Three-dimensional chess in the White House

1/5/2003 – Remember we told you about chess metaphors creeping into media reports on military situations? They are getting better at it, and the New York Times has even introduced a new dimension. "Right now the world must seem like a potentially deadly game of three-dimensional chess to the the Bush administration," they write. What will we see next in the headlines, the Benoni against Baghdad or the Petroff against Pyongyang? More

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Here's an excerpt of the New York Times article:

Wizard's Chess

Right now the world must seem like a potentially deadly game of three-dimensional chess to the the Bush administration. In Asia, its allies don't agree with each other about whether a North Korea with nuclear arms is an international danger. But they are very certain they don't want the United States to do anything that might trigger an angry response. The American people are confused by the contradictions between their government's approach to North Korea and Iraq, and frustrated by the sudden lack of clarity in their government's foreign policy.

It may be six months before North Korea starts mass producing nuclear weapons, but already it has blown apart the Bush administration's months-long effort to portray Saddam Hussein as uniquely dangerous. The North Korean crisis should also remind Americans that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to foreign policy. When vital national interests are at stake, both consistency and moral certainty need to yield to the realities of a complex and interlocking world.

As the possibility of a new gulf war comes closer, the wiser minds in the Bush administration are fully aware that there are just as many complicating factors in Iraq as there are with North Korea. The administration has so far played a sensible strategy of trying to work through the United Nations to force Iraqi disarmament while making the military preparations necessary to show that it means business. But somewhere not far down the line there may come a moment in which the military is ready to move, while the rest of our allies are not. President Bush needs to avoid getting caught in a situation where he has only one way to go. Some of his recent statements – like his caution to reporters that he is the one who must make the decision about war, and that he hasn't made it yet – suggest that he is aware of how important it is to maintain flexibility.


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