17 August 2006


Uri Avnery's article in Counterpunch has some interesting details to relate:
IN ISRAEL, there is now a general atmosphere of disappointment and despondency. From mania to depression. It's not only that the politicians and the generals are firing accusations at each other, as we foresaw, but the general public is also voicing criticism from every possible angle. The soldiers criticize the conduct of the war, the reserve soldiers gripe about the chaos and the failure of supplies.

In all parties, there are new opposition groupings and threats of splits. In Kadima. In Labor. It seems that in Meretz, too, there is a lot of ferment, because most of its leaders supported the war dragon almost until the last moment, when they caught its tail and pierced it with their little lance.

At the head of the critics are marching--surprise, surprise--the media. The entire horde of interviewers and commentators, correspondents and presstitutes, who (with very few exceptions) enthused about the war, who deceived, misled, falsified, ignored, duped and lied for the fatherland, who stifled all criticism and branded as traitors all who opposed the war--they are now running ahead of the lynch mob. How predictable, how ugly. Suddenly they remember what we have been saying right from the beginning of the war.
So, now that the "need to appear unified" has been lost with the conclusion of the war, the Israeli political elite has reverted to a coercive pattern of competition within a political shark-tank. Democracy Now reports that "in Israel, a new poll shows declining support for the two top Israeli leaders behind the attack on Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's approval rating has fallen to forty percent, down from nearly eighty percent at the height of the war. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has also seen his rating fall by more than half, to below thirty percent." (If anyone is wondering, I've found news like this in the Washington Times, as well.)

A new word needs to be put into our vocabulary of geopolitics: groupthink. As Ira Chernus pointed out in an article I linked previously, the decision to fight this war was made through bureaucratic groupthink.
“’If everyone voted the way they spoke, there would be a majority opposing the [Peretz] proposal,’ one minister said. So why didn't anyone vote against the proposal (to go to war)? We were afraid, the minister explained, of showing the public and the Hezbollah that there are rifts within the government and cracks in its support for the IDF.”

Hopefully, since the spell created by war-based groupthink is now no longer in force, the people of Israel can learn something important about how groupthink operates. In this case, Israel was manipulated through groupthink into participation in a war effort that was not in its best interests. One could indeed argue, though less plausibly, that Israel was and is entrapped in a pattern of defective decision-making, and that groupthink plays a strong role in the maintenance of this pattern. Ehud Olmert would do well to consult the research record on groupthink when considering his next move. Paul 't Hart has a book called Groupthink in Government that might serve as a starting-point for research.


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