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First off, thanks for the very nice answer.  I am going to throw out some comments - basically talking out loud here.

I am guessing you would say that WWI was an example of breakdown of communication in a relatively stable system with catastrophic consequences due to the strength of the involved and relatively well matched players.  

Interesting to hear the arguments from the "other side" - i.e., why Israel would find it less and less beneficial in the current situation to befriend the Americans.  

I am curious about your opinion on governmental decision making and optimization thereof.  Specifically, do you feel that democratic societies are capable of producing optimal decision making due to the system of checks and balances inherent in such governments, or do you feel that this is not the case?  I ask because outside of true "realists", many elite groups typically base decisions (or at least appear to from my observation) on seemingly non-optimal grounds.  For instance, while it may be to the long term detriment of Israel to have a ethnically pure Jewish state in the middle of a traditionally mutli-religious "micro-region" and generally Muslim region (especially when her neighbors are all too keenly aware of how she was born), it seems there is a large faction in Israel for whom ethnic purity IS the modus operandi.  There are factions in Israel which support abolishing completely the Jewish identity and essentially establishing a new "Palestine" (the communists, for instance), and then there is the middle who wish for some kind of two-state settlement and reduced aggression.  Is it fair to say that these positions are dictated by the reality, or would you think it is more correct to say that the reality dictates the positions of these groups?

As a neuroscientist, I am quite shocked at the simplicity that both economic and social models assign to the functioning of the human brain - and I unfortunately always find a lack of completeness in the models.  As you say, the economists tend to over-emphasize the competitive, "perfect" decision making capacity of humans, neglecting the severe lapses in judgment built into our nervous system.  However, I am also somewhat inclined to say that your model also suffers from some over-simplification.  I am sure you would agree with this.  

The one thing I did not see you reply to - maybe I did not understand properly - was the notion of competition engendered by having similar needs.  Specifically, industrialized economies are much more likely to compete with one another for resources than they are with less advanced economies.  No one would suggest that the US and Chad will clash over things that matter to them - but the possibility of a US-EU competition is already a frequent topic in policy journals.  

And this gets me back to the group v. individual decision making perspective: ultimately, all social processes are the manifestations of the interactions of thousands of individuals.  The allocation of decision power is highly skewed - probably a distribution with a very long tail which comprises the elite.  In such a situation, the affinity model does have some power.  But I would suggest that since people at the highest eschelons typically are some of the most aggressive and competitive members of society and since they hold much more of the power than the rest of us, competition should indeed play a more central role this problem is approached.  Especially now that we are entering a period of increasing resource scarcity and the erosion of global unipolarity.

by speron (speron1 at yahoo dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 02:20:45 AM EST
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