Roger Cohen offers a thoughtful piece today about the Israeli blockade. This quote caught my eye
Blockading Gaza is not difficult. But of course the blockade only nourishes the tunnel economy controlled by Hamas. Is this intelligent? Is this a strategy?
Here is the link. Obviously, it is not. Yet reliance on the tactic persists. And now that the tactic has been challenged, Israeli hardliners are likely to cling to it ever more tightly … as if it were indispensable. They will once again attempt to prove that Israeli will is unshakable. Maintaining the blockade will become a part of a larger dogma that unshakable resolve will prevail in the end. And what is the strategy? Or stripped to the essentials, is this just blind trust in unshakable resolve?
By the way, the great and mighty leaders of the great European powers just before the first great war shared a similar attitude. They all believed that it was urgent to demonstrate unshakable resolve in the face of a regional Balkan disturbance. Of course, the need to demonstrate unshakable resolve meant that finding a solution short of war quickly became impossible. Nor was it possible to stop the war even after it morphed into massive and pointless butchery. One wonders if those in their “Proud Towers” would have felt the same way if they could have foreseen the dreadful consequences of their clinging to dogma. Come to think of it, this blind trust in unshakable resolve (backed with advanced technology) describes fairly well the attitude of US political and military leaders in the early phases of the Vietnam War as well. And of course, we should not forget that a more virulent form of the same trust in demonstrating unflinching resolve was at the core of Hitler’s madness.
Looking at this from a negotiator’s point of view, the above are all examples of domination strategies. This is where the urge to demonstrate toughness blinds us to everything else. Using American slang, “We lose it”. We all fall into this behavior pattern (mea culpa) rather easily when we perceive that something at issue is urgent and threatened, regardless of whether the perceptions are accurate (or have any basis at all). Why? That is a good question. I would just say that there appears to be a biological feedback loop at work that involves the amygdala in the brain. Huh? It may have been critical for us to have this capacity in the wild as a survival strategy. Unfortunately, the capacity works less well in civilized discourse. Nor is it a tool for building strategy.
Perhaps it is useful therefore, to keep in mind that to fall into domination strategies is human. To free ourselves from dogma is divine … and from a strategic point of view, useful.
FOLLOW - It was Roger Fisher and Bill Ury’s great contribution to negotiation theory that a matter may be urgently important, but parties to the related negotiations may see other values that might hold them back from pursuing domination strategies or one off bargaining.
2d FOLLOW - So, how is it that we are so easily wrong about our perceptions? How about this reason. it is because
… being wrong, (when) we’re blithely unaware of it, “feels (the same as) being right.”
from Dwight Garner’s NYT review of Kathryn Shulz’ new book, “Being Wrong”. Here is the link.