That Whole Rigamarole

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom as Aikido

InstaPundit uses terms such as "PR Jiu Jitsu" or "political jiu jitsu" to describe seeming to yield to the opposition as a prelude to an effective counterattack. I myself practice aikido, so I like to think of that same idea as an example of aikido, which indeed developed from jiu jitsu and other Japanese martial arts. We use the term "blend with the attack" to express the idea of not opposing an attack directly with muscle, but instead following and then re-directing the attack and using the energy against the opponent.

I am thinking now that maybe there never was a firm intent to use "shock and awe" in the beginning of this campaign in Iraq. Instead, we are responding to attacks proportionately, while putting our forces in better positions to deliver effective counterattacks. We can think of this as a little bit like aikido. And there is another analogy: in aikido we sometimes employ strikes called "atemi" that are not primary techniques, but are used in conjunction with techniques. The purpose of atemi is to stun or distract the opponent so that he is less likely to resist the technique effectively. These limited but precise attacks on leadership targets in Baghdad are a little bit like atemi. The Iraqi military has not been able to mount effective resistance, and these "atemi" are probably part of the reason why. I hope the aikido analogy holds up throughout the war, because to me that could mean that Iraq will end up subdued and harmless but not disabled or dead. Except for Saddam's circle and the major Ba'ath apparatchiks. They need to end up dead.

By the way, sometimes people describe aikido as "nonviolent." That doesn't really make much sense if you think about it. As one of my aikido teachers once said, "There is nothing nonviolent about throwing somebody to the ground." So the fact is, I practice violence a couple of times a week as a means of self-improvement. That's a little weird, but keep in mind that this is a violent world, and being able to approach violence in a thoughtful, ethical manner is a really useful skill.


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