Over at Al Jazeera, Trita Parsi and I explore both the limitations and potential of using the Cuban Missile Crises as an analogy to the current situation between Israel and Iran.
“Watching the conflict between Iran and Israel escalate, it’s hard not to draw analogies and lessons from history. Indeed, Netanyahu’s thinking in this regard is very much anchored in the past: “The year is 1938 and Iran is Germany”, time and again he has warned. Such analogs provide leaders with a quick and handy “user manual”: a way to sell a desired policy path and provide a platform for action.
Yet as mental shortcuts, analogs could easily lead to unwanted outcomes. Crucial decisions, like going to war, could be based on paying attention to the wrong lessons, or making a false comparison between two different situations. Indeed, it is neither 1938 (Iran is far from having a bomb or a delivery system) nor is Iran Nazi Germany (Iran’s military budget is fraction of that of Israel and the US). Claiming so, however, leaves no room for any response save military force.
Recently, another historical episode, the Cuban Missile Crisis, has been gaining traction. Just as the US, the analogy goes, faced the intolerable choice of either attacking Cuba or allowing Soviet nuclear weapons in its own backyard, so too Israel/US must decide between attacking Iran or allowing it to become nuclear.”
To read the rest, click here.
It is said that wars begin in the minds of men. Considering the people charged with running Israel and Iran today, this is indeed a frightening prospect. But it’s also a chilling insight into the workings of the human mind in general. Why? Because our minds are filled with biases – unconscious and systematic errors of judgment – that make war with Iran an increasing possibility. We are, as psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman argues, hardwired to find hawkish arguments more convincing than dovish ones.
Kahneman’s lecture was given in 2006 (the english begins 1:48), but the implication for the current and escalating conflict between Israel and Iran are clear. Below I have selected a number of cognitive biases (not all mentioned by Kahneman) that I believe are influencing the recent bellicose rhetoric emanating from Jerusalem and Tehran. For the sake of familiarity I will concentrate on the Israeli hawkish narrative (you can read a recent example here). Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Cognitive Bias, Confirmation bias, Daniel Kahneman, Doves, Fundamental Attribution Error, Hawks, Iran, Israel, Loss Aversion, Optimistic Bias, War
Excerpts from a 92nd St Y “debate” between Alan Dershowitz and Jeremy Ben-Ami. Unfortunately, try as they might, they seem to pretty much agree about everything. From what is presented in this vid, this was not much of a debate.
Here are some additional places that have re-published my Iran/Israel piece (co-written with Dr. Trita Parsi). The piece was originally published in Haaretz.
Turkish Daily News: The Turkish Daily News, established in March 1961, is Turkey’s first and largest English-language daily, joining the DYH family in January 2000.
Middle East Times: A daily newspaper, owned by News World Communications, a corporation owned and operated by the Unification church, published in Cairo, Egypt. Its print content is tightly controlled by the Egyptian Ministry of Information, though it does publish stories censored by the ministry on its website.
Common Ground News (in Hebrew) (in Arabic) (in French) (in Urdu) (Bahasa Indonesia) The Common Ground News Service (CGNews) seeks to promote mutual understanding and offer hope, opportunities for dialogue and constructive suggestions that facilitate peaceful resolution of conflict. We publish and promote articles by local and international experts on current Middle East issues and the relationship between the West and Arab and Muslim communities.
Iranian.com has re-published my article with Dr. Trita Parsi. The comments on the page are also worth a read.
Newsday gives the Iran/Israel piece I co-wrote with Dr.Trita Parsi some love.
It’s tough these days to hear anything calm and rational about Iran.
There are still rumors about a desire deep within the Bush administration to launch a military attack on Iran before a new American president takes office.
A recent Seymour Hersh piece in The New Yorker reports on a presidential decision to allow more covert military operations within Iran.
Congress is moving toward a concurrent resolution, spearheaded in the House by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Jamaica Estates), urging President George W. Bush to put increasing pressure on Iran. Critics of that resolution say that, although it doesn’t mention the word blockade, the actions it asks Bush to initiate would amount to a blockade.
Israel held a military exercise that seemed designed to show it could mount an attack on Iran. And an Iranian missile test has been widely construed as their way of saying: “Don’t tread on us.”
Into that highly charged atmosphere comes a calm, sensible, intelligent analysis, “Essential things Israelis and Iranians should know about each other,” in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The two authors are Trita Parsi, an Iranian with expertise in Iran-Israel relations, and Roi Ben-Yehuda, an American-Israeli writer. It’s worth reading to get a perspective of the fears and the history of the two nations most central to the dangerous dispute over a potential Iranian nuclear weapon.
The looming Iran-Israel confrontation has a seemingly deterministic quality to it. The hard-line politicians on both sides are beating the drums of war – hypnotizing, mobilizing, and gyrating the masses to a dance of death. Yet a great deal of this conflict is fueled by ignorance of one another – what each others’ societies, culture, and people are really like. The hard-liners feed off this ignorance.
To that end, over at Haaretz Dr.Trita Parsi and I co-wrote a piece on some essential things Israelis and Iranians need to know about one another.
* The article is dedicated to the loving memory of Amir Jahanbani – the best teacher I have ever known.