Predators and prey

Last night we watched a beautifully photographed HD show about Yellowstone.  I’d give you the link but, because we TiVo’d the show, and my husband sped through all commercials and station information, I have no idea on which channel the show originated.

Aside from offering gorgeous photography from one of the most beautiful places on earth, the show focused on the dog-eat-dog (or, really, wolf-eat-elk, or coyote-savage-starving-bison) aspect of the park, especially in the winter.  The whole thing, of course, inevitably got me thinking about survival strategies.  There were a few obvious strategies on the show, and I’ll add to the list one domestic example of a successful survival strategy:

1.  Be the perfect predator, and augment each individual animal’s skills exponentially by moving with a pack.  This would be the wolves, of course.

2.  Have incredibly attuned senses.  The fox was good at this.  It can hear small rodents beneath five feet of snow — and successfully burrow through that snow in an instant for a nice, tasty meal.

3.  If you’re not a hunter, be big, and mean, travel in groups, and be willing to defend yourselves.  This strategy is the one that the bison use.  When an individual bison is weak, sick or alone, it’s dead meat (literally), but when bison are in fine group fettle, they’re a tough catch for even the friskiest wolves.

4.  Be fast.  Really fast.  This works up to a point for most animals in the deer (or deer-like) family.  They move in groups and run like hell.  Inevitably, the slowest in the group get sacrificed, but the mass of the group survives for another day.  It’s cruel, but it certainly culls out the weakest members.

5.  Be really cute.  This one isn’t from the show.  As I was watching the footage on the wolves, I kept glancing down at my incredibly submissive little dog, curled up in my arms, snoring gently.  She’d die in a minute out of the home.  Her survival technique is to be cute and loving, and to glom onto humans who see her, not as snack food, but as portable love that should be maintained.  Maintenance, of course, comes in the form of providing food, drink, shelter and protection to an animal that otherwise has no defenses.

You all know me well, of course, so you know that I couldn’t leave this topic here.  I have to analogize it to national security, right?

To begin with, we Americans do not want to be the perfect predator.  That goes against our self image.  We have the ability to be the perfect predator but, as a nation, we’re not going to go there.  We also have the ability to be a fox-like predator, a nation that uses its wiles to listen in on the world around us.  Using advanced technology and plain old human intelligence, we can listen in on our enemies and plan protective strategies.  We use these skills defensively, though, not offensively, so they’re not true predator skills as applied to the U.S.

All of which means we’re prey.  The best defense, if you’ve got a lot of predators circling, is the bison defense:  be big, mean and ready to protect yourself.  We were bison under President Bush. I liked that.  Like the bison we bristled with defenses, and made it plain that, if attacked, we would use them.  Barring our incursion into Iraq (which various people argue was offensive or defensive), our major position over the years was to sit there and say “if you touch us, you’re dead.”  Works for me.

The speed defense really didn’t and couldn’t play out for us over the years, because there’s nowhere for us as a nation, or as a group of individuals, to run to.  Also, we Americans are not big on abandoning the smallest and weakest (the widows and orphans, so to speak) to the predators out there.

The worst defense is the cute defense my dog uses, because it’s the only defense that depends, not just on the prey’s skills, but on the predator’s conscience.  The only reason this defense works between my dog and me is because I have a conscience and I’m extremely amenable to cute.  However, it’s an utter failure if (i) you’re incapable of being cute and (ii) your predator couldn’t care less about cuteness.  Indeed, for a true predator, the “cuter” you are, the more of a meal you present.  Good food, with the virtue of easy hunting.

Unfortunately, President Obama is trying to position us as the cute nation.  He’s convinced, as are his liberal acolytes, that if he just goes around the world being cute and submissive, other nations will just want to hold the United States in their collective arms, and feed us and cuddle us.  The problem with this notion, of course, is that nations (except for maybe Lichtenstein) are not cute and, even if they were, our enemies are not amenable to cute.  Just as a wolf, faced with my darling little dog, would eat her in a single bite, so too will the hostile nations of the world, most of whom function either as perfect predators or smart ones (the Norks, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, etc.), view Obama’s supine, submissive, cute, cute, cute America as the perfect easy target.