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Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's the ante in war? 



In most forms of poker, and many other card games, there is an "ante" -- a chip the player puts on the table before the cards in a hand are even known. It shows that you have some skin in the game as a player, that if you want to play, you stand to lose at least the amount of the ante, and more if you bet more as the hand progresses.

If the country of Freedonia (with apologies to Groucho Marx) is attacked by the neighboring country of Youristan and several of its allies, and Freedonia successfully repels the attack, and pushes back the attackers deep into their own territory, and captures and holds some of the key strategic ground from which the attack was launched, why is it a bad thing that Freedonia maintains control over a small segment of that ground? Shouldn't there be some kind of ante in war, such that the leaders of Youristan know that if their aggression is ultimately unsuccessful, that some physical ground will be lost? It seems to me that an ante acts as somewhat of a reality check on planned aggression -- if the Youristani leaders understand that their payoff matrix is a little more negative, they might be less inclined to attack in the first place. If they believe that the international community -- and even Freedonia's key ally -- will demand that any Youristani territory lost to Freedonia (as a result of the Freedonia defensive counterattack) be returned to Youristani control, then all that is at risk to the Youristani leadership are some troops and equipment, and they might keep attacking multiple times over the course of several decades, kind of whenever they feel like it.

Now square that concept with this AP report:
"Israel on Sunday rejected a U.S. demand to suspend a planned housing project in east Jerusalem, threatening to further complicate an unusually tense standoff with its strongest ally over settlement construction.

"Israeli officials said the country's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, was summoned to the State Department over the weekend and told that a project being developed by an American millionaire in the disputed section of the holy city should not go ahead.

"Settlements built on captured lands claimed by the Palestinians have emerged as a major sticking point in relations between Israel and the Obama administration because of their potential to disrupt Mideast peacemaking."
Understanding that things are never simple in the Mideast, and logic does not always (or even usually) apply, why would the Obama administration's State Department summon the Israeli ambassador to try and red light a real estate development project in East Jerusalem? Don't these kinds of overt hardball tactics ultimately have some domestic consequences? I suppose such consequences are hard to estimate, but what are the potential political costs to President Obama of perhaps a 10% reduction in the Jewish vote (and a corresponding reduction in contributions from the same segment) in 2012, as well as the 2010 midterms?

12 Comments:

By Anonymous Robert Arvanitis, at Sun Jul 19, 01:06:00 PM:

The feedback mechanisms are all wrong.

First, think about a normal thermostat. The house gets cold, so the thermostate turns on the furnace.
Next, imagine a thermostat designed by Congress. This does nothing simplte. Instead, when the house gets cold, the government device opens the shades, turns on the lights, and starts playing loud music, on the theory that neighbors, assuming there was a party, come over and in turn their body heat warms your residence.

Now apply that to success in the State Dept. You castigate Israel, the media glorify you, and you get your psychic income plus in all likelihood, you get promoted. You don’t care about the real consequences for the US. You only care about the approbation and your own career.

Same principle applies all the way to the top. Obama undercuts Israel. That hurts US interests in foreign relations. But it secures his political base and garners media approval, so that he can implement his domestic agenda.

Always ask, what’s the real feedback, what forces are acting on decision makers? That will make it clear that politicos always act in their own, parochial interests. Period.

(Solutions? The aswers are as obvious as they are unwelcome in Washington: term limits, compact districts, referendum and recall, photo ID to vote, flat tax, no unfunded mandates, borrowing only for capital projects, never for operating deficits…)  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun Jul 19, 02:47:00 PM:

Robert says well something that I have noted for years. To many in Washington, events around the world have no reality other than their effect on elections and agencies here. The rest of the world is some MMORPG.

I would also like to note that if Israel abandoned all disputed settlements and territory in Palestine, absolutely nothing would change. The settlements would be an unimportant sideshow like Bucovina and Bessarabia, if world media did not allow the arab world to use them as a platform to declare their grievances. If Israel capitulates on these, the Palestinians will just find another soapbox.  

By Anonymous Keating Willcox, at Sun Jul 19, 03:52:00 PM:

There is something to be said for a fluid negotiation. As long as something is happening, a small change in landscape here or there, a border or settlement under negotiation, some parties will wait for all out war. Once the borders are fixed and militarized, the only options are do nothing or total war. I understand why the Israel government continues this messy dance of settlements, walls and borders. It holds off the final day of reckoning.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sun Jul 19, 05:24:00 PM:

All of you - even those sympathetic to Israel - are completely missing the point here.

Jerusalem is not an "ante", or a "bargaining chip". Jerusalem is the holy city of the Jews and has been for 4000 years. And contrary to "conventional wisdom", Jews have not only lived there continuously for this time, but there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem long before the advent of "Zionist" migration in the late 1800s.

The partition plan of 1947 was supposed to leave Jerusalem open to all people. The Arabs instead seized half of the city and ethnically cleansed it of Jews. They occupied the holiest sites of Judaisem, such as the Western Wall. When Israel reunited the city in 1967, they found that the Arabs had turned those holy sites into garbage dumps and latrines.

Israel will NEVER give up Jerusalem or allow it to be divided again. Period, end of discussion. There is no UN resolution (not that those are worth much anyway) that requires this. In its magnanimity, Israel allows Arabs to live anywhere in Jerusalem, in stark contrast to the Arabs who barred Jews from the area it occupied from 1948 to 1967. If Obama doesn't understand this, he is a fool and ignoramus. Worse yet is the thought that he *does* understand this, in which case he is deliberately plunging a knife into the heart of the Jewish people.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 19, 05:28:00 PM:

From Link,

If so, it won't be the first nor the last constituent group Obama throws under the bus.  

By Blogger druu222, at Sun Jul 19, 05:47:00 PM:

There is also the issue of the assumption that American Jews are prepared to make Obama pay a price at the polls. This assumption is entirely logical, but that does not make it true.

I have been sharing my gripes at the American Jewish community for some time now, in that the state of Israel never, and I do mean NEVER EVER EVER..... had a better friend in the White House than George W. Bush. This counted for exactly jack-squat when it came time to vote. Both Kerry and Obama (and I assume Gore) got 75% or more of the Jewish vote.

Israel's most passionate non-Jewish defenders are Christian evangelicals.... loathed and mocked by American Jews, particularily culturally powerful ones.

I have said for some time that American Jews stand to find themselves out in the cold if Obama really turns the knife to Israel.... they will finally wake up to fact that they have been literally marching in the streets with people who despise them and have never even tried to hide it (Big whiskey tango foxtrot with that!), and now, who are they going to turn to... the conservatives that they have bitterly opposed for nearly a century?

('Course, the GOP cannot be choosy, so they will take them, but the point still stands.)

American Jews are almost as hopelessly in the Democratic bag as American blacks, with FAR less justification for being so. They, particularily in enormously powerful cultural/media/academic
centers of power, GAVE us Mr. Obama, knowing full well what they were doing. To turn to the right now because of Israel and for no other real reason would be hugely cynical, and I damn sure would want many of them to stand up and forthrightly take responsiblilty for their own actions that have led us to the point we are now at.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 19, 06:09:00 PM:

Follow up to druu222.

Well said. I'd only add that if we have prolonged economic difficulties, we'll naturally be isolationist. If we're weak economically, we won't care about Israel.

I think I understand red diaper baby Axelrod. I don't understand Rahm Israel Emanuel at all.

Link, over  

By Blogger Joshua, at Sun Jul 19, 06:27:00 PM:

Another follow-up to druu222: Keep in mind that most American Jews are of the Reform branch of Judaism, which tends to have a more secular outlook in general, and a dimmer view of the idea of a Jewish state in particular, than than do the Orthodox, Hasidic or other branches. Furthermore, American Reform Jews have historically had to deal with hostility from American Christian evangelicals much more frequently than from, say, Islamic supremacists, which explains why they tend to fear the former more than the latter (i.e. it's basically a "near enemy" vs. "far enemy" deal).

So, to the extent that Obama's Jewish constituency is led (if not, as I suspect, dominated) by Reform Jews, that constituency probably remains safe for Obama no matter what his stance toward Israel may be.  

By Anonymous John, at Mon Jul 20, 12:13:00 AM:

If you push the American Jewish community far enough, they will react. But it has to be pretty far -- case in point, the race-based rioting in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn 17 years ago.

David Dinkins had been elected mayor over Rudy Giuliani in 1989 in large part because of liberal Jewish voters putting their hopes and dreams into the idea that the first African-American mayor of the city would bring an end to racial strife and usher in a new era (sound familiar yet?). But when Dinkins was seen as either incapable or unwilling to stop attacks on Orthodox Jews in the area following the murder of a Jewish student (during rioting sparked by the death of an African-American boy hit by a car), enough of the Conservative and (to a lesser extent) Reform Jews switched their votes in 1993 to give Giuliani the victory in their rematch.

But like I said, it would take a lot to cause a similar shift against Obama in 2012, such as a major attack against Israel in which the president is seen, like Dinkins, as either being incapable or unwilling to do anything to stop it. Barring that, you might see less enthusiasm for Barack three years from now within the American Jewish community, but you're not going to see all that big a migration over to whomever the Republican nominee happens to be.  

By Blogger Leif, at Mon Jul 20, 04:09:00 PM:

Two points: (1) The Obama administration is not thinking in terms of reality, but of the narrative of Jewish aggression. Remember, among the cognoscenti, non-Europeans are incapable of agency. Instead, they can only react to the evils of the white man. Ergo, in the logic of the left, the Jews only have to stop doing whatever it is that is perceived as aggressive, and all will be smiles and sunshine.

(2) In America, Jewish guilt is stronger than Jewish identity. Only the most extreme circumstances will induce American Jews to support Israel over socialism.  

By Blogger Pyrus, at Wed Jul 22, 12:51:00 PM:

I'm late to the party so I'll try to keep this brief.
1. It's not clear what the political cost will be. For example, Debra DeLee, President of Shalom Achshav, said last week after meeting with Obama, "I know that I speak for most American Jews when I wholeheartedly embrace President Obama's clear position on settlements." And Netanyahu was clearly surprised at the lack of support he saw when he spoke to Congress after his meeting with Obama.

2. Israel's interests are not congruent with the US's. Sure they overlap but it is nonetheless alarming that a powerful bloc of US voters push US policy to further some other nation's interests at the cost of the US's. I hope Hilary will stop other countries from meddling with our foreign policy.

3. War isn't a game of poker. The UN's Geneva Covenants, to which Israel is a signatory, prohibit a nation that has conquered an area of land in a war from moving any part of its population into the land so conquered. There are a whopping 300,000 "settlers" in the conquered territories. Neither they nor the Palestinians in those territories should be viewed as an "ante".

Epic fail - that was far from brief. Sorry.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Thu Jul 23, 05:56:00 AM:

"I'm late to the party so I'll try to keep this brief."

Watch out, Axelrod will dock your pay.

"For example, Debra DeLee, President of Shalom Achshav, said last week after meeting with Obama, "I know that I speak for most American Jews ..."

Never heard of her or her organization. In classic astroturf fashion, BO's meeting with "American Jewish leaders" was packed with phonies like her while excluding well-known leaders who disagree with BO's Mideast policy.

"it is nonetheless alarming that a powerful bloc of US voters push US policy to further some other nation's interests"

Thanks for pimping the dual-loyalty canard, Adolf, or Pat, or Jimmuh or David or Louis or whatever your real name is.

"prohibit a nation that has conquered an area of land in a war"

The relevant UN resolutions specifically DO NOT say where the borders are because they were never settled. And as I pointed out in my previous post Jerusalem was supposed to be an open city, it was the *Arabs* who depopulated the Jews and defiled Jewish holy places when they controlled it after they "conquered" it in the 1948 war.

"Epic fail" - this is the only true statement in your post.  

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