Ask The Strategic Genius: Humiliating Your Foe

It seems that the current trend in conflict is not to merely defeat your foe, but to humiliate them afterward.

The strategic genius does not do this, on the simple basis that utterly destroyed foes consume no further resources; you can go on and spend your time creating new foes and not have to worry about the army of your victims that are plotting (and eventually will all come together) to bring your doom. Even though you may be a veritable mountain of might – a T. Rex personified – you’re still in danger of falling to a swarm attack from lesser beings. This is why the great strategic geniuses of history, such as Genghis Khan, seldom left a defeated enemy unless they were certain the defeated enemy had very little chance of ever causing any trouble, at all.

humiliated anger

The face of humiliated anger

Donald Trump appears to be a non-genius of the highest order: he not only barely defeats his foes (his foes usually being his subordinates, which is kind of a cheap shot) he leaves them trailing in his wake. And he picks the worst foes: politicians. If you wish to be surrounded by crushed enemies, you don’t want the lean and hungry sociopathic politicians – you want terrified authoritarian followers. This is why Donald Trump made a horrible mistake getting Steve Bannon involved in his presidency, at all: he’s a back-stabbing troll who worships revenge. Having foes like Christie, Peter Thiel and Steve Bannon does not demonstrate that you are a great man of resolve and power, because a great man of resolve and power would have had them strangled quietly and quickly, and moved on to other things.

Here at “Ask the Strategic Genius” we are not privy to any politicians’ plans, but you can be sure that item #1 on Christie’s agenda is: “plant a dagger in Trump’s kidney if his guard ever drops for a second.” Which it will because, at 70 years of age, Trump is 20 years older than Christie, who will – at the very least – have a chance someday to come along and pull out the power cord of Trump’s ventilator. Besides, republicans like doing things that and can hardly complain when someone does it to them.

fly the friendly skiesYou’ve almost certainly heard of the strategic geniuses at United Air Lines, who managed to accomplish more marketing (for free!) with a single incident than every ad that they have paid for in a decade. At this point, the opportunity for positive display of strategic genius has passed; there is only negative display. Thus, we offer our suggestions to the CEO of United Air Lines:

  1. Immediately announce that United Airlines will give the passenger who was hauled off the plane a lifetime of free flights on United. He can go anywhere, any time, for free.
  2. The passenger who was hauled off even has the right to “bump” other passengers if he needs a seat.
  3. Charge him for drinks and luggage.

Thus, the foe is forced to enjoy the one thing they do not: getting on a United Airlines flight – and to become the thing they do not want to be. In a year, United can even announce that they are “still his favorite airline” and “he loves us so much he doesn’t fly anything else.” Besides, the guy’s 60 years+ old, he’s not capable of taking enough flights in the remaining years of his life to do any damage – and if he decided to try to run up a huge travel-bill, he’s just ruining his own life.

Lastly, have the flight crew thrown under a bus.

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Ghengis Khan had relatively little problems with disloyalty, because his satraps were selected from the people who surrendered immediately. Anyone who offered any resistance, at all, never got a second chance. The exception to that was military foes who were competent, and who didn’t find themselves fighting him in a “surrender or die” situation. [wikipedia] Jebe, one of his great war-chiefs, was incredibly loyal and competent, and was allowed to live and fight for the great Khan because he was was such an “honest foe.”


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Pls note that the Khan, when faced with a foe’s underlings who wanted to switch to the winning side, adopted a policy of “discard immediately after use”.

    The only such risk an ex-Trumpista/False Noiser/Republican faces from the left involves drowning by getting slobbered over so much.

  2. Holms says

    No, have the police / security trio thrown under a bus; they are the ones that committed assault.

  3. says

    You can destroy your foes, or make them in to allies, if you want to not continue fighting with them.

    The US military-intelligence complex wants to keep fighting with them, forever. See also several other well-established “traditional foes.”

    We Are All Eastasians, in the end.

  4. says

    The thugs are not the problem, though! Sure – they are stupid thugs – but the important mistake was made by the flight crew and gate agents who apparently thought that calling in thugs was going to resolve the situation favorably.

  5. says

    No! It’s not the gate agents! It’s the procedures they’re trained in!

    OK, now you go!

    (It’s turtles all the way down, with the blame gradually diffusing. Almost by design. This is a baked-in feature of emergent conspiracy)

  6. says

    Andrew Molitor@#5:
    You’re right!!

    Eventually blame gets diffused until all you can do is shake your fist in the general direction of “the system” – I suppose that’s an inevitable byproduct of “just following procedures” – decisions don’t get made, they just happen. There are thoughts nagging the edges of my mind that diffused authority is the opposite of individualized tyranny: you can shrug “it’s the rules” and the rules never demand credit like the tyrant would. Maybe that’s why bureaucracies arise: incompetence. It’s not that bureaucracy causes incompetence but rather that bureaucracies arise in pools of incompetence left to their own devices.

  7. Owlmirror says

    @Marcus: Speaking of blame, you might be interested in this analysis of the e-mails by United’s CEO:

    What became clear to me in this exchange is that the passive voice is itself unsuited for the lexical landscape of United’s email, which itself is part of a larger world we now find ourselves in, where corporate and government bureaucracies rely heavily on language to shape our perception. Munoz’s email relies heavily on the passive voice to evade culpability, but he also employs a host of other rhetorical moves that collude to put the blame on the man who was assaulted and carried out on a stretcher. Like a well-trained bureaucrat, Munoz used an array of syntactical choices in a predictable, quantifiable, and deliberate manner, and it’s time we recognize it for what it is.

  8. Owlmirror says

    Speaking of humiliating one’s enemies, there’s a quote I vaguely remembered from Terry Pratchett, and I think I found it in Witches Abroad:

    Cats are like witches. They don’t fight to kill, but to win. There is a difference. There’s no point in killing an opponent. That way, they won’t know they’ve lost, and to be a real winner you have to have an opponent who is beaten and knows it. There’s no triumph over a corpse, but a beaten opponent, who will remain beaten every day of the remainder of their sad and wretched life, is something to treasure.
    Cats do not, of course, rationalize this far. They just like to send someone limping off minus a tail and a few square inches of fur.

    I can really kind of see Trump as a cat. Vain, selfish, dishonest, self-aggrandizing, aggressive, viciously vindictive, lecherous, little or no attention span, easily manipulated by those who know how to push his buttons, but also good at manipulating people with fraudulent shows of affection/loyalty/competence…

    Anyone want to see if Trump will chase after a rolling ball of fluff?

  9. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#1:
    Pls note that the Khan, when faced with a foe’s underlings who wanted to switch to the winning side, adopted a policy of “discard immediately after use”.

    That’s a great way of putting it! If I accidentally steal it, it’ll be because it stuck in my head as such a great way of putting it. Hm, now I’ve probably thought about it enough that I won’t accidentally steal it.

  10. says

    Anyone want to see if Trump will chase after a rolling ball of fluff?

    He has Jared Kushner to do that for him.

    Joking aside, his relentless pursuit of pointless nonissues, like the Nordstrom thing – I think that’s the presidential equivalent of a ball of fluff.

    Let’s hope Kim Jong Un doesn’t play him with a laser dot.