“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

logic and strategy

The other day, a friend told me about a class she is teaching. The students had to make presentations, and two of them presented about South Africa. Oddly, she said, these student seemed barely aware that once upon a time, South Africa had a racist, apartheid regime. I said (falling into my old codger routine) that I remembered the day I protested the University of Texas' investment in South Africa, along with hundreds of other students. And then I said, I now think that was a mistake.

And then I thought about it and said, no, it wasn’t a mistake. It was right to protest. It was wrong for U.T. to have that investment. But it was, at the same time, good that U.T. had an investment we couldd protest.

My reactions led me to reflect on the difference between strategy and logic.

To illustrate that difference, take the 'human rights' game. Say that there is a country - call it, a U.S.-like country, that is, one that doesn't torture and invade countries illegally, but that is nevertheless wealthy and has an interest in promoting human rights. And take a human rights violator, like, say, Iran. It would be better, in my opinion, for the U.S.-like country to recognize Iran and make investments in that country. At the same time, it would also be better for people to protest those investments and demand that the U.S.-like country boycott Iran.

Logically, these positions are incompatible. One comes to a decision fork – A or Not-A. Logically, one can’t embrace both.

Strategically, however, both may be preferable. It is preferable that Iran have an internal interest that is vulnerable to protest. And it is preferable that protest exists to make the threat of loss credible.

This is the kind of thing that Deleuze and Guattari are talking about when they speak of affirming both sides of a disjunction. One leaps, here, from logic to strategy.

Of course, there is a problem. In order for the protests to be credible, the protestors must sincerely believe in disinvesting in Iran. And in order for the investments to be credible, the investors must act credibly like investors, defending with all their might and main investment in Iran.

So – where is the strategist, given this field of beliefs? The strategist is in the position of a sort of Maxwell’s demon – or a Chinese sage. She has anchored herself to the ‘uncanny’ position within the social field. She does have a strategic goal – the strategy is meant to move Iran to another regime point. But she can’t really reveal her goal for the strategy to succeed. And she must be on both sides of the decision branch.

It is a tough life for Fortuna, the game theorist. But she must be pitiless – even with herself.



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