position called zugzwang. A player is in zugzwang when it is his turn to play but he has no good moves. Anything he does will worsen his position. Zugzwang translates from German as "compulsion to move", or "no-win situation", or "between a rock and a hard place".

Chess, as we all know, is a metaphor for geostrategy. It's a good one, as far as it goes. Obviously the real world contains shades of gray, unlike the black and white of the chessboard. And chess is played according to rules, under which every move has calculable consequences and logical responses. That's why chess is said to be the only game in which the element of luck plays no part whatsoever - and why computers can be programmed to play and beat grand masters. In the real world, if one side can contrive to move a "knight" in a straight line and so confound his opponent, he will.

Still, zugzwang aptly describes the position in which the US finds itself in its "war on terror".

Read the rest at Asia Times