Both the challenges of war and the challenges of politics are challenges of leadership. And both military strategists and political strategists agree that the most basic leadership challenge in both arenas is to know and understand yourself - your strengths and your weaknesses - and to know your opponents and their strengths and weaknesses. While this may seem like basic common sense, it is quite amazing to see how often it is ignored.
The rarity of this sort of strategic wisdom in the public sphere was brought to the fore this week in the political uproar generated by US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain's selection of Palin was remarkable because in choosing her from the list of possible candidates, he made a decision that embraced rather than ignored this most basic challenge of leadership.
Given that the universality of the logic that informed McCain's selection of Palin is followed more in the breach than in practice, it is worth analyzing his choice, both for what it tells us about his leadership skills, and about the nature of his domestic opposition. But it is also useful to reflect on his choice of Palin to draw lessons that can be applied more widely by non-leftist political strategists and military strategists throughout the free world.
In the months preceding McCain's announcement of Palin as his running mate, his central challenges as the Republican presidential nominee came into focus. In Senator Barack Obama, McCain faces a young, vigorous and charismatic opponent who has successfully energized his supporters and the powerful US liberal media establishment. Owing to that excitement, Obama has raised unprecedented amounts of campaign contributions. He has also rallied tens of thousands of loyal foot soldiers who have volunteered to serve his campaign. Both the donors and the volunteers are essential for winning voters and bringing them to the ballot boxes on November 4.
Obama's velvet tongue is also a formidable asset. His ability to mesmerize audiences with soaring rhetoric is compared favorably to president John F. Kennedy's eloquence.
Obama's other massive advantage is the liberal media. Since he first launched his primary campaign, the liberal media - which include the major US newspapers, television news networks and two out of three cable news networks - have been actively advocating on his behalf while downplaying his opponents.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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