Breaking News #8: When Narrative Doesn’t Matter | The Israeli Strategy of Total War

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Join Ben Hunt, Matt Zeigler and Jack Forehand as we break open the news to reveal the nudging language behind the headlines. Media bias is real, but not in the way you think.



People traditionally look at war as something that is fought on a battlefield. And that is certainly true. But it is also fought in the world of narrative. The stories that are told by both the combatants in a war and other parties outside the war with a vested interest in its outcome can play a major role in how it plays out. In this episode, we look at the current Israel Hamas war through a narrative lens and how that is impacting the conflict.



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Comments

  1. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    Well. There are some times when I’m very unhappy that Ben is right, and this is one of them. I believe that both…factions? participants? (I don’t want to say sides, since that is so loaded these days) are so fed up, so beyond “worrying” about what the world thinks, and now the die has been cast (alea iacta est). I hate to say this, but I don’t see this ending other than in an incredibly violent and bloody way.

    To pull this out of the misery and be a little positive (as you gentlemen deftly did at the end of the episode), Matt mentioned Napoleon Dynamite which reminded me of this brilliant Eric Bogosian solo FunHouse from 1983 (40 years ago!), at minute 14 there is a proto-Napoleon Dynamite dance – apologies for no audio, it was “I Want Your Love” by Chic which apparently was not allowed by YouTube. I remember being astounded the first time I saw this, to be so willing to be shameless! The whole performance is stunning, Eric’s solos really are like holding a big magnifying mirror up to American culture (yes, it really was like this in 1983!).

    Finally, when Matt brought up Sly Stone’s biography (which I need to check out!) and held up the book, all I could think of was Spinal Tap – “None more black!”.

  2. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    Oh! And Ben is the Mick Jagger of Epsilon Theory! Does that make Rusty Keith?

  3. Ben’s commentary here on the strategy of total war is spot on. More broadly, this was quite a valuable discussion across all of the content. The analysis of the contours of compromise was also right on point in so many ways, and with so many applications…

  4. Agree with the Total War conclusion. What I keep asking myself is whether Total War is a considered strategic action or a reaction.

    Strategic action means Israel made a clear-headed strategic choice of best course of action after weighing the costs and benefits.

    Reaction means a hastily reached decision in the heat of the moment without properly considering the costs/benefits.

    This moment brings to mind John Boyd’s famous dictum " the key to success in conflict is to operate inside the opponent’s decision cycle."

  5. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    A great question is asked early/middle of this podcast, and then never answered. To paraphrase:

    Israel’s government has chosen Total War and its effects. Since they are smart people, they know that one possible effect of this is attack by many other Muslim peoples. (If for no other reason than the local political entrepreneurs see a chance to gain power by creating and attacking an external enemy, ie Israel.)

    And but Israel also depends on US and other Western arms; and these suppliers have not chosen total war.

    So, have Israel’s leaders accounted for potential loss of their arms suppliers if they take their strategy too far in terms of optics? How long would they hold out if this happened?

    (And one can look at it from the other side and ask, sensu Eisenhower, what role if any the arms industry and their lobbyists play or could play in this conflict.)
  6. Perhaps a better way to put it is that Israel was forced to make it a total war because Hamas and Iran have already engaged in one with them.
    This wasn’t a true “choice”, as IMO that implies Israel is the aggressor.

    The atrocities of October 7 woke them to that fact.

  7. Regarding whether Israel should care that they’re losing the narrative war, the answer is not only ‘no’ but in fact their losing said war helps them.

    Hamas made a lot of assumptions about how this would play out and they’re learning that they miscalculated a few things. If Israel doesn’t back down even in the face of international pressure it demonstrates to Hamas that this fight is not going to be won by the one weapon they counted on.

  8. I wanted to tell a little story about corruption and how preposterously cheap it actually is to gain influence.

    Back in 2008 there was a developer who, along with several family members, controlled a multibillion dollar company that was well known and respected in our area. In addition to some very profitable retail real estate, they owned an old building that they had rented to the county. The county wanted to move to a different location that they owned and had recently renovated. There were stories of bribes and eventually a visiting judge dismissed that particular case. However…there was more. So, so much more.

    Around the same time there were three officials, the county treasurer, auditor, and a city mayor who was also a commissioner at the time, and these three were not what you’d call “ethical.” They conspired to get an attorney friend of theirs elected as prosecutor so that they could ensure that they’d never have to face any local charges for their misdeeds.

    The Treasurer, a woman we’ll call Jane, was a successful attorney and had been the chair of the county Democratic Party for six years or so. She was also not yet 40, so she had a huge future ahead of her. In exchange for some nominal service that was so inconsequential that I don’t even remember it—it’s been some time!— she was paid…$3,000.

    That’s it. That was all she got paid. And this all happened before she had been elected. This was when she was chairing the Democratic Party and whatever she was doing could have easily been done through campaign donations. But nope, money went into her pocket.

    The lawyer running for prosecutor was given $40,000 that he laundered through his campaign, and the other commissioner was given tens of thousands plus some help getting elected mayor. But Jane? Jane got three grand. Talk about the gender wage gap!

    In total I believe 11 people were indicted over the course of three years, and they all paid some kind of price for their schemes. But they also all had some major goals in mind and their bribes and kickbacks were a means to those ends. But not Jane. She lost her job and was disbarred, her bright future obliterated, for, once again, $3,000. Imagine how embarrassing it would be to throw away everything for such a small sum of money.

  9. Rusty is definitely Keith!

    Worked the bars and sideshows along the twilight zone
    Only a crowd can make you feel so alone
    And it really hit home
    Booze and pills and powders, you can choose your medicine
    Well here’s another goodbye to another good friend

    After all is said and done
    Gotta move while it’s still fun
    Let me walk before they make me run
    After all is said and done
    I gotta move, it’s still fun
    I’m gonna walk before they make me run

    Watched my taillights fading, there ain’t a dry eye in the house
    They’re laughing and singing
    Started dancing and drinking as I left town
    Gonna find my way to heaven, 'cause I did my time in hell, oh yeah
    I wasn’t looking too good but I was feeling real well

    Oh after all is said and done
    I gotta move I had my fun
    Let us walk before they make us run

    After all is said and done
    I did alright, I had my fun
    But I will walk before they’ll make me
    I will walk before they’ll make me (run)
    I will walk before they’ll make me (run)
    I will walk before they’ll make me run

    So if it’s all been said and done
    I gotta move I had my fun
    Let me walk before they make me run

    So let me walk before they make me run
    I want to walk before they’ll make me run

  10. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Both outright corruption (bribes) and its legal cousins (lobbying, campaign contributions) have an enormously high ROI. It’s always staggering to me how cheaply politicians sell themselves.

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