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Thoughts from ‘Dragon and Knight’

dragon-and-knight-afterThanks to everyone who attended the online session of “Dragon and Knight” Tuesday. I’d like to share a couple of points that came up during the discussion. First, we concluded that the division between “Eastern” and “Western” modes of thinking is in practice often a false dichotomy. As Hall and Ames observe, these modes of thinking are not exclusive: causal, rational thinking is dominant in the West and recessive in the East, while analogical, correlative thinking is dominant in the East and recessive in the West.1 In other words, Westerners can think analogically and Easterners can think causally, even if those modes are recessive within each group. I find it interesting that superior red teamers tend to cross this cultural boundary with intuitive ease, at least when positing attacks. I’ve met few, however, who can shed their Western analytical biases when considering what those attacks mean.
      Second, we noted that when artificially constraining our efforts to either Western or Eastern modes of thought, the Western mode tended to yield ideas focused on the physical elements of the notional exercise scenarios: things we could see; touch; measure; and, ultimately, add to a checklist. When we switched to an Eastern mode, we found ourselves thinking much more creatively, and the attack vectors we discussed emphasized targeting the opponent’s mind. This is probably not surprising to those who study the cultural roots of strategy. Of course, the real point of the exercises wasn’t to think exclusively in a single mode but to transcend the separate modes to reach a point at which we could draw from both to generate both the orthodox (cheng) and the unorthodox (ch’i).

  1. David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, Anticipating China: Thinking Through the Narrative of Chinese and Western Culture, 1995. []