Thursday, July 09, 2009

Obama as Chess Master, Part Two

This week, Spiegel Online published an interview with Henry Kissinger (see "Obama Is Like a Chess Master") that featured the following headline-grabbing exchange:

SPIEGEL: Do you think it was helpful for Obama to deliver a speech to the Islamic world in Cairo? Or has he created a lot of illusions about what politics can deliver?

Kissinger: Obama is like a chess player who is playing simultaneous chess and has opened his game with an unusual opening. Now he's got to play his hand as he plays his various counterparts. We haven't gotten beyond the opening game move yet. I have no quarrel with the opening move.

As I noted in "Obama as Chess Master," the association of Obama with chess in the discourse of international relations contrasts sharply with the more primitive games (such as poker and Monopoly) associated with his predecessor. US foreign policy no longer seems driven by ideological brinksmanship but instead seems guided by objective and intelligent strategic maneuvering. The White House no longer hides its cards, but instead makes its moves openly on the world stage for all to see. Kissinger is clearly troping on the chess vs. poker theme I have been following for several years, and he elevates the praise of Obama implied by the "chess master" metaphor by pointing out that the President is "playing simultaneous chess" and trying out "an unusual opening." Kissinger, of course, is famous among chess players for having made an 11th hour call to Bobby Fischer that got him to participate in the 1972 World Championship match in Iceland. Even if he opened his conversation with Fischer by saying, “This is one of the worst chess players in the world speaking to the best,” Kissinger is surely regarded as a master of strategic maneuvering and a brilliant chess player on the world stage. So this is high praise indeed for Obama.

That Obama met with opposition leader and former chess World Champion Garry Kasparov during his recent visit to Moscow is still more evidence of the objective and complex type of game he is playing. As ChessBase points out, he is the first president since Bill Clinton to meet the Russian opposition leader during a state visit.


Chessmeister said...

Obama just getting started in his game of chess. I am hoping that he is thinking many moves ahead because when it comes to world poitics every move is critical...

Michael Goeller said...

In "Obama's Middle East Chess Game," Philip Stevens of the Financial Times writes an entire column based on Kissinger's metaphor -- without ever mentioning Kissinger's comment.

Unknown said...

Just to note your previous article has gone awol along with the excellent cartoon which I have linked to elsewhere on the internet.
If for some reason the article cannot be reinstated I would be most grateful for the source of said cartoon.
Yours sincerely
David G Lermit

Ray Chandler said...

Actually, Obama is in every sense of the word a patzer. Or is that "putzer"?

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