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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Go crazy

I once had a coworker who would occasionally erupt in anger during department meetings and start yelling at the boss about something. He was a friend and he explained to me that these episodes were deliberate - designed to keep our boss on edge and to create an environment where he would be treated with kid gloves.

As he was an essential member of the team and the boss was relatively weak, this strategy worked perfectly. The boss would give my friend a wide berth and would not push him too much, out of fear.

In this case, my friend used the threat of acting irrationally in a rational manner, to put himself in a better negotiating position. And it was effective.

The reason I am thinking of this is from this quote from Ehud Olmert:
"I send a warm hug to all of the residents of the south, who have withstood the long and difficult months, and years, with great courage and strength, facing the daily threat and allowing the government to act in an intelligent, restrained, and responsible manner," he added.
Israel has been doing a lot of acting in an "intelligent, restrained, and responsible manner," mostly with an eye to keeping its Western audience happy. But Israel's opponents have no such restrictions on their behavior, and this gives them a competitive advantage in any interaction.

When Hamas knows that Israel is likely to act in a predictable way, it can use that knowledge to calculate exactly how much damage it can cause and how many Jews it can target on any given day without great fear of serious repercussions. They know that Israel will not target their leadership, they know that Israel will try to stay away from bombing residential areas, they know that Israel will not re-occupy land. This knowledge gives them great latitude in deciding how to act.

The Arabs, on the other hand, make their own assumed irrationality a central part of their collective psyche when trying to gain more concessions from the West. I have called this the "diplomacy of fear," and it is so ingrained in our thought processes that it has become accepted as fact. We are always in fear that the Arabs of Muslims will act crazy and we subconsciously adapt to it by pandering to them - and pressuring the rational side to do the same.

If the West isn't going to start treating Arabs as responsible human beings whose actions have consequences, then perhaps it is time for Israel to start acting a bit less rationally to even the playing field.