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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Game theory (liveblog)

Sitting all the way in the back (where I found a plug) listening to Nobel Prize winner Yisrael Aumann talking about game theory. This is a liveblog.

I want to add something about the previous session. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough about what a job Danny Dayan did on Jeremy Ben Ami. He listed many of J Street's actions - without using J Street's name - and suggested that an organization that did each of those things had placed itself outside the pro-Israel community. The critique was devastating and all Ben Ami could do was smirk like President Obama did when he sat next to Prime Minister Netanyahu last month during that White House press availability.

Aumann says that war can be rational. We take all the ills of the world and dismiss them by calling them irrational. If they are rational, once we understand that they are, we can try to address the problem. If we dismiss them as irrational, we can't address the problem.

Economics and game theory in one word: Incentives. For example, taxes. You can lose revenue by raising taxes.

How do you apply this to peace? What brings peace? Concessions don't bring peace. Look at Munich 1938. 'Peace in our time.' No, it didn't work (Aumann says this is what Peres is promoting). Chamberlain brought war from Munich in 1938. Why didn't the concessions to Hitler work? Because Chamberlain was saying to Hitler, "We are weak. We will not respond." That was a lie but Hitler believed it. When you're strong and signal weakness, that's what brings war.

Is disarmament an incentive for peace? What made the cold war stay cold was nuclear weapons without nuclear explosions. What prevented the nuclear explosions was the presence of nuclear weapons. There were bombers in the air 365 days a year for 40 years. That's what prevented the cold war from becoming hot.

Does the Pax Romana bring peace? The Roman peace lasted for 400 years. Their motto was if you want peace, prepare for war. They were the first game theorists.

No one put it as succinctly as President Obama in his Nobel acceptance speech: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Aumann says he deserves the prize for that sentence alone.

Aumann is viewed as a hawk but he truly wants peace. How do you get peace? Not by shouting peace, not by concessions, not by gestures and not by expelling 10,000 people from their homes like Gaza 2005. These things bring war. Hitler did not want war in 1939 - he thought the allies did not want war. The Gaza expulsion brought the Lebanon War of 2006, the bombardment of southern Israel, Operation Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara disaster. So what should we do now? How do we get peace? You can't glue together the pieces of the Gaza expulsion.

The important thing is to convince the Arabs that we are here to stay. We have signaled that we are not here to stay and we must change that. The Arabs still think of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa as Arab territory. We have to convince them that won't happen. We must be patient. We must sit tight and expel nobody. We must avoid collective measures - they hit the wrong people. The people have no say there - we have to focus on the leadership.

We should improve life so that people are satisfied. We should respond to provocations in a predictable way.

Most important: Insist on Oslo provision calling for education for peace and tolerance. No one remembers this provision anymore and our government does not insist on it. The kids who were educated in the PA 15 years ago are now the leaders. We must try and change those goals so that their goals are not to wipe us off the map.

We are doing none of these things.

(From question and answer session) Professor Aumann is trying to discuss how we give a rational partner an incentive to make peace. He does not believe there is a rational partner today.

Our problem is that we want peace NOW. We have to start NOW, but we can't get peace now. Our problem is the way that children are taught in the territories. We have to get used to the fact that nothing is going to happen now. We made too many mistakes in the past.

Helen Thomas did us a favor by saying what everyone was thinking. Trying concessions is just making things worse. Netanyahu in Congress was great.

Would love to get a copy of Professor Aumann's slides....

Recall that Nasrallah said that if he had known how Israel would respond in 2006, he would not have started the war.

Key departments in Israeli universities overrun with people who don't agree with Obama. They think peace being desirable is enough to achieve it. Problems: These people have tenure and appoint other people like them to their departments.

Aumann complains about lack of provocative questions. Says everyone here agrees with him. Asks for provocative question.

Questioner says we shouldn't be negotiating with 'Palestinians' but with their funders: Saudis, Iraqis, Iranians - we need to hold them responsible. We have to hold the people who put Oslo together responsible. Aumann agrees. Oh well - no provocative question. Aumann says that the real people we have to address is ourselves.

End of session.

I got a ticket for the plenary session with Shimon Peres and Dennis Ross so stay tuned.

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At 2:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Hitler's decision to take Germany to war in 1939 was partly ideological. But it was also rational - his country faced a weak opponent that could be defeated quickly. But sometimes the obvious doesn't compute when its based on insufficient or deficient information. This was the case with the German invasion of Russia 70 years ago (in 1941) today. German overconfidence about their easy earlier string of victories led them to underestimate just what it would take to defeat the Soviet Union. Indeed, sometimes a seemingly rational decision can turn out to be a disastrous one. A decisionmaker cannot know ALL the outcomes in advance, much less than control them.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Palestinians are rational. They behave as they do because they believe Israel is weak. And Israel has done nothing to change their belief by showing them it is strong. The Arabs respect strength and they will deal honorably with someone who has convictions. They will readily take advantage of someone who is a sucker. Its only human nature. The Jews do the worst possible thing by announcing in advance they have no red lines, they believe in nothing, they crave peace at any price. That is what needs to change in order for peace to have a chance. To change the Arabs, the Jews must change. Not by appearing weak and compliant before them but by being strong and confident. Only then will be peace be possible.


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