Friday, August 06, 2010

Capturing the high ground

Scott Adams explains the art of “High Ground Maneuver”.

The move involves taking an argument up to a level where you can say something that is absolutely true while changing the context at the same time. Once the move has been executed, the other participants will fear appearing small-minded if they drag the argument back to the detail level. It's an instant game changer.

For example, if a military drone accidentally kills civilians, and there is a public outcry, it would be a mistake for the military to spend too much time talking about what went wrong with that particular mission. The High Ground Maneuver would go something like this: "War is messy. No one wants civilians to die. We will study this situation to see how we can better avoid it in the future."

Notice that the response is succinct, indisputably true, and that the context has been taken to a higher level, about war in general.

Pakistan has indulged in this ‘high ground maneuver’ time and again and has adeptly neutralized India’s charges against it. For example, if we accuse it of exporting terrorism, it comes up with a statement, “Terrorism is a great threat to the world, and all countries must join hands in fighting this menace”. This changes the context and elevates the argument to a higher level. If we try to counter this with more evidence, we come across as perpetual whiners caught up in small detail. The wind gets removed from our sail and the carpet pulled from under our feet, if I can combine two metaphors.

I think the only way to counter this is by sneaking in our expert sermonisers ( examples of Sri Ravishankar and Abdul Kalam spring to the mind) into Pakistan and subjecting their citizens to some long lectures on morality, philosophy, neighbourly spirit, etc. When Pakistan protests to Hillary Clinton that India is indulging in export of tiresome talkers, we should solemnly shake our heads and say” Yes, garrulousness is to be condemned by all right-thinking people. It Is a serious threat to our sanity and to the well-being of people across the world. We should fight this hazard collectively.” 

This, I am afraid,  is the closest we can come to a "High ground maneuver."

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