Sunday, December 23, 2012

Making peace by statistics: Professor Maoz

A fascinating article by Professor Ze'ev Maoz in Yediot Ahronot today (in Hebrew), suggests Israel might be addicted to war. Apparently Maoz ran a statistical analysis of wars over the last couple of hundred years and found that the same states were involved in most of them. For obvious reasons the Germans, Italians and Japanese gave up warfare but the British, Russians and Americans still love it and among small states,the Turks, Greeks and Israelis were ranked highly along with Egypt, Iraq and Iran.  Israel came out as the most war-prone small country in the world since 1948.
Wow I thought, that's interesting.  But then I remembered that I attended a lecture by Maoz at Tel Aviv University around the year 2,000 and that he was running these statistics even then. In that lecture he had found that countries with nuclear weapons were far less likely to go to war: In other words Nukes had indirectly kept the peace. I remember thinking great so what do we do with that.  If I remember correctly he also found something else which was interesting:  Democracies almost never went to war with each other.
Maoz' statistics became very popular. Netanyahu gave a lecture at the University of Tel Aviv and with a broad smile told us that until the Arabs adopted democracy there would be no lasting peace in the Middle East.  At the time Arab democracy seemed highly unlikely and obviously Netanyahu liked that mantra.  I'm pretty sure he must have told it to his friend George Bush, and Bush bought into it big time.
One of the aims of the US invasion of Iraq was to forcibly install democracy and when Israel withdrew from Gaza, Bush insisted there had to be free and fare elections in the Palestinian territories, The Palestinians had free and fare elections and duly elected Hamas which rejected all peace agreements signed by the PLO. They have had no free elections since.
Bush installed democracy in Iraq, and the main result was that for the first time, Iraq's largest ethnic group,the Shi'ites, took over and they then forged an alliance with Iran.  Iraq has now managed two free elections and because no ethnic group has a full majority it is possible that some level of democracy will survive.
Maybe this contributed to the Arab spring and we have recently seen free elections in Egypt, bringing the Moslem Brotherhood to power.
 Maybe these elections are a good thing but so far they hardly seem to make peace with Israel more likely.
The Israeli governments PR  body has recently produced an ad about HIV.  It features a doctor explaining that statistically people who don't have sex don't catch Aids, therefore he says to avoid catching Aids, everyone should abstain from sex.  The ad then shows various people who never have sex, including a male mermaid, a TV star, a hysterical serial dater and a robot. The punchline is that if you do need to have sex, use a condom (in Hebrew).
Maoz statistics are a bit similar. Statistically the best way to prevent warfare is to distribute nuclear weapons to everyone.

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