Another session that I went to wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the one with Keren Leibovitch, nor was it nearly as inspiring. It was, at best, an example of how you can twist logic to suit yourself and in so doing, ignore truth. Daniel Kahneman introduced himself as a psychologist and said he was going to speak about politics. I think that was his first mistake.
He began with a discussion of the hawks and the doves and wanted to offer an explanation using modern psychology to explain why in a debate between hawks (right wing) and doves (left wing), hawks always win. Of course, his first proof is based on an assumption. Do hawks always win? Who knows…but let’s continue.
So, says Dr. Kahneman – in 1973, in the months before Israel was attacked, there was a debate as to what was to happen and how to proceed. The doves, said the psychologist, wanted to withdraw from Sinai, believing that concessions would decrease the possibility of war. They reasoned that either was was going to come anyway, or war could be avoided. If war could be avoided, they would have perhaps been considered correct. If war came anyway, after Israel pulled out…well, in that case…um…well…oops.
The hawks felt that if war came, Israel needed the buffer of the Sinai peninsula so that the war would be fought in the open desert landscape and not in Israel’s cities. Logical that, huh? Now, if war didn’t come, well, then it didn’t come, so why did we need to give up the Sinai? As to the idea that giving up land would bring about a cessation of violence – well, according to the hawkish view, of which I am a part, it hasn’t happened yet, so why believe surrender, capitulation, concessions and stupidity…I mean, well…whatever…
So, says Dr. Kahneman – the politicians like to go with the hawks because it is more sure. Either there won’t be a war, or there will be and we need the Sinai. The doves will argue to give up the land and if there is a war, we lost out and if there isn’t a war (which is highly unlikely given enough time and fanaticism of our enemies), the left might, might, might be proven right…I mean correct.
“Mistrust is safer from the point of view of the leaders,” was the concept here. And with that, Dr. Kahneman concluded that “hawks win an argument that they don’t deserve to win; they appear rational when they are not.”
Interesting conclusion. Why don’t the hawks deserve to win the argument? No idea; that wasn’t explained. Why are hawks irrational? No idea; that wasn’t explained. What was explained clearly is that there are no win-win situations on the table. There will either be a war that we fight from a position of weakness; or there will be a war that we fight from a position of strength.
Or, there won’t be a war anyway. But either way, the one thing everyone seems sure of is that there are no guarantees. Give up land for peace and…you are naive because there was no peace when the very same land the Arabs are supposedly requesting now was in their hands. They are asking for a full withdrawal to pre-1967 lines (otherwise known as Auschwitz borders).
But tell me, was there peace in 1966? Did we not notice it? And, if the “occupation” began in 1967, why was the Palestine Liberation Organization formed in 1964 with the avowed purpose of destroying Israel.
No one gave me a microphone tonight; no one asked my opinion. Had they bothered, I would have explained that hawks win the argument because their views are based on a realistic assessment of the enemy we face every day and not on a fatal misconception based on western values that have no place in the Middle East.
I have never like arguments built on a foundation of assumption. When you build this great structure…it falls very quickly because it lacks roots. Only later did I learn that apparently Dr. Kahneman was born in Israel and considers himself an Israeli-American and according to Wikipedia, he lives in the United States. The little I can find of his personal life indicates he is married to a colleague who also teaches at Princeton University. I do not know if he has any children, any sons. Somehow, someway, with no proof or knowledge to the opposite, deep inside me there was a sense of resentment – it isn’t his sons on our borders, is it?
As I left the session, all I could think was that it takes tremendous nerve for someone to travel so far to tell us about the reality we live each day.