A Question about Opponents of Different Size and Opponents of Similar Size

A reader writes:

We can all agree that conflict is wasteful. But what if the competitor starts the conflict? If their attack produces a dissipating situation, you have said that there is no good defense and that the correct response is to attack what the competitor values. Doesn't this escalate into the conflict we wish to avoid? How do we actually avoid conflict (or wars of attrition) if attacked? Is this what has happened between Google and Microsoft? Regardless of how this battle began, how can either side defend properly against further attack?

This can get into a fairly sophisticated discussion, but let me see if I can answer simply. There are only two possibilities here: two opponents of different size and two opponents of similar size.


A dissipating situation describes two opponents of different size (6.4.1 Dissipating Situations). When attacked, the smaller defender must avoid a direct meeting with their opponent, instead going after something their opponent values using superior speed (6.5.1 Dissipating Response). By definition the larger opponents cannot move as fast as they can (3.4 Dis-Economies of Scale, 3.4.3 Reaction Lag).


Google and Microsoft are two opponents of a similar size. With two competitors of equal size, the defender always has the advantage if they know what they are doing (9.4 Defending Vulnerabilities). Instead of defending their own territories (5.6.1 Defense Priority), they are going after each other. This only makes sense in a dissipating situations, which because of their size, they cannot be in. Like most stupid battles, they both calculate that they can win because of their myopic perspective (2.0 Perspective). At least one must be wrong and probably both are wrong in that calculation because the conflict with cost both more than they can possibly win (3.1.3 Conflict Cost).