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1. Assumption that like affinity powers are more probable to form alliances with like affinity powers.

This is derived from human psychology, which is strongly inclined to form, maintain and expand relations among affinity sets than across such boundaries. This tendency, of course, is directly counter to microeconomic theory, which in a nutshell models similar roles (producers v. producers, or consumers v. consumers) as adversarial, while dissimilar roles (producers and buyers) at least have the potential for non-zero-sum gains (the concept of comparative advantage).

Economic theory is next to useless in explaining breakdowns in communication, sharp increase in aggression following such a breakdown, and decisions to break rather than make goods and services (and the human beings that both produce and consume them).

We try to focus on efficiency in communications here.

Or let's try a different topic: Why democracies don't fight other democracies...usually. Why? Because cross-border constituencies form --- civilian leaders, military leaders, pen pals, Internet chat rooms, all the wonderful blending of diverse personal, professional, political and economic interests that happens with two open societies with the Kantian freedoms of movement, expression and association enshrined.

Why democracies work at interstate state peace with other democracies? Because the openness facilitates the formation of these affinity groups across boundaries.

And if you do well enough at it, you wind up with something that looks a lot like, well, a federation of closely-entertwined representative democracies, an identity that transcends nationalism.

To a weaker extent, this same affinity process occurs among similar modes of nondemocracy, but sans full openness and protection of basic political liberties (movement, expression, association), the affinity is more likely to break down.

Now, in the exercise here, we're discounting the regime variable entirely, and focusing on power components as gauges of affinity, as determined by gross sociological characteristics or local geographic or eonomic endowments (some good, some bad). The premise is that more similar circumstances generates more probability of affinity.

Now, if two peas in the same pod, as it were, happen to have chosen radically divergent modes of constitution or public policy (ex, two portions of the same country, one abolishing slavery, the other clinging to the so-called peculiar institution), well, that's different.

What's interesting to me is that despite an original interest in regime and religion-based dyad pairs as a predictor of war and peace (I wrote my master's thesis on this topic), that the affinity criteria used here predict as well as they do.

One suspects that combining the approaches would yield especially interesting advice -- for example, that of the countries that structurally line up best with Israel in the Middle East, one of them happens to be Iran, which is clearly not in danger of being a friend of the state of Israel, and vice-versa, due to longstanding constitutional and public policy choices.

Still, I think such wars tend to be rare, as the lines of communications are less prone to amibiguity and misunderstanding (I imagine Iran and Israel understand each other close to perfectly), therefore miscues are less likely to become missteps, and crises less likely to erupt into warfare. However, when such wars occur, they are far more likely to be serious conflagrations.

That, in summation, is how I'd reconcile the matter of affinity tending to produce alliances, with fewer breakdowns among the club but once serious differences in policies emerge and continue, some sort of resolution has to occur. More often than not, states with a structural (especially those with both structural and regime) affinity will work it out. When they do not, the recriminations, perception of moral affront and betrayal exacerbate the violence should the hypothetical war occur.

That is also, in my opinion, why civil wars in structurally homogenous states are exceptionally bad in terms of loss of life and property. But that is definitely out of scope.

On the game theory angle

I think, contrary to conventional wisdom, that Israel in fact is making do with a next-best alternative in its current alliance relations, by having the United States as a patron power. I think Israel is in many ways more aligned with Europe, not only by the gross criteria that I utilize but by subtype of democracy. Finally, the Europeans have valuable (and expensive) experience getting once-hostile ethnic and religious groups to coexist.

What the Americans bring to the table, of course, is an unmatched power to make annoying nation-states go away. What is not realized is if the legendary post-World War II skill of the Americans to refashion old enemies into fast friends is still alive and well and living in Baghdad...because much of the world thinks not.

However useful a tool to have in the kit, this is not an asset that Israel needs exclusively, and what I think Israel needs far more is resources to engage its neighbors in matters of mutual importance -- bringing more water out of the earth, or the sea, or from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. On such projects, Europe has proven skill, as well as the ability to send troops to the aid of allies, both in Europe and farther afield. In comparison, the American contractors have had negligible success in getting Iraqi oil production back to prewar levels; this does not raise confidence, either from a technical or a security standpoint.

Ergo, I think the Israelis are standing to look around for a new set of best friends.

If I understand the game corectly, it is now a question is what the Americans will do, on their own recognizance, to 'win' the game, with the outcomes being that either America remains the first, dominant ally of Israel, imposing Israel's second (actually, third) choice on it, or becomes what Europe is currently vis a vis Israel: a second opinion, and a not always welcome one.

Or, set a different way: I think the way Israel thinks of the United States now is probably on par with the level if not kind of mild distrust that characterizes how America and the core European countries feel about one another now. From the Israeli perspective, it's astonishing that the Americans once openly debated whether or not troops should/would be sent to help Israel in event of attack by its Arab allies, when no such question (to Israel's perception) was ever voiced if the Warsaw Pact had ever broken through the Fulda Gap and marched on the Rhine.

It's the sort of hearsay that makes a country's government want to hedge its bets.

Regarding limits of applicability

No construct with human decisionmaking can possibly be applicable to all cases, combination of cases, circumstances, or eras. Human beings are volitional particles, and as such prone to make decisions just to flout predictability, once the rules of the game are recognized.

Woo. It's getting late here in the eastern USA. I gotta wrap this up.

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 12:14:33 AM EST
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