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.
My latest on the way in which Orphaned Land, Israel’s biggest heavy metal band, is transforming relations between Muslims and Jews in the MENA.
Sometimes change happens in the most unlikely ways, fostered by the most unlikely of people. In the last few years, while Israel’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world has drastically deteriorated, an Israeli heavy metal band has been uniting thousands of Jews and Muslims across the Middle East.
Originally published in Common Ground News, a longer version of this piece also appears in The Jerusalem Post.
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
* The following article was co-written with Andrea Bartoli and published in issue 4 of Unrest Magazine. It’s also published at the Huffington Post.
This month a new flotilla is scheduled to set sail to Gaza. As will be recalled, in May 2010 a violent confrontation at sea between Israeli naval forces and pro-Palestinian activists led to the death of nine people and many more injured; before a Turkish vessel aiming at breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza was escorted to a port. As a consequence, relations between Israel and Turkey dramatically soured and Israel’s standing in the international community further eroded. Judging by the rhetoric of the parties involved today another collision seems imminent, with more flotillas forthcoming in the future.
As scholars of conflict resolution, we believe that such situations call for constructive adaptation on the part of those involved. To that end we propose the IDF take initiative and create the first ever Conflict Resolution Commando unit. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Andrea Bartoli, Conflict Resolution Commandos, Flotilla, Gaza, IDF, Israel, Military, non-violence, Palestine, Peace, Roi Ben-Yehuda, Turkey
It was all leading to this – the youth spent in the US, the education at MIT, the years honed as Israel’s top diplomat – speaking before the United States Congress, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu finally experienced his moment in the Beltway sun. Regaling his august audience with history lessons, military escapades and self-congratulatory rhetoric, Mr. Netanyahu held his listeners in rapt attention. Indeed, with 29 standing ovations, incessant clapping and over-the-top adulations, the Prime Minister turned the US Congress into a hysterical audience resembling an Oprah Winfrey’s give-away special. By the time his speech was over, Mr. Netanyahu had both democrats and republicans singing, “Bibi bibi bibi can’t you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me.”
But the hypnosis will eventually wear off, and when it does congress will have to face an unpleasant reality: Mr. Netanyahu had sold them a bill of goods rotten to the core. And everybody can smell its pungent stench. Continue reading