Welcome to what is being called “the cool war”: a conflict in which death is delivered by distant drones and the undeclared battlefield with China is cyberspace, where every virtual thrust is met with a counterthrust as the two nations probe and pierce each other’s defences.
The term was coined last month by David Rothkopf, chief executive and editor-at-large of the authoritative magazine Foreign Policy. He used it to characterise a war that “is a little warmer than cold because it seems likely to involve almost constant offensive measures that, while falling short of actual warfare, regularly seek to damage or weaken rivals or gain an edge through violations of sovereignty and penetration of defences”.
The second definition of “cool” taken on by this new mode of war, Rothkopf argued, was that it involved the latest cutting-edge technologies that are changing the paradigm of conflict to a much greater degree than any of those employed during the Cold War.
Such “coolness”, he might have added, is also a quality that flows from Obama’s own sang-froid — in stark contrast to the temperament of his Texan predecessor, George W Bush, who once cited “an old poster out West” in his determination to bring Osama bin Laden to justice and announced a “crusade” against “the evildoers”.