‘It was themmuns that started it’…

IN today’s New York Times, Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, examines the psychology of the blame game, whether it be in the Middle East or Northern Ireland. He notes that “people on one side claim that they are merely responding to provocation and dismiss the other side’s identical claim as disingenuous spin. But research suggests that these claims reflect genuinely different perceptions of the same bloody conversation”. He goes on to point out that while proportionate retaliation is perhaps understandable in conflict, hitting back too hard just isn’t fair. Nor is one side likely to be able to see their actions from any position other than their own narrow perspective.

  • aquifer

    Luckily the local newspapers we buy are divided along sectarian lines, to confirm for us that the pain we experience is a little more real than the pain we inflict.

    Thanks Daniel for embarrassing us all.

  • TAFKABO

    I don’t know if embarrassed is quite the word I’d choose, but it was definately like looking into a mirror. Great article, it ought to be compulsory reading.

  • páid

    Typical of you, TAF, to try and sound reasonable whilst attempting to compel me to do something because I am a Nationalist. Since 1922 (and before I might add) there is a long litany………….. 😉

  • Very interesting article.

    So we can make this whole stop if only we establish a gold standard datum for death and pain.

    The birth of S&M Metrology and the Calcullus of Pain is neigh, oh brave new world.

  • “…..Calcullus”

    And make that Calculus, Mr. Rocket Scientist.

  • DK

    If you are hit then you have to hit back equally? This might be fair, but what if you are trying to win. Thus – Israel is hit, but does not respond with a similar scale hit, but a massive attempt at a knock-out.

    From the point of view of the observer and Hezbollah (sp?) this is unfair, but from the point of view of the Israeli’s, why should they try to be fair – they want to win. The events in Gaza where the militants have declared a ceasefire and, apparently, may be about to return the soldier, seem to vindicate the approach. It might not be fair, but fair never won first place.

    What is perhaps more important is to show magnamity in victory. If Israel pay to tidy up their mess afterwards, then the bitterness may be reduced. Like in Germany after WW1, the victors rubbed the defeated germans noses in it with reparations and restrictions; while after WW2 they rebuilt the country and treated it with respect.

  • Henry94

    When the European Union condemned Israel for bombing Lebanon in retaliation for the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, it did not question Israel’s right to respond, but rather, its “disproportionate use of force.” It is O.K. to hit back, just not too hard.

    The whole point of war is the disproportionate use of force. Otherwise wars would never end because the stronger side would be constrained by the weakness of the opponent.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Smilin’ Jim

    “So we can make this whole stop if only we establish a gold standard datum for death and pain.

    We could start by setting up a “Whataboutery Commission”, staffed by loss adjustors, ex paramilitaries, local councillors, rabbis, imams, historians, prophets, fifa referees, staff from the Child Support Agency…

  • eranu

    i dont agree with the “hitting back too hard just isn’t fair” bit. that is just modern society’s paralysis over trying to keep everyone happy and not hurt anyones feelings! in a court case you might have a multiple murderer on trial. instead of spending the rest of his life in prison he gets 6 years in a comfy hotel/prison. we wouldnt want to be bad and ruin the rest of his life or anything….

    i think if you start trouble then you deserve everything you get. in NI that could be the SAS shooting dead some IRA men who are out trying to blow someone up.

    theres alot of waffle talked in the article that probably interests psychologists, but in the real world you dont see many fights that consist of 2 people poking eachother with their fingers..

    actions are the important thing in figuring out who is actually to blame not listening to the lies from both sides.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Examples aren’t hard to come by. Shiites seek revenge on Sunnis for the revenge they sought on Shiites; Irish Catholics retaliate against the Protestants who retaliated against them;’

    Gilbert’s article gets the chronology wrong .

    It’s British Unionist Protestants retaliating against Irish Catholic Nationalists (2006) who retaliated against them British Protestants (1641/1798/1916/1922/1969 etc etc ) who retaliated against them Irish Catholics (1603) who retaliated against the English Protestants 1560 who retaliated against the Irish Catholics 1320 who retaliated against the Norman/Welsh/ English Catholics in 1169. If you’re one of them instead of us or one us instead of them you mayy feel it necessary to amend the above chronolgy back to the time of ancient Ulaidh , the Fenian cycle or Cuchullain/Fomorians/De Dannan/MIlesians etc etc .

    And so the moral of the story if any has to be .

    If you’re going to retaliate make sure you do so first 🙁

    For the lesson of history is -he who does not retaliate is lost – and even though he may lose anyway it is better to retaliate because it feels better that way .

    It’s the ‘human ‘ condition. I make no reference to the ‘intelligence ‘ or otherwise of such retaliation, merely that like #### it happens . Those who don’t expect it to happen will always be disappointed .

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Winning is better than losing, so proportionate response is not the best course of action. However one has to judge the likelyhood of winning first, there is no point is applying disportionate force if your opponent has the resourses to increase the ante beyond your best shot.

    So beware, only enter fights you can win. Any other course of action will cause great pain or worse, fleeing to fight another day is preferable in those situations!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Frustrated: “Winning is better than losing, so proportionate response is not the best course of action. However one has to judge the likelyhood of winning first, there is no point is applying disportionate force if your opponent has the resourses to increase the ante beyond your best shot. ”

    That is not strictly true. Resources are a factor, but so is will. Regardless of capacity, if your foeman lacks the will to increase the ante, then escalation is an option.

    To be blunt, Hezbollah’s leader has admitteda “miscalculation” in the recent unpleasentness, not expecting Israel to go to war over a mere two soldiers. Obviously, he underestimated the will of the Israelis

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Dread Cluthu

    “To be blunt, Hezbollah’s leader has admitteda “miscalculation”…”

    That seems an unlikely admission, can you give a source for that?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    The quote below is an excerpt from a transcript from an Al-Jazeera interview with Hassan Nasrallah, found on the MEMRI website

    http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD121106

    The key text is the last two sentences of the material quoted below.

    Hassan Nasrallah: “Yes, and nobody said to me: ‘No, you are not allowed to abduct Israeli soldiers.’ Even if they had told me not to… I’m not defending myself here. I said that we would abduct Israeli soldiers, in meetings with some of the main political leaders in the country. I don’t want to mention names now, but when the time comes to settle accounts, I will. They asked: ‘If this happens, will the issue of the prisoners be over and done with?’ I said that it was logical that it would. And I’m telling you, our estimation was not mistaken. I’m not exaggerating. Anywhere in the world – show me a country, show me an army, show me a war, in which two soldiers, or even civilian hostages, were abducted, and a war was waged against a country – and all for two soldiers. This has never happened throughout history, and even Israel has never done such a thing.”

    Nasrallah is not entirely accurate — the Hamas raid and kidnapping of a single soldier did lead to open conflict, albeit of a smaller overall scale.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Dread Cthulhu

    It is all about knowing your foe and what his resouces and mindset are, I think we all have enough experience to know about the Israeli’s.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Dread Cthulhu

    Thanks for providing the quote – especially as it doesn’t contains a basis for your claim that “Hezbollah’s leader has admitteda “miscalculation” in the recent unpleasentness..”.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Frustrated: “It is all about knowing your foe and what his resouces and mindset are, I think we all have enough experience to know about the Israeli’s. ”

    If it is so obvious, why Nasrallah’s mistake? How did he launch this operation and not expect retaliation, if we all know so much about Israel and its mindset, especially given the example provide, what, less than ten days before with Hamas’ kidnapping of a single soldier?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Shuggie:

    He did not expect Israel to retaliate.

    Nasrallah: “Anywhere in the world – show me a country, show me an army, show me a war, in which two soldiers, or even civilian hostages, were abducted, and a war was waged against a country – and all for two soldiers. This has never happened throughout history, and even Israel has never done such a thing.” ”

    Not only did Israel retaliate, but they invaded Lebanon and are working to dismantle Hezbollah.

    His admission is in his words. He thought he would gain leverage over the Israelis with his kidnapping of a few soldiers. What he got was an invasion, something he did not expect. This constitutes a miscalculation, Shuggie, a rather bad one. He plainly expresses his miscalculation.

    Then again, he did not expect most of the Arab world to condemn his little adventure, either.

    Full of miscues and miscalculations, is Nasrallah…

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Dread Cthulhu

    “He did not expect Israel to retaliate”

    I don’t know what makes you think that! Israel is kind of world famous for retaliating. In fact it is probably the aspect of Israeli policy that causes the most controversy. Anybody with even a fleeting interest in the Middle East expects Israel to retaliate.

    “Not only did Israel retaliate, but they invaded Lebanon and are working to dismantle Hezbollah”

    That’s wild speculation. All we can say with certainty at the minute is that the Israelis are working to dismantle Lebanon in general. How Hezbollah fare will not become clear for a while, unless you’ve got access to a clairvoyant

    “His admission is in his words”. Go back and re-read his actual words, which you kindly quoted. He doesn’t admit anything – he actually says “I’m telling you, our estimation was not mistaken”

    “Then again, he did not expect most of the Arab world to condemn his little adventure, either.”

    To be honest I am a bit surprised myself. Can you provide a source? Maybe there’s an organisation that represents the views, opinions and collective consensus of most of that famously unified part of the world?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Shuggie: “I don’t know what makes you think that! Israel is kind of world famous for retaliating. In fact it is probably the aspect of Israeli policy that causes the most controversy. Anybody with even a fleeting interest in the Middle East expects Israel to retaliate. ”

    Oh, he expected the usual game of footsie — a raid here or there, all to be settled by some European third party come to negotiate the release of a couple hundred terrorists for a couple of soldiers. He certainly did not expect the response that he got — an invasion, not a commando raid.

    To quote his number two, Mahmoud Komati, “The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn’t even expect [this] response… that Israel would exploit this operation for this big war against us.”

    Their miscalculation was to assume the usual “limited response.”

    Shuggie: “That’s wild speculation. All we can say with certainty at the minute is that the Israelis are working to dismantle Lebanon in general. How Hezbollah fare will not become clear for a while, unless you’ve got access to a clairvoyant ”

    an exaggeration — for example, Israel has bombed runways at the airport, but not the new control tower or terminal — Lebanon will need those later, but the runways prevent Hizbollah from receiving reinforcements.

    And Shuggie, if we must split hairs and play word games, the leaders of Arab countries have condemned Hizbollah’s action, including (but not limited to) Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The one main Arab anomaly is Syria.

    Then again, if word games are the best arguement you can make…

  • “I say categorically that the Israeli response to the capturing operation could have been harsh, but limited, if not for the cover provided by the Arabs and international community. It is not that Israel got the green light from America, Ghassan. Israel received an American decision that said: ‘Go on and finish that business in Lebanon.'”

    Give it up guys, Phredy nailed this one on the face of things. The exact text of the snippet does show miscalculation on the level of force Israel would use to retaliate..

    You might note, however, that there are quite a few “gaps” in the piece. Why? MEMRI is a Zionist front organization
    instances of MEMRI’s political bias affecting the accuracy of its translations have on occasion been cited.
    . to say the least.

    To put things in a richer context, I had a hard time swallowing the latest Davy Vance rant without a “Vichy” or two thrown in. Well, I read the whole damn Nasrallah “interview” and didn’t find one single “Zionist”. Go to Aljazeera and look at any of their interviews and he uses “Zionist” as much as The Decider uses “prevail”.

    Just the same, give Phredy a break. Even with the cherry-picked and sanitized quote, no one expected Israel to try to replay NATO’s strategy of making the Serbian population miserable enough to oust Melosivich. That they screwed the pooch comes as no surprise to us, they didn’t have NATO’s resources, alliances or political savvy. They don’t play “victim” any better than the Serbians, either.

    The IDF is great at intelligence and on the tactical level, but are in a strategic black hole and their government lacks geopolitical finesse, oddly being able to wag the US dog but no one else on the planet. Add to that the fact that Israel is a complete mistake and how can Sideshow Bob avoid stepping on the rake every time?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Jim: “You might note, however, that there are quite a few “gaps” in the piece. Why? MEMRI is a Zionist front organization ”

    Can you recommend a better freely available Arabic to English translation source, Jim?

  • “Can you recommend a better freely available Arabic to English translation source, Jim?”

    And that is not a denial that the article does a pretzel twist of the truth.

    In my day we didn’t prepare SAC intelligence estimates from the pages of Pravda.

    I first suspected mendacity when I Googled the phrases with no success. I then searched Aljazeera for quotes and found that the text of the piece Phredy quoted was radically unlike the figures of speech that Nasrallah uses.

    My advice, Sluggiepoos, is to fact check this guy before you ever reply. It’ll save a lot of bandwidth.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    James: “And that is not a denial that the article does a pretzel twist of the truth.”

    No, it’s an interrogative, more commonly know as a “question.” Not knowing Arabic myself and knowing from research that what is said to the English press and what is said to the Arabic press are often two different things, I use those resources available. You have suggested that MEMRI has a bias, so I inquired of you, in plain speech, is there another, similar source you could recommend.

    given you hysterical circus routine, I take it your answer is “no.”

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Smilin’ Jim

    “My advice, Sluggiepoos, is to fact check this guy before you ever reply. It’ll save a lot of bandwidth.”

    Good advice, but it isn’t entirely necessary. I think most people would know that there is about as much chance of Hispallah “admitting” they made a miscalculation as there is of the Israelis admitting they are making a miscalculation.

    Dread Cthulhu

    “for example, Israel has bombed runways at the airport, but not the new control tower or terminal—Lebanon will need those later, but the runways prevent Hizbollah from receiving reinforcements”

    Yeah I forgot, re-inforcements always arrive by air and never bother to check in, whereas airport terminals contain a range of shopping and eating options which the Lebanese will continue to find useful for buying stuff like duty free, coffee and SD cards etc even though they can’t go anywhere. You are making perfect sense.

    “And Shuggie, if we must split hairs and play word games, the leaders of Arab countries have condemned Hizbollah’s action, including (but not limited to) Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The one main Arab anomaly is Syria.”

    Well I suppose you’re right, if the democratically elected leaders of the Arab world condemn it, it must follow that most of the Arab world condemns it too.