American Go E-Journal

GO IN THE NEWS: U.S. Strategists Learning from Go, says Wall Street Journal

Sunday June 26, 2011

“Forget chess,” said the Wall Street Journal on June 11. “To understand geopolitics in Taiwan or the Indian Ocean, U.S. strategists are learning from Go.” David Lai (r), a professor at the Army War College, has been telling senior military officials in the U.S. and overseas in recent months that go “holds the key to understanding how the Chinese really think—and U.S. officials had better learn to play if they want to win the real competition,” wrote reporter Keith Johnson in “What Kind of Game Is China Playing?” Lai authored a 2004 paper called “Learning From the Stones,” that described China’s long-term and indirect approach to acquiring influence and “zeroed in on concrete geopolitical challenges such as Taiwan, which he described, in terms of Go, as a single isolated stone next to a huge mass of opposing pieces.” The paper caught the attention of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who the WSJ says “quickly became a convert to his way of thinking.” Kissinger refers to go throughout his new book, “On China,” (“Flawed” Use of Go in Kissinger’s New Book? 6/5 EJ). One of Lai’s first fans was Air Force Gen. Steve Lorenz, formerly the head of Air University, where Lai then taught, reports the WSJ. “Gen. Lorenz heard one of his lectures in late 2005 and summoned him for a full briefing about the insights that Go could offer.” In recent months, Lai has briefed officers at Pacific Command, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, the Center for Army Analysis and the Australian Defence College. “One officer at the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, where Mr. Lai gave a presentation at a commander’s conference in March to about three dozen officers, said ‘the game analogy really sparked fascination’ and was useful for Air Force officers who might have to consider China a potential adversary one day. He conceded, though, that the briefing’s heavy academic content left ‘plenty of heads hurting.’ ‘You’ve got to think like the other guy thinks,’ said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Other say that comparing national strategic thought to popular sports and games is an over-simplification. “Go is a very useful device for analyzing Chinese strategy, but let’s not overdo it,” James Holmes, an expert on Chinese strategy and professor at the Naval War College said. The 6/11 article also features a video of the WSJ’s Christina Tsuei getting a lesson on the game from 35-year go veteran – and Brooklyn Go Club organizer — Jean-Claude Chetrit (left).

Categories: U.S./North America