Cooperation, Punishment, and Asymmetrical Warfare

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I was arguing with Dave Schuler at the Glittering Eye about the concept of a “just war”. Dave argues that hizb’ actions do not comprise a “just” war. I told Dave that there was no such thing as a “just” war. But that is not strictly true. War is a case where individuals sacrifice their chances to reproduce by aiding others.
Darwin (1874:178-179)says:

It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over other men of the tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.

In theory, the tribe with Right on their side would win any war. Darwin is, of course, talking about genomes. I am lately (like MC Coffee Mug) kindasorta interested in memomes. In the MC’s post, he quotes Joshua Green–

“…our social instincts were not designed for the modern world. Nor, for that matter, were they designed to promote peace and happiness in the world for which they were designed, the world of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.”

And perhaps this is true. But we also have a built-in mechanism to compensate for our hard-wiring, culture. I quote from Chapter 9 (Punishment allows the Evolution of Cooperation (or anything else) in Sizeable Groups) of the swell new book i am reading, The Origin and Evolution of Cultures.

In most existing models, reciprocators retaliate against noncooperatives by witholding future cooperation….[but there are] alternative forms of punishment known as retribution. It seems possible that selection may favor cooperation enforced by retribution even in sizeable groups of unrelated individuals because, unlike withholding reciprocity, retribution can be made only against noncooperators, and because the magnitude of the penalty imposed on noncooperators is not limited by the effect on the outcome of cooperative behavior.

The death penalty is a good example of retribution. Now to return to the topic of this post, can asymmetrical warfare ever be considered a “just” war? It is most likely “immoral” to deliberately draw fire on civilians of the host population. It is possibly “immoral” to deliberatly target civilians in the adversary population. Neither of these behaviors is punished by terrorist groups.

Strategypage says, “Terror is the tactic of the weak, or those short of better ideas.” But is it really? What if it is a new paradigm? That is what i think, a mutant strategy that rewards immoral actions. Not punishment, not retribution, but reward. In a “just war”, the society with higher moral values will triumph. But what about an unjust war?

52 Comments

  1. The passage you quote from Darwin has become one of the most controversial passages in all his writings. It is the only passage which seems to accept the idea of ‘group selection’. Many would argue that it was just a mistake.

  2. The winners pass on their genes – Their descendants write the history books. 
     
    “Just war” might be useful propaganda if it motivates your side to fight harder, but it’s stupid if it prevents you from using effective but “unjust” methods that would have enabled you to win the war easier or lose fewer lives on your side.  
     
    Of course one has to consider higher-order side-effects. e.g. The enemy might surrender or convert to your side more easily if they believe they will be treated “justly”. But then they’re less likely to start fighting in the first place, if they believe they will be slaughtered mercilessly. It’s a tough call.  
     
    One day we will have Bayesian Expert Systems that will make these judgements objectively and update their situational ethics on the fly as the data comes in. If I have any say in it, they will be programmed to win at all costs, but not to ignore the psychological impact of “morality” on both sides, if that aids the cause of ultimate victory.

  3. All-out terror war would not be an innovation—it was the original kind. One of concerns with Israeli tactics is that it may mark a return to pre-Westphalian modes.

  4. David B, that quote is also featured in Boyd and Richerson’s book. ;)

  5. The Mongol type of polygamy might make military altruism biologically viable. If you started with 800 very warlike Mongols, and at the end all were dead but the most successful one, but he had 800 wives (which Genghis did), then you would have selected for a “warlike gene”, and this would be altruist for the average warrior, but selfish for the most successful one.  
     
    There’s an asymmetry in fertility — if women were killed in warfare, the demographic effects would be much different. The Mongol system was for widows always to remarry, the contrary of the Hindu and Chinese systems where ideally widows never remarried for reasons primarily having to do with land inheritance. I’m not sure where Christendom and Islam fit in in this regard.  
     
    It’s much more complicated than that, because Genghis Khan was not portrayed in the histories as an especially bold or especially savage fighter. In a military context he stood out for shrewdness, leadership ability, fairness, ability to attract support, etc. However, military prowess was the price of admission to the game he was playing.

  6. Just War: I looked at Aquinas’s six principles (here) and they seem mostly to concern whether or not to start a war. There seems to be an implicit recognition that no war is really just but that in certain circumstances a war can be a lesser evil or a necessary compromise. They do not mostly seem to be rules for how to wage war, except perhaps for the “proportionality” item.

  7. Dan Dare, 
    One day we will have Bayesian Expert Systems that will… 
    a priori data is (imho) the cause of the current mess in leb. hizb’ thought israel would make the prisoner swap, ’cause they had before. israel thought they they would get called off before they got mired in a quaqmire, because that is what always happens since ’82. 
    bayesian inference is not terribly useful in an evolving game with environmental change.

  8. John Emerson, dave and i were originally discussing the israel/hizb’ entries into war. i think actually both sides sorta bumbled into the war based on miscalculations, so i widened the discussion to include games theory to try to formalize the actions of the two parties. 
    i agree about aquinas, however.

  9. dave, All-out terror war would not be an innovation—it was the original kind… 
    i don’t think so dave, in the EEA the practice of sacrificing the tribes woman and children would have conferred a negative fitness hit.

  10. I think that sacrificing the other people’s women and children was a relatively rare exception to the rule. Enslaving them is more normal, I think — it would depend on whether slaves were needed and could be supported. The Biblical case of slaughtering the women is, i think, a one-shot deal, not the establishment of a general rule. (Someone should check, though.)

  11. In hunter/gatherer days most wars were aimed at driving off groups that encroached upon the home group’s traditional hunting and gathering grounds — or else, invade another’s traditional territory if one had been driven out of one’s old one by a stronger group. Thus most wars would have had limited objectives. 
     
    I base this not on any evidence but merely the logic of the situation.  
     
    BTW, this would explain the process by which human’s gradually populated the whole world and why, once all the prime hunting/gathering places had been occupied, weaker groups were forced into marginal areas and eventually were forced to supplement their diet with agricultural techniques, which was the last resort. 
     
    Just my theory.

  12. To my comment above I should add that demographic pressure was the driving force — obviously.

  13. Isn’t this better assessed through a feedback model? Those who tend to fight “justly” have better prospects for cooperation or winning over the enemy whereas those who don’t never inspire trust and therefore never cull collaboration due their unpredictable and ruthless nature. Unpredictable forces the other parties to be also more cunning, and in the end you paint yourself into a corner like the outed Saddam in his last days: having multiple doubles to avoid being assassinated. 
     
    Maybe, like in the Philips curve in economics, there’s an inflection point of diminishing returns of “ruthlessness” – which must be why old timers have intuited the “carrots and sticks” dual strategy.  
     
    Ruthlessness may seem superficially more attractive but it is in the end an extreme position and as such prone to be fruit of unchecked passions. Romans had the famous adage – specifically emphasized for those in ruling positions in combat – that those who can’t rule themselves – i.e. rein in their fears, keep composure and stay in command – can’t rule others.  
     
    Why would so many nations go to these lengths to invent all this intricate soldiering technology – starting with “uniforms” whose purpose is to tell “warriors” from “civilians” – if this simple truth of the power dynamics weren’t the biggest obstacle to power consolidation? 
     
    As for Lebanon, the fighting seems so ruthless because the more desperate the situation the more propaganda is used to make it appear worse than it is to convince those on one’s side that it is justified to go to extreme lengths because the other side deserves it. The real desperation of that war is not necessarily the actual destruction and devastation – which may not be as big compared to say the situation in Dresden in WWII. It’s the “blood feud”, the interminable inter-tribal hatred that feeds on itself.

  14. Krampon, i still think the game was two-player prisoner-exchange that escalated into Tit-for-Tat. 
    ;)

  15. matoko_single_shot_PD:  
    a priori data is (imho) the cause of the current mess 
     
    Maybe. But recall I said: 
    …and update their situational ethics on the fly as the data comes in
     
    One starts off with a prior as unbiased as possible, but using as much as possible of your existing knowledge, and then you perfect it as more data comes in.  
     
    So, with a long-term conflict like Arabs vs Israel, you end up developing really accurate, tried-and-tested models of their side’s psychology and yours. Given enough training, it would be able to find optimal trans-ethical solutions pretty independently of your initial choice of prior.  
     
    bayesian inference is not terribly useful in an evolving game with environmental change. 
     
    I guess I am postulating some kind of vast Adaptive Bayesian Network type of model. Also, I am assuming near-God-level AI. Also I suppose I am assuming that some kind of relatively stable model of human group-psychology with adjustable parameters or something could actually work. Hey it’s a technogeek fantasy. 
     
    P.S.  
    I’m not sure I’d call the current situation a “mess”. Or at any rate, not necessarily any more a mess than the status quo ante.  
    I’d prefer to call it “an evolving situation”. ;-) 
    But then you and I read different websites. And we’re seeing different things I suspect.

  16. Krampon, 
     
    Re: “uniforms” whose purpose is to tell “warriors” from “civilians” 
     
    I know that’s the popular POV these days, but football players do not wear different uniforms to distinguish themselves from the fans, they do it so they will know who to hit. There was even a recent study showing that the brain worked better at rapid decisions with uniforms that had a marked difference. It also engenders a sense of group loyalty.

  17. Krampon, i still think the game was two-player prisoner-exchange that escalated into Tit-for-Tat. 
     
    “Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. This was no unplanned escalation.  
     
    Perhaps it as an “expedition in force” like the Dieppe raid in WWII – A rehearsal and prepositioning for the bigger battle. It also has elements of a flanking manoever wrt the larger Israeli/US objectives. Think: Israel advancing up the Bekaa Valley and engaging Syria while the US bombs Iran. Of course it also incidently degrades Hez’s capabilities.  
     
    Not everything you read is true. There is much deliberate disinformation on all sides. Perhaps it is a feint designed to make the enemy worry about the above.

  18. I’m with Dave. State-based or non-state-based terrorism is not a new form of warfare, nor is asymmetrical warfare. The deliberate killing of civilians for strategic effect, or even for utilitarian purposes, is not unknown in the annals of military history and is actually quite common. 
     
    hizb’ thought israel would make the prisoner swap, ’cause they had before. 
     
    It wasn’t just Hezbollah! The president of Lebanon was complicit and had this same line of thought, as I read on the news today. I think the president of Lebanon, who is very pro-Syrian, had knowledge of the kidnappings prior to their implementation. 
     
    in the EEA the practice of sacrificing the tribes woman and children would have conferred a negative fitness hit. + Emerson’s comment: I think that sacrificing the other people’s women and children was a relatively rare exception to the rule. 
     
    I don’t know what you guys are getting at with this one, but I don’t think all the leaders of the world for the past few hundred years who have never gone to war personally would agree with you on this. I think you’re using a very simplistic model of evolution to reach this conclusion. I don’t think there is any current model that takes account of this. 
     
    Krampon: 
    Ruthlessness may seem superficially more attractive but it is in the end an extreme position and as such prone to be fruit of unchecked passions. Romans had the famous adage – specifically emphasized for those in ruling positions in combat – that those who can’t rule themselves – i.e. rein in their fears, keep composure and stay in command – can’t rule others. 
     
    …which is why they killed hundreds of thousands of their enemies and their enemy’s women and children and took millions as slaves. Riiight…

  19. As for Lebanon, the fighting seems so ruthless because the more desperate the situation the more propaganda is used to make it appear worse than it is to convince those on one’s side that it is justified to go to extreme lengths because the other side deserves it. 
     
    What’s going on over there is “ruthless”? I don’t think so… only an individual with no knowledge of history or battlefield behavior would consider this war to be “ruthless.” I believe it is not nearly ruthless enough. 
     
    Dan, 
    “Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. This was no unplanned escalation. 
     
    No, that means nothing: all it means is that Israel has planned for contingencies such as this. I’m sure they have plans for this sort of thing for almost every country in the Middle East. NATO has plans for dozens of countries, as does the US. We plan for these things ahead of time so, should they come up, we can simply pull them off the shelf and have a good blueprint to draw from. Any country who doesn’t do that is just asking for it… 
     
    Matoko, 
    I disagree that the death penalties’ primary function is retribution… the primary function of the death penalty is deterrence, although it is not used enough to have that desired effect. 
     
    Also, there are so many different concepts of “just war theory” that I do not believe it is viable anymore. And I disagree that in a “just war” the “society with higher moral values will triumph.” Quite the opposite: in a “just war,” like in any other type of war, the society with the tactics to reach their strategic goals wins.

  20. *with the best tactics

  21. Arcane, 
     
    even if you think that Israel’s objectives are limited to degrading Hez (and that is certainly possible), it is clear that the action was planned for a long time and the seizure of the soldiers was the pretext for initiating it. 
     
    Israel has several reasons to want to degrade Hez, it is a growing threat to central Israel with its missiles; It resists being fully incorporated into the Lebanese state – operating as a renegade “state within a state” south of the Litani and in the Bekaa – Also in parts of Beirut. Without Israeli intervention it is a question whether Lebanon will absorb Hez or whether Hez will absorb Lebanon. Finally it is a puppet of the mullatocracy in Iran, spreading Islamist influence through the region.

  22. it is clear that the action was planned for a long time 
     
    Yeah, exactly, so what? That’s what militaries do: they plan for wars so that they have a plan ready to go when it actually happens. Most countries, especially the bigger countries, have dozens of plans for things such as this. This is not some aberration; Israel is no different in this respect and they aren’t exploiting the situation, as you are insinuating.

  23. Israel is no different in this respect and they aren’t exploiting the situation, as you are insinuating. 
     
    Arcane. They would be fools if they did not exploit the situation. One wins wars not just through planning, but also from exploiting the errors of the enemy.  
     
    What I am challenging is MK’s assertion that this was some kind of spontaneous escalation dynamic. I suspect it was much more a case of Hez and their Iranian puppet masters walking into a pre-prepared trap. Whether the trap succeeds in its objectives depends on (a) Just what those objectives were and (b) How well the action is executed compared to the enemy.

  24. they plan for wars so that they have a plan ready to go when it actually happens 
     
    Yes. But this begs the question of why they chose to go to war rather than negotiate a prisoner exchange like they have on previous occasions. What was different this time? 
     
    I would suggest that what was different was, among other things, American support as a result of USA’s broader strategic objectives of containing Iranian influence and the global war on terror – and the existence of a plan to degrade Hez.

  25. ugh! 
    none of you brainiacs ever read my links. 
    from SDB’s excellent explanation of the prisoners dilemma and the tit-for-tat paradigm…There’s been a lot of analysis of this, and it turns out that honesty isn’t the best policy. One guy decided to run a computer tournament; people were permitted to create algorithms in a synthetic language which would have the ability to keep track of previous exchanges and make a decision on each new exchange whether to be honest or to cheat. He challenged them to see who could come up with the one which did the best in a long series of matches against various opponents. It turned out that the best anyone could find, and the best anyone has ever found, was known as “Tit-for-tat”. 
     
    On the first round, it plays fair. On each successive round, it does to the other guy what he did the last time. 
     
    When Tit-for-tat plays against itself, it plays fair for the entire game and maximizes output. When it plays against anyone who tosses in some cheating, it punishes it by cheating back and reduces the other guys unfair winnings. 
     
    No-one has ever found a way of defeating it.
     
     
    Now let’s analyze two different and even more simplistic approaches; we’ll call them “saint” and “sinner”. The saint plays fair every single round, irrespective of what the other guy does. The sinner always cheats. 
     
    When a saint plays against another saint, or against tit-for-tat, the result is optimum but more important is that everyone gets the same result. When a sinner plays against another sinner, or against tit-for-tat, everyone cheats and the result is still even, though less than optimal. 
     
    But when a sinner plays against a saint, the sinner wins and the saint loses. 
     
    Which brings me back to the point of all this: Is there anything I would rule out in war? Nothing I’d care to admit to my enemies, because ruling out anything is a “saint” tactic. The Tit-for-tat tactic is to be prepared to do anything, but not to do so spontaneously. In other words, if the other guy threatens to use poison gas, you make sure you have some of your own and let him know that you’ll retaliate with it. That means that he has nothing to win by using it, and he won’t. (A war is a sequence game and not a single transaction because each day is a new exchange. If you gassed my guys yesterday, I can gas yours today.) 
     
    I chose that example carefully because that’s actually what happened in WWII in Europe. After the horror of poison gas in WWI, the world agreed to ban its use in one of the Geneva Conventions, and in fact no-one did use poison gas in Europe in WWII. Not even Hitler, who apparently knew no bounds at all, was willing to. Because he was following international law? Hell no. It was because the Americans and British maintained stocks of poison gas in Europe and were ready to retaliate in kind. (In fact, an American ship carrying 100 tons of mustard gas was sunk by a German air attack in the Italian harbor of Bari in December of 1943.) 
     
    hizb’ cheated by crossing the blue line and taking the israeli soldiers. they feel the israelis cheated by not doing the prisoner swap. Every move after that is tit-for-tat. sho, the israelis are opportunistic. dint you learn that at work arcane? if you are going to fight, fight hard, fight dirty as you can, and fight to win. 
    that is all the israelis are doing. exactly what they are supposed to. exactly what they are allowed to do. 
    hizb’ is starting to get wise, and making cease fire noises. 
    that would be the best move for them.

  26. What was different this time? 
     
    Sharon was in charge on the last prisoner swap… that’s what’s changed: the PM. Olmert is in charge now.

  27. if you are going to fight, fight hard, fight dirty as you can, and fight to win. 
     
    They’re fighting hard, but not dirty and not to win. You guys are delusional if you think so. 
     
    And no, I don’t think Israel fighting to defend itself is opportunistic… opportunism has a negative connotation which I do not accept.

  28. Opportunism: “One who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end, often with no regard for principles or consequences.” 
     
    Negative connotation.

  29. arcane, from what i know, Sameer Kuntar was the deal-breaker. 
    his co-murderer was exchanged in 2004, can you blame hizb’ for thinking they could work it out by upping the payoff? 
    i stand by opportunistic. 
    israel is taking advantage of the US waittime, the saud, jordanian and egyptian condemnation of hizb’, any number of favorable conditions. 
    why is that negative? 
    Israel is playing classic tit-for-tat. 
    it should be unbeatable. ;)

  30. hmmm…i wonder if terrorists can be reliably predicted to be defectors instead of cooperators?

  31. Matoko_of_the_mutating_surname: 
    Is there anything I would rule out in war? 
     
    No.  
    Well…. perhaps a universe-destroying doomsday machine.  
    Anything less than that is “conventional weapons” in a large-enough fight, as far as I’m concerned. 
     
    But just for the record. You should be aware. 
    Tit-For-Tat is optimal only among equals, or near-equals. 
     
    Where one side is enormously more powerful than the other, there is another strategy that can’t be beaten:  
     
    “The Romans make a desert and call it peace” 
    [Calgacus, a Caledonian chieftain, according to Tacitus].

  32. why is that negative? 
     
    Because the term “opportunism,” by definition, and by its use by those who oppose Israeli actions, has a negative connotation. Next thing I’ll see is people in these comments calling Israel’s response “disproportionate,” even though that is a factual statement in regards to Israel’s response, it is still designed and used as a negative term, therefore I oppose using it. 
     
    How can you stand up for your allies if you use the same terminology and phrases as descriptors as those who oppose your allies? You can’t; you simply play into their hands instead.

  33. The Israel-Palestine dynamic is such that any individual player or factional leader, especially among the Palestinians, can commit his side by breaking discipline. I’m not saying that that’s what happened this time, but it does happen — a treaty with “The Palestinians” can be broken by any individual Palestinian. (On the other side, Sharon’s Lebanon invasion was his own initiative, not ordered by the government). 
     
    So besides two-player game theory, you have coalition breakups (mostly on the Palestinian side, but there are Israeli provocateurs too) leading to multi-person game theory. And considering that lots of foreigners have fingers in the pie, especially but not only on the Palestinian side, optimism is not reasonable. 
     
    The puzzling thing for everyone is why Israel attacked non-Hizbollah areas of Lebanon. Legally the Lebanese government is responsible for everything Hizbollah does from Lebanese territory, but realists know that they don’t and can’t control the Hizbollah areas yet, and since the Israeli attack they’re still less able to do so and probably don’t want to.

  34. The Israel-Palestine dynamic is such that any individual player or factional leader, especially among the Palestinians, can commit his side by breaking discipline. I’m not saying that that’s what happened this time, but it does happen — a treaty with “The Palestinians” can be broken by any individual Palestinian. 
     
    This is crap. When both major parties in the Palestinian territories, who control the PA, are full-fledged terrorist organizations, and practically all the minor parties (PFLP, etc.) are, then every terrorist attack by those two major organizations is an attack undertaken by the PA. It’s no different than an army attack undertaken by the Israeli government, except that it utilizes a different mode of warfare, in this case asymmetrical warfare as opposed to the conventional warfare conducted by the Israelis. 
     
    The puzzling thing for everyone is why Israel attacked non-Hizbollah areas of Lebanon. 
     
    …what non-Hezbollah areas have they hit, other than the airport? I know the Israelis have been trying to wipe out al-Manar in Beirut and they accidentally hit a UN post that, coincidentally (NOT!) was right next to a Hezbollah office.

  35. The Israeli attacks were widespread enough to motivate the evacuation of all foreigners from Lebanon. These foreigners were not mostly living in Hizbollah areas; they were living in Beirut.  
     
    The Israeli Army is a disciplined group with a chain of command, and even then Sharon was able to take the initiative in defiance of civilian government. 
     
    The Palestinian groups (and the Iraqi groups) all or mostly use terrorism, but there’s no overall discipline able to control all of them. No state, no monopoly of violence. In this particular case I think that the rocket attacks were decided pretty high up in the Hizbollah organization, but I was trying to make a more general statement, as I think was clear. ( I’m not saying that that’s what happened this time….). 
     
    Northern Ireland was a similiar case. Whenever anyone on the Catholic or the Protestant side tried to cut a deal, a splinter group would be formed which would try to sabotage the deal.  
     
    I don’t think of GNXP as a current-events site. dealing with insurgent movements as though they were disciplined governments with central authorities is, in general, mistaken.  
     
    Dealing with Lebanon, which only recently became more than a Syrian puppet, as though its central government actually governed its whole territory is a mistake. The Israeli actions weakened the central government, making it less likely that they will ever be able to suppress Hizbollah, or by now, even want to.

  36. The Israel-Palestine dynamic is such that any individual player or factional leader, especially among the Palestinians, can commit his side by breaking discipline. 
     
    defectors. 
    this isn’t gnxp current events, this is a field lab for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. ;)

  37. Northern Ireland was a similiar case. Whenever anyone on the Catholic or the Protestant side tried to cut a deal, a splinter group would be formed which would try to sabotage the deal. 
     
    I see what you’re saying here. Yes, you’re totally right about this nasty little fact, just I don’t feel that can easily be applied to the case of the Palestinians. To Iraq, as you used in your example, you’re right, as well.

  38. I really wasn’t talking about right now; this seems to be an official Hizbollah action. But anytime in the next 30 years when peace seems possible, there will always be someone on one side or the other who will try to sabotage the peace. And more likely on the Palestinian side, but on the Israeli side too.

  39. I agree with that, John.

  40. The Israel-Palestine dynamic is such that any individual player or factional leader, especially among the Palestinians, can commit his side by breaking discipline. 
     
    This is absolutely untrue. This is what the Palestinian propaganda machine wants you to think. What do you think would happen if, after a border violation, the PA or Hizballah were to apologize and actively seek to correct the situation and punish the criminal violation of its laws? Of course the Israelis would cooperate instead of going to war!

  41. Also, it’s hard for me to see how this fits into the tit-for-tat paradigm, unless you expand the meaning of the term beyond rhetorical usefulness. What happened was that Hizballah has been violating the blue line for years with low-level attacks and bombings. This was just the straw (or beam) that broke the camel’s back. It was a combination of history, severity, and international political situation that caused the Israelis to pull the destroy-Hizballah plan off the shelf. 
     
    In another words, there were a lot of tits before this tat.

  42. hmmm…i should say, the kidnap was the cheating part. the border violations and bombings seem kinda similiar to the ritualized flight border violations along the east german border between the US and the sovs. sortof an established protocol that was tolerated as an unwritten part of the treaties. 
    here is a very interesting analysis from wretchard. and the follow up. david, you may be correct that israel had always this plan bank-rolled. ;) 
    the thing is, our DoD, and the Israeli DoD, do rely on wargaming and sims for planning and analysis. i sorta doubt hizb’ does. games theory works for war and economics, tho, that is widely recognized. 
     
    it is my hypothesis that we have some relative genetic fitness conferred by moral behavior, a sort of god-in-the-genes. we attempt to amplify this “right” or “just” behavior with religions, governments and philosophies.  
    But my question remains, can “immoral” behavior, like that exhibited by the terrorists, become a stable strategy? 
    Are terrorists consistant defectors, non-cooperators? 
    And is it a winning strategy? Like SDB says, saints vs. sinners is a loser for the saints every time.

  43. podhoretz speculates on the evolution of liberal democracies. 
    Is this the horrifying paradox of 21st century warfare? If Israel and the United States cannot be defeated militarily in any conventional sense, have our foes discovered a new way to win? Are they seeking victory through demoralization alone – by daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing we will fail?

  44. daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing we will fail? 
     
    We don’t need barbarity. We have PGMs and RPVs and increasingly effective AI. A generation from now our droid armies will wipe out anybody who sticks their head out of the rubble. Already RPVs carry out remote-control assassinations.  
     
    The days when a bullet has your name on it are about to come true. Literally. The increasing lethality of smart weaponry will make it increasingly difficult to hide among civilians or ground clutter and escape death.  
     
    Terahertz imaging allows you to see through clothing to spot the suicide killer.  
     
    X-Ray backscatter scanners can see inside vehicles. 
     
    Technology will gradually make the position of assymetrical warfare increasingly untenable, with the assymetry favoring the high-tech defenders. 
    Every innovation in warfare is countered sooner or later. This one will be no different.

  45. That should be asymmetery. One s two m’s. 
    Sheesh. Obviously I have ass on the brain.

  46. I love technological visionaries but these things sound better at re-channeling what terrorists do than making terrorism itself untenable…even the smartest weapons can only target the enemy after you’ve found out who he is; and given the size of enemy targets (entire populations, country-wide infrastructure) we won’t have the wealth to guard them all with high-tech surveillance equipment anytime soon. Beware of the “war-winning final move” – especially if it comes in the form of a new gadget and you haven’t seen the enemy’s response yet.  
     
    I think Podheretz has the right answer to the Strategypage quote Matoko gave us – yes, terrorism is for fighters who are weak in the big-battalions sense of the word. The Sicarii didn’t break the Roman will to fight, and the Assassins didn’t prevail against the Mongols (these are the best analogies to modern terrorists I know), because large powers in those days were quite ready to wipe out entire villages, cities, religious sects in order to win – If you weren’t able to beat a Roman legion or Mongol expedition in the field, you weren’t going to break their governments’ will to fight. The U.S. isn’t that way, and it may be that Israel isn’t either; which of course means that “weak” in the big-battalion sense isn’t necessarily “weak” in modern strategy. Which I believe is Matoko’s point in different words.

  47. the border violations and bombings seem kinda similiar to the ritualized flight border violations along the east german border between the US and the sovs.  
     
    Except that Hizballah killed people in its version. 
     
    david, you may be correct that israel had always this plan bank-rolled. ;) 
     
    That wasn’t an assertion on my part, I was just conceding that point. As you say, I’m sure that Israel has plans on the shelf for all kinds of situations. 
     
    But my question remains, can “immoral” behavior, like that exhibited by the terrorists, become a stable strategy? 
    Are terrorists consistent defectors, non-cooperators?
     
     
    Sure. I don’t think that Hizballah are consistent defectors. They conform to tribal-style morality, where non-members have no rights. Think Mafia.

  48. Joseph W.: ??these things sound better at re-channeling what terrorists do than making terrorism itself untenable…even the smartest weapons can only target the enemy after you’ve found out who he is?? 
     
    I suspect that advanced lie detection using brain scans, combined with truth serum drugs to remove inhibition will be used to identify potential terrorists. Behavior modification using drugs and biotech would then be used to convert the enemy. 
     
    Welcome to a brave new world.

  49. we won’t have the wealth to guard them all with high-tech surveillance equipment anytime soon 
     
    …that’s assuming that the technology will always be highly priced, which is simply not true. As its use increases, its price will decrease and the technology will continue to evolve. 
     
    You have to remember… we’re only spending about 3.5-4% of our GDP on the military right now. We could easily triple that with no significant impact on the economy (that’s assuming, of course, that some existing non-military programs would have to be cut, which I doubt anybody in Congress would do… the military is always the one who takes the cut for social programs, not the other way around). 
     
    I agree with Fly’s comments, as well.

  50. I also would not be surprised to see a millimeter/submillimeter version of sidescan radar, where a suitably-equipped drone will be able to fly down a street and image the interior of every house in the street.  
     
    Because sidescan radar is basically a holographic technology, there is the possibility of producing 3d images of the interiors of the houses. Metallic objects like weapons would stand out very obviously.

  51. Terror may be the means of the weak but it’s an incredibly effective tool. All that’s required is complete amoralitly- a complete indifference to life. Nice.

  52. I was decomputered a bit…the brain-scan thing is certainly of use, though a stricter adherence to cell structure is one way to counter it. Even when you have the right man captured, and even if he hasn’t been trained to maintain strict silence once you start interrogating him, he can only tell you as much as he knows. And if he does keep his mouth completely shut, he wont’ be telling any lies for you to detect. Will we one day have the technology to read his thoughts directly even if he chooses not to speak? Maybe – but I don’t see it in our lifetimes. (Yes, we could show him suspects’ photos and look for signs of recognition…but if the cell structure doesn’t place his superior among his neighbors, we might not know what pictures to show…the Soviet apparatus in the US, as described by Whittaker Chambers in Witness at least, required a lot of traveling…).  
     
    Remember that even a powerful and robust technology can sometimes be countered by tactical innovations alone – the machine gun gave trenches a huge technical advantage, and the British responded with a new technical advance (the tank) but the Germans got similar results with stormtrooper infiltration tactics that required no new weapons.  
     
    Arcane – something would have to be dirt cheap before every single human being in a medium to large population could be guarded, constantly, against terrorist attack by the technology. Even guarding the entire road network of an advanced country against IED attack (or the like)…a day may come when that is cheap, but that day isn’t in our near future (distant future? Maybe!). That’s my point – terrorism aims at the civilian population and infrastructure, and guarding that is nothing like as easy as guarding key government or military installations.  
     
    A scanning technology that could find weapons in every house would certainly be a powerful technology. And it doesn’t take much imagination to see the tactics terrorists could use to counter it. Don’t keep weapons in the house – cache them in places that the drone doesn’t know to look, and only get them out when it’s time for the attack. Or use disassembled bombs and weapons – things that are harder to spot until attack time. Beware the temptations of the final move.  
     
    Of course, the success of terrorism contains the seeds of failure…it succeeds only because its principal victims are too restrained to start aiming at the civilian population themselves, any more than they can help. In Palestine, enough success could teach the Israelis to overcome that inhibition and their principal allies not to mind…I do hope it won’t come to that but it may yet.

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