Thursday, January 04, 2007

In The Aggregate, Size Matters


“[P]eople reveal a tendency to look at problems in pieces rather than in the aggregate. Even qualified scholars in reputable journals reached faulty conclusions by failing to recognize that the whole is the product of interaction among its parts…” Peter L. Bernstein, from Against the Gods, discussing the research of Professor Meir Statman.


This tendency to look at problems in pieces rather than in the aggregate leads to faulty conventional thinking among politicians and international leaders as well. Attempting to solve, in isolation, Israel’s problems in the Middle East, is a case of looking at a problem in pieces rather than in the aggregate. This is a recipe for disaster.

If a piecemeal solution to larger Middle East problems leaves a weak Israel, it will not only be harmful to Israel, it will also be harmful to Jews around the world, and harmful to humanity (and that includes Arabs and Muslims everywhere).

A solution that weakens Israel will, at a minimum, lead the Zionist State to wither. It will most likely plant the seeds for the next conflict. It will ultimately lead to less Jewish participation in global innovation and abundance. If history is a guide, this will lead to a less prosperous world.

It is in humanity’s—and by humanity, I mean everyday people everywhere—interest that the region’s problems be viewed holistically, and that the solution leaves Israel to become more important, not less.

Consider two historic examples of importance:

1) In 1863, the Confederate States of America issued bonds to foreigners. Besides the obvious purpose of raising money for the Southern war effort, these bonds served the purpose of creating a foreign constituency with an interest in the survival of that State. But the existence of this foreign constituency was not enough to pressure the United States into peace. The CSA was not important enough to the global powers of the day to survive.

2) In 1990-1991, Kuwait proved important enough. Would the non-democratic government of Kuwait been saved from Iraq if there didn’t exist a large foreign constituency that profits from Kuwaiti oil? Or was preserving the world’s, stable, more or less, Nation/State system reason enough to lead President George Bush (41) to conclude that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait could not stand?

Even if the reason was the latter, a broad-based foreign constituency (not just American) is key to Israel’s long-term survival. The United States will not always be the unrivaled military or economic power that it is today, and there is no other rising power that is likely to treat citizens of other States as well.

The United States will not always be able to serve as Israel’s bank, and enforcer of its existence. In time, the strings attached to this support will get heavy in both directions.

Israel must become more important to its foreign constituency, or it may face the end faced by the Confederate States of America. Or, if a piecemeal solution is imposed, Israel may get “lucky” and be allowed to face the slow death of a withering State that cannot sustain itself.

Any solution to any one of Israel’s many problems (the pieces) must be viewed through the prism of the aggregate problem Israel faces—how to emerge as a thriving, viable State for the long-term.

That is why the ultimate aim of any solution involving Israel must serve to make Israel more important to a broad foreign constituency. And that is why size ultimately matters.

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