Marbury nails it - and the game theory behind it:

In the early 1970s a geneticist called John Maynard-Smith invented the Hawk-Dove game to try and shed light on why animals don't fight each other to death at every chance they get, in an attempt to maximise their own personal gain. In his game - actually a mathematical model but we needn't go into that - Hawk is always up for a fight. He easily beats Dove. But he gets badly wounded in a fight with another Hawk. Dove, which is programmed to cooperate, reaps benefits when it meets another Dove. But when it meets a Hawk it gets killed. In the short term, the Hawk strategy is the most rational - and evolutionarily successful - strategy. But when the game is played over and again, the Dove starts to do better. A third strategy, called Retaliator, proves best of all. Retaliator is a Dove - until it meets a Hawk, at which point it turns into a Hawk too.


Ah, yes. Remember Clinton and McCain? The point is that this requires a long-term perspective. It helps to understand Obama's moves under that rubric. In fact, I think it's impossible to understand him without that rubric.

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