I’d appreciate it if people would read the title of this post as “Moron Trolls.” Unfortunately they are usually quite smart, but maybe if we think it hard enough it’ll come true.
Right, so after re-reading my last post several hours after putting it online, I decided it isn’t quite clear enough. Then I decided that is *is* clear enough, but functions merely as an overview. Which is nice for drawing people’s attention to a problem (I would hope), but not for doing anything about it.
The problem is, I’m not entirely sure I *can* do anything about it. On a good day, this blog reaches about a dozen people and a handful of bots. But hey, worth a shot, right? If I can get one person to think in a slightly different direction, we’re better off than we were before, right? To that ends, I’m considering turning this into a running series. That all depends on how much I write before I feel like I’m repeating myself too much or not making sense.
Currently, the standard Israeli reaction to any attack, whether it is physical or rhetorical, is to puff out our chests. To be fair, that’s pretty much the primary human reaction to most attacks as well. But we didn’t get this country by puffing out our chests, and in fact we almost lost it to chest-puffing in 1973.
But that’s kind of a vague description. A lot of things can be considered chest-puffing. So what are we doing now that’s so problematic?
This is our strategy in Gaza, in its entirety. Every time a rocket pops up, whack it with your F-16-shaped mallet and hope you don’t kill too many civilians in the process. Our message here is “the damage we cause is done in defense, while theirs is done in offense.” But what have we learned from almost a decade of this strategy?
A) It doesn’t stop rockets.
B) The rockets just get bigger, with longer ranges.
C) Non-Israelis tend to sympathize with the “our damage is defensive” line less and less as time goes on.
This isn’t going into who’s right and what’s justified. I think the mistake we make most often is thinking that who’s right is important in the big scheme of things. What’s important is people’s perceptions, and the truth doesn’t necessarily impact those perceptions as much as we’d like to think.
And because our strategy is reactionary, we give them far too much control. They choose the game, we accept the challenge, and we lose because it’s their game and they cheat. They know what keywords get people angry, and they will misuse them to their own ends. They will stage fake photographs and mislabel real ones. And simply pointing out the lies isn’t good enough: damage is done every time, because people trust news outlets, because you have to trust somebody.
So here’s the really dangerous proposition: what if we stopped the retaliatory strikes? Would the rockets increase? Probably. But it’s not like they’ve stopped after years of bombing the hell out of them, and there wouldn’t be a single new news story about dead Palestinians.
Now I’m not saying we should do this. Hell if I’m a security expert. But we need to start considering alternatives to options that obviously aren’t working in our favor.
I think there are a lot of decisions in Israel that come down to a choice between something risky that has the potential to work but is also likely to be a huge mistake, or something safe that can never work, but will only end up becoming a small mistake. And we keep choosing the small mistake. The only way we can win in the long term is to take a bunch of risks and hope that luck is on our side, or just make sure we’re always good enough to swing the odds. Choosing the small mistake will just pile up eventually and land us in the situation that… well, looks a lot like the one we’re in today.
But we’re risk-averse, because we think the world is out to get us and the world does very little to prove us wrong. So we puff out our chests in immediate defense every time something bad happens. And we feed the trolls. And, slowly slowly, they win.