They’re Telling You They’re Lying!

Robert Aumann, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for his contributions to game theory, is vocally opposed to peace gestures that Israel either has made or that people have suggested it should make.  His basic message can be summarized in the following passage:

"Roadmaps, capitulation, gestures, disengagements, convergences, deportations, and so forth do not bring peace. On the contrary, they bring war, just as we saw last summer. These things send a clear signal to our "cousins" that we are tired, that we no longer have spiritual strength, that we have no time, that we are calling for a time-out. They only whet their appetites. It only encourages them to pressure us more, to demand more, and not to give up on anything. These things stem from simple theoretical considerations and also from straight thinking. But it’s not just theory: it has been proven and re-proven in the field over thousands of years. I returned today from a trip to India, where we heard about historical stories that illustrate the same. Capitulations bring about war; determination and readiness bring about peace. Ladies and gentlemen, we must tell our cousins that we are staying here. We are not moving. We have time; we have patience; we have stamina. Understand this and internalize it. And we must not simply say it to our cousins but feel it within ourselves. This and only this will bring peace. We can really live in peace and unity and cooperation with our cousins. But only after they understand and internalize that the Zionist state will be here forever."

As Aumann himself acknowledges, one needs no expertise beyond "straight thinking" to understand that there is strategic value in convincing your opponent that you are steadfast.  What’s not obvious is how much weight to give to this consideration compared to other strategic considerations (leaving moral considerations aside) that might cut in the opposite direction.  Aumann doesn’t mention any alternatives even to argue against them.  One would infer from this that he thinks that displaying steadfastness is the only consideration or at least the dominant one.  Since Aumann is a famous expert on game theory, an indication that he thinks this is so should presumably cause one’s own views to move in that direction.  And I daresay that this is what Aumann himself is hoping will happen when he agrees to give these speeches ("Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, your humble servant makes his living from game theory").  What’s weird about this is that Aumann is a very publicly Orthodox Jew, and Orthodox Jews of Aumann’s stripe are very vocal about their opinion that God is opposed to any concessions regarding the Land of Israel (and that one ought to care what God thinks on the matter).  Why doesn’t this destroy literally all of Aumann’s credibility as a pundit?  After all, this isn’t a case where one suspects that an expert might have a motive for saying what he says other than that it’s his considered judgment based on his expertise.  He’s telling you that he has such an ulterior motive, and he’s telling you that his primary commitment is to that motive.  Why isn’t that game over?

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