Why Do We Keep Fighting Wars (Compilation)

Uploaded 2/15/2024, approx. 1 hour 21 minute read

Hanging fruit of ideas and Sam Baxman absolutely stops. I think he stops that happening.

Now if you've seen online and in newspapers those photographs of lines and lines of Palestinian men being huddled together naked. The UN has spoken out against this but the IDF, the Israeli Defense forces have said no these are all Hamas fighters.

That unraveled when somebody in the states found saw that his uncle who was a baker and a 13-year-old and a newspaper saw one of their journalists.

Anyway long story short four of the people were already identified as having nothing to do with Hamas but what it does is dehumanize the others and there's lots of ways all sides all sides in war dehumanize the other side to make it more quote-unquote acceptable for politicians for generals for etc etc to we have to attack these people and they use terms that equating these people to these people to beasts and animals.

Sam Baxman is fascinating on this subject and I'm delighted to say joins me now.

Sam thank you so much just reading doing some research behind what you're talking about really made me think again.

Let's talk about some of the ways in war that one side seeks to dehumanize the other and why.

Always happy to see you Trisha.

Just for fairness sake the Israeli Defense Force claims that they had to strip these men because they suspected them of possessing weapons or carrying weapons.

We'll leave it aside whether these men should have remained stripped and naked for hours and delve right into the topic that you have raised.

Now war is a very interesting phenomenon because it brings out the best in us and it brings out the worst in us where war has been identified for millennia with masculine positive values such as valor, heroism, courage, overcoming fear, selflessness, altruism, self-sacrifice for the greater good and protectiveness.

These are all absolutely positive values in an unmitigated unadulterated way but in order to emphasize all these elements of humanity this is what makes us human.

In order to emphasize them we need to render the other side a bit demonic and this is a defense mechanism, a psychological defense mechanism known as splitting.

Splitting or dichotomous thinking is when we cast the world in terms of good versus bad, evil versus good, black versus white.

We are all good, the enemy is all bad so this is known as splitting and the enemy is dehumanized, objectified and demonized in a kind of morality play.

So the war becomes a kind of a theater production where there's the bad guy and the good guy, the all bad guy and the all good guy and of course we are always the good guys we are never ever the bad guys.

Now this is this is a kind of it's a kind of role play. If you give me two additional minutes I want to elucidate a few points.

This is a kind of role play it's adversarial, it's rule-based but it's a game.

You know when you watch veterans on both sides meet when they meet after the war they are very convivial, they're very cordial, they're like best buddies.

It's exactly the way athletes shake each other's hands after a contest or something so there's a strong element of game or gaming or role-play in war.

Still, war is about winning and it's about winning because winning validates you. It validates you as having been chosen, it validates you as having been blessed.

Those of you who believe having been chosen or blessed by God and you know it's very awkward to mention it in this context but the Nazi SS had an inscription on its buckles and on its daggers and the inscription was "Gott mit uns" God is with us.

God is with us. God is with us yeah. So winning the war means that you have been chosen and blessed by God's grace, you've been elevated by God.

It's a bit of a protestant thing because protestants used to believe that if you were successful in business, if you were a moneymaker that meant that you were chosen by God, you were blessed by God.

The same applies to war. War is a cultural... I was going to say as well with politicians though in order for them to get the money for war, in order for them to validate their decision to go to war, to validate the actions that they take. They need you not to see the other side as humans who bleed, who cry. They need their constituency to see the other side as either good or bad, subhuman and also equate the people with the terrorist organizations. For instance, all of the... and both sides have done it when we talk about what's happening between Gaza and Israel, that they all must be this. For instance, they said the settlers, all of these settlers, they're not really settlers, Israeli settlers, they're really ideas. All of those men we script, they're all Hamas and there's that equating ordinary everyday people with the boogeyman, the monster, which then makes it okay for destruction to take place. I think it's great that you raise the issue of politics because I think war is a collective cultural social activity. War is a great way to bond. It creates bonding. War is a great way to foster intimacy among large wards of the population. War gives rise to identity, which is often what we call in psychology, negative identity formation. It means my identity is everything that you are not. I'm defining my identity in contradiction and in contradiction to who you are. We both are mutually exclusive and since I regard myself as human and all good and on the side of God and ethical and moral, you must be the opposite because my identity is the exact negation of yours.

So there's bonding, there's intimacy, there's cooperation, there's innovation.

War is the greatest engine of an innovation. Literally all the technologies we use today have been invented during wartime or by military organization and that includes the internet. So this is war.

And it's very important to understand that war leads to a new order. War is very cathartic. It's a catharsis. It cleanses. It's kind of a cleansing operation after which there is an opportunity to create something new.

For example, I think the current conflict between Israel and Hamas will finally give rise to a Palestinian state. I think the Yom Kippur War in 1973 was a prerequisite, was a precondition for the peace between Israel and Egypt and later the peace between Israel and Jordan.

We need war as an engine of transformation.

Shun Peter, the famous economist called it creative destruction. It's very politically incorrect to talk about war in these terms as a positive force.

Yes. But do you think...

Please go ahead.

No, I was going to say but the language as well that is used. Let's talk about the language because that's frequently used by newspapers to promote that otherness as well, calling the other side beasts or monsters.

I mean, just looking at the brief that you gave me and then I looked at the newspapers and the scales fall from your eyes. When you keep reading various reports from various different sources and the various words that are used to equate the other side with animals. I mean, people that are remarked to here will be like, "Oh, well, the Garthons are just living in like animals in the desert. They weren't very developed." There is that belief against the more civilized in Western concepts, theinfantry and then in the air force. So I know war intimately, including urban warfare. I've been involved in urban warfare. I know war intimately. There is no more hideous spectacle than war. All these values that are attributed to war, that's post-factual nonsense. War is dirty and ugly. Dirty and ugly, period. There's nothing else there. Sam, thank you so much. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Always fascinating to talk with you. Thank you for having me. And get people thinking.

Sam: Always brilliant talking with you. I just wanted to check how you are.

I wanted to say although it's a very troubled times, happy Hanukkah.

Thank you.

Have you been able to get back to Israel?

No, I haven't been there for too long. I intend to go back next year, hopefully when the fighting abates. I served in the Israeli army for three and a half years. I was in infantry and then in the air force. So I know war intimately, including urban warfare. I've been involved in urban warfare. I know war intimately. There is no more hideous spectacle than war. All these values that are attributed to war, that's post-factual nonsense. War is dirty and ugly. Dirty and ugly, period. There's nothing else there.

Sam, thank you so much. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Always fascinating to talk with you. Thank you for having me. And get people thinking.

Sam: Always brilliant talking with you. I just wanted to check how you are.

I wanted to say although it's a very troubled times, happy Hanukkah.

Thank you.

Have you been able to get back to Israel?

No, I haven't been there for too long. I intend to go back next year, hopefully when the fighting abates. I served in the Israeli army for three and a half years. I was in infantry and then in the air force. So I know war intimately, including urban warfare. I've been involved in urban warfare. I know war intimately. There is no more hideous spectacle than war. All these values that are attributed to war, that's post-factual nonsense. War is dirty and ugly. Dirty and ugly, period. There's nothing else there.

Sam, thank you so much. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Always fascinating to talk with you. Thank you for having me. And get people thinking.

Sam: Always brilliant talking with you. I just wanted to check how you are.

I wanted to say although it's a very troubled times, happy Hanukkah.

Thank you.

Have you been able to get back to Israel?

No, I haven't been there for too long. I intend to go back next year, hopefully when the fighting abates. I served in the Israeli army for three and a half years. I was in infantry and then in the air force. So I know war intimately, including urban warfare. I've been involved in urban warfare. I know war intimately. There is no more hideous spectacle than war. All these values that are attributed to war, that's post-factual nonsense. War is dirty and ugly. Dirty and ugly, period. There's nothing else there.

Sam, thank you so much. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Always fascinating to talk with you. Thank you for having me. And get people thinking.

Sam: Always brilliant talking with you. I just wanted to check how you are. I wanted to say although it's a very troubled times, happy Hanukkah.

Thank you. Have you been able to get back to Israel?

No, I haven't been there for too long. I intend to go back next year, hopefully when the fighting abates. I served in the Israeli army for three and a half years. I was in infantry and then in the air force. So I know war intimately, including urban warfare. I've been involved in urban warfare. I know war intimately. There is no more hideous spectacle than war. All these values that are attributed to war, that's post-factual nonsense. War is dirty and ugly. Dirty and ugly, period. There's nothing else there.

Sam, thank you so much. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Always fascinating to talk with you. Thankfrom you. Sam, that was great. Thank you so much.

Thank you for joining me and thank you to all of you on X who are joining me. Let me tell you what's coming up. We'll be talking with a herbalist about what she believes the power of herbs truly is.

Plus a young man who's running from underground station to underground station to raise money for calm. Why he's doing that, why he feels male mental health is so important as indeed it is.

His own story, we'll be talking with him a little later. But I guess the spot that has been very rightly on what's happening in Israel, what's happening in Gaza at the moment.

We've talked with a very powerful talk, which I know has affected all of us with our Imam and our Rabbi, who we've actually asked to stand by throughout the program in case we need them back in again.

We may well be talking to them before the end of the show again. Also, we've talked with Julia Samuel, psychotherapist about the effects of seeing the pictures, seeing the headlines, the way it affects us viscerally.

My next guest is one I'm very excited to talk with again. Sam Vaknin is Israeli. He's in Macedonia at the moment. He's a professor of clinical psychology.

Absolutely fascinating. And I'll tell you why he's joining me today. It's to talk about conflict, in particular, the sorts of personalities behind the Israeli-Palestine conflict at the moment.

Sam, thank you so much for joining me again. Just reading through some of the notes you've sent me. I'm like, wow, this is a totally different and a really interesting take on all of this.

Let me start off by asking, and I have asked all of my guests, how are you feeling? Because I don't take lightly that you may well know people and what have you. How are you feeling?

I have hundreds of relatives in the war zones, both in the north and the south. I haven't slept a wink for quite a few nights now, as you can see probably. So I'm not in the best of shape, but I will give you whatever I can.

Thank you. Thank you. And I know you can't even get a flight back home at the moment. I can't get a flight back. No, Israel is actually cut off. Yeah.

When you look at the personalities, and I think there are interesting ones involved, when you look at Bibi Netanyahu, his eighth time around now, and many people are saying, pointing out that the reason he "took his eye off the ball" is when you need power at any cost and you bring in cronies, people who will back you up, you are often displacing people who are very, very learned in their trade, in security, in the military and what have you. You're displacing them with your buddies, your political buddies. It seems to me that the need for power underlines so much of the world's conflict, and I'm really fascinating to hear your views on this.

The diseased leadership of both the state of Israel and the Hamas, and I'm using the word diseased judiciously, definitely clinically, has to do with underlying factors which are actually not personal.

Leaders reflect constituencies. The psychology of leaders resonates very closely with the psychopathology of their electorates and nations.

So here we have two peoples, two nations, and they are both exhibiting what we call in psychology a trauma response.

Now we have four types of trauma response, and the most famous of which is fight or flight. So in this case we have fight.

Both nations are traumatized and both are in a post-traumatic condition, as you recall.

The Jewish people has just had, in historical terms, just yesterday the Holocaust, and the Palestinians had something they called the Natba, which means in Arabic the catastrophe, which is the expulsion in 1948 from their territories which now constitute the state of Israel.

So they are both traumatized, and when people are traumatized they tend to perceive themselves as victims. Their victimhood becomes their identity politics, and this is called in clinical psychology competitive victimhood.

No, I'm the bigger victim, no, I'm the bigger victim, and they compete for victimhood.

And so when you compete for victimhood, when victimhood is who you are, you feel entitled to special treatment. You feel much less empathetic towards the other party. You feel egotistic, you're self-centered on your needs and priorities and so on so forth, on recovery, and many, many victims, true victims, become very self-destructive.

Unfortunately, in both nations, the Israelis who are Jews and the Palestinians, in both nations, there's a founding myth of suicide.

In Israel we have the story of Masada. Masada was the resistance in a fortress in the desert against the Roman army, and then all the fighters committed suicide when things were, look to be, you know, beyond hope.

The Masada myth is a foundational myth of the state of Israel. Every child learns it, it's inculcated in us, and the Arabs have the concept of, the Muslims actually, have the concept of Shahada. Shahada means martyrdom, to be a martyr, and to be a martyr is to die. And to commit suicide in Masada is to die.

This is a death ethos, an ethos of death. These are two death counts at war.

I know, not politically correct. No, but what it speaks to then, if you have an upbringing or if you have a society through which such a message runs all the way through, your dialogue, when we talk about peace dialogue, and often, well, right from the beginning of the creation of Israel, and what happened with, with the 700,000 Palestinians being displaced, it was people from other cultures parachuting in to draw lines either on a map or either in the sand with their Western, no knowledge of that.

This is what we need to do right from the days of Balfour, historically going all the way through.

So even Jimmy Carter.

But one of the things that my husband and myself are talking about is every time there's been a leader from those groups, they've been assassinated. If they speak against that language, if they speak one of peace and hope and I guess non-victimhood, they're taken out.

Yes, that's because victimhood, as I said, is an identity politics. And like all forms of identity politics, it involves a series of psychological defense mechanisms which lead inexorably to violence.

With your permission, I will enumerate these defense mechanisms without going into too much detail.

The foremost mechanism is known as splitting. Splitting or dichotomous thinking simply means I'm all good. My enemy is all bad. I am perfect. Whoever disagrees with me is evil and must die.

This is splitting. It's a defense mechanism that operates in individuals and in collectives.

Then you have paranoid ideation. It's me against the world. As a victim, I've been victimized, means the world didn't help me. So I have to rely only on myself. And all the rest of the world are potential enemies. I should be hyper vigilant.

There are conspiracies everywhere. That's paranoia.

And then another form of defense is grandiosity, especially if you have existential anxiety. If you're not really sure that you're going to be here tomorrow, if you have true enemies who seek to exterminate you, eradicate you, displace you, whatever.

One of the main defense mechanisms we have as individuals and collectives is grandiosity. It's a form of cognitive distortion. It impairs our reality testing. We don't perceive reality correctly anymore.

So Israel, for example, has this misguided belief that it is untouchable, invincible, immune to the consequences of its actions. This is a form of grandiosity, of course.

And of course, the other party, the Palestinians, have their own type of grandiosity. They're the perfect victims. No one has ever been victimized, as they have. That renders them unique. And they're entitled to special treatment and special concessions. And they have rights that impose obligations or others. It's a form of grandiosity entitled grandiosity.

And then we have magical thinking. If we just put our minds to it, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. Our thinking, our words, our wishes and dreams and hopes, they are reality. We have absolute influence and we can shape the cosmos around us, our environment. This is magical thinking. It's not true.

But then something like this, but then something, somebody takes that action that changes that friction between two similar ideologies, if you like. Somebody just steps way outside of that. I guess they have to do something horrific in order to, I'm just thinking, with the hammers doing what they did, that is a massive upping of the horrific ante.

Yes, everything I've just described is known collectively as pathological narcissism.

And in pathological narcissism, you need to be noticed. Your existence relies crucially on what we call external regulation. Feedback from the outside, input from others, regulates your moods, your emotions, your reactions, who you are, how you perceive the world and so on.

But how are you going to be noticed in a rapid news cycle with two zillion social media accounts with cats and semi-naked people all around? How are you going to be noticed?

Ostentatiousness. So you need to become ostentatious. You need to escalate your behavior.

And the more atrocious you are, the more abominable and abhorrent and so on, the more likely you are to garner the attention that you need.

This is by the way... I was going to say, just to let me remind people, I'm talking with Sam Vaknin, who's a professor of clinical psychology.

So Sam, just tell me, from what you're saying then, if you have to escalate things to be noticed to such a horrific level, the media using lots and lots and lots of photographs, more and more and more and more and more, that surely feeds the monster.

Yes, actually both parties abuse the media, social media included, mainstream legacy media, social media, all forms of media, all forms of access. It's not only media, it's access. They abuse this to do something manipulative and it's called projective identification. Projective identification is when I force my adversary or my enemy or another party, I force them to behave in a way which conforms to my expectations of them and also presents me in a good light.

So if I expect you to abuse me, I will provoke you, I will push your buttons, I will escalate my behaviour until you do abuse me and that would confirm my position that you're an abuser and that would also make me the good guy because here I am being abused by you, being victimized by you.

And that's how they use those, the photos and the pictures and what have you, does what make them more, well they are victims but it makes sure that you can't ignore that. There are no saints in this society.

I think that the problem is that people define themselves as victims. Victimhood is an identity. Being victimized is a series of events and behaviours or misbehavours. It doesn't make you a victim. It means that you have been victimized. Victimhood is a totally different thing because it involves entitlement at the expense of another person and of course the media are harnessed and leveraged and used and abused by all the parties.

These are signals, this theory is known in psychology as signaling theory.

The parties are signalling to each other via the media and use the media in order to induce and modify the behaviours of the other side in a way that would reflect well on them and would confirm their prejudices and biases regarding the other side.

And this is a form of aggression which involves gaslighting, the alteration of reality in counterfactual ways and also involves projective identification.

I'm going to make you do what I want you to do.

I was going to say, where does anger come from, I mean not just anger from the parties involved but anger from all of those watching from, let me say like news commentators and what have you, whenever I see shouting and anger around this, it's a horrific issue but whenever I see colleagues in the media shouting and angry, I see that as them fuelling the flames.

Am I wrong?

I would beg to differ with the word anger, not your fault by the way, it looks like anger.

It's righteous indignation, it's a form of virtue signalling, it's ostentatious, it has nothing to do with real anger because you see real anger is a good thing, real anger is a way to affect your environment and to modify other people's behaviours so that you won't have to be angry anymore.

This is not anger, this is victimhood, self-righteous, sanctimonious, 100% good while the other party is always 100% evil.

Okay, we've got to take a break, I'm going to come back and talk with you more, I'm talking with Sam Vaknin, Professor of Clinical Psychology, back with more in just a moment.

So, I'm going to talk to you more about the truth of this video.

So, I'm going to talk to you more about the truth of this video, I'll be talking to you more about the truth.

Welcome back and thank you for joining me.

I'm having an absolutely fascinating conversation with Sam Vaknin, who is a renowned international professor of clinical psychology, usually based in Israel, as we heard he can't get back there.

He's in Macedonia at the moment.

Sam, coming back to it, when you've got two parties who see that almost as a competition of who can be the biggest victim, what is the answer then?

How do you create peace when you've got two traumatizers?

You explained the Jewish people with their trauma, the Palestinians with their trauma, how you can't do therapy for hundreds of thousands of people.

How, and as we said before, those people who have tried to create peace and come to it, get assassinated, I mean historically.

It seems that governments, people go back to, and you said they made that point, the leaders that mirror their grief, Hamas became a political party, but still always have that.

It's like the IRA, which in Spain, it's like people forget that Nelson Mandela came from a once terrorist organization.

So you've got the Jews with Bibi Netanyahu coming back, the Jewish people, yet he gets back again, you've got Hamas.

How do you, what is the answer?

What is the answer?

You can't do therapy for hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people.

What is the answer?

The situation is, it calls for pessimism.

However, there are two mitigating circumstances, or mitigating aspects.

We distinguish between cultures and societies which look to the past, and cultures and societies with a future orientation.

Now the cultures and societies in the Middle East, the Arab world, the Jews, they are past oriented. Their nourishment is based in the past, not in the future. They derive their sustenance, their strength, their resilience, everything from the past.

So this is the first thing.

If we succeed somehow to change this orientation and to render it present or future orientation, I think this would go a long way towards kind of pacifying both, both peoples.

Where does that come from?

I was going to say, because the traditions, everything about Islam and Judaism, the traditions, everything is, as you say, how you map out your day, your week, your month, your year is based in the past.

To change that orientation, does that come from their faith basis?

We had earlier on a fantastic Imam and a rabbi who have come together and are supporting each other and seem to be speaking of the future.

So is that possibly where that focusing and basing themselves on the future, is that a place from which it could come?

Past orientation has to do with what we call learned helplessness.

The belief that everything is hopeless, that regardless of your best efforts, you will never be efficacious, you will never accomplish long term goals.

And everything that you do accomplish is transitory and meaningless.

So if we were to establish an environment, and here in the Western world, there's a major role, as does China and so on.

If we were to establish an all encompassing environment, which includes incorporates both the Arabs and the Jews, in a way that guarantees them stability and safety and long term prospects and economic development and jobs for all, etc, etc.

I think the hopelessness and helplessness will abate.

And with these, the past orientation will be replaced with a future orientation.

It's a big ask.

It's a big ask because we're talking about territories.

It's been done before, for example, the Marshall Plan in Europe.

Yeah, yeah.

It's been done before in Japan, after the Second World War.

The United States is spending $6 billion a year in the Middle East.

This money on weapons, mind you, only on weapons.

I mean, take this money and use it differently.

Same money.

No need for appropriations.

No need to negotiate with the Republican Party.

Same money.

So this is the first thing.

The second kind of ray of light, hope, is the fact that societies in the Middle East, the Jews included, are shame-based, reputation-based.

The social control is exerted and channeled through shaming people, humiliating them, criticizing them in public, damaging their reputation irrevocably.

So these are the levers of social control.

Now, this is very bad because you need to save face.

And in order to save face, you act irrationally.

Like saving, it's save face or die.

Liberty, you know, liberty or death.

So saving face or death, that's it.

Literally, people are willing to die to save face.

If we were to transition from a reputation and shame-based society to a society of rule of law, objective and neutral, measurements and evaluations, a society that doesn't shame people or humiliate them but teaches them and educates them and nurtures them, then I think we will have removed another component of this seemingly endless and intractable conflict.

You see, this is the cycle.

This is exactly the cycle.

The Jews live in the past, the Palestinians live in the past.

Both of them have been shamed and humiliated.

Now the Hamas humiliated Israel, shamed Israel.

Is Israel acting rationally?

Allow me to have my doubts.

Is Israel acting proportionately?

Almost for sure it's not.


Because Israel has to save face.

It has to restore its deterrence and the respect and the awe that it used to be held in.

It's all about reputation.

It's exactly like the mafia, exactly like a mob mentality.

And I guess you could say the same about Hamas.

They had to save face.


Everybody say, do you think it's time, we've got to finish this interview, but part of me thinks, isn't it time that women, took over.

I mean, I say that glibly, but so much of it is bound up in the sorts of things, I guess, we attribute to men, saving face, muscle, might, aggression.

Those are attributes that are very male.

We're talking maybe about societies in which the man has a role that many would say is adhering more to the past, because younger people, as we've seen on both sides, don't adhere as much to that.

So part of me thinks maybe it's time for the world to have a good go of women running it.

I mean, can we do much worse?

Don't be a joke.

This might be true in the West, but regrettably in these areas, in the Middle East and so on, there is full collaboration between men and women in perpetuating this state of affairs.

Women have been co-opted into the male patriarchy, basically, into the male structure.

Well, Sam, thank you.

As always, it's fascinating talking to you, and I really, I send you my warmest wishes.

I know it's going to be a very, very difficult time for you as well.

It is. Thank you.

Thank you for your sentiments.

And thank you, I mean that, because all of our guests that we've had from the area, I'm like, God, how youlack of sleep and the churning of stomachs and all of those things going on and even be able to focus or gather their thoughts, it's not something that I take lightly.

So I do thank you again.

I want to say one last thing.

I want to say one last thing.

This is a crisis, definitely, but it's also an opportunity.

In 1973, Israel has been surprised.

There was a surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria, and it led four years later to peace, peace with Egypt, later peace with Jordan and so on.

This horrible atrocity committed by the terrorist organization Hamas could be an opening.

It doesn't need to end this way.

You could reconceive of it and reframe it and leverage it to make peace.

Unfortunately, I don't see the leadership there to do this on either side.

It's sad.

Sam, thank you so much.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you for having me.

You're so welcome.

We'll definitely be talking with you again.

I know we will be in the future.

Professor of clinical psychology, Sam Vaknin there, as you heard, he's Israeli, can't get back to Israel because there aren't any flights, so he's in Macedonia at the moment.

Lots to think about there, lots to think about there.

We're going to take a quick break, and after that, we'll be back on a totally different subject, our "I Believe" segment, where we hear from a herbalist back with that in just a moment.

Those of you who are married to narcissists or in committed relationships with narcissists have already experienced urban warfare.

So maybe there's nothing new, I can tell you.

But more seriously, Israel has invaded Gaza yesterday.

The forces are still there.

It is not clear whether this is the invasion that Israel has been promising or threatening with in the past three weeks, but to tell you right, there are forces inside Gaza, and they are beginning to get involved in what is known as urban warfare.

How is urban warfare different to other types of fighting, and what are the psychological implications of urban warfare?

This is the topic of today's video, and yes, it is based on a few weeks of personal experience with urban warfare in the first few months of my three and a half year service in the Israeli Defense Forces.

So unfortunately, I'm bringing personal insight into this as well.

As many other studies, analysis by military experts, by army psychologists, trauma experts, and so on and so forth, I've distilled everything, put everything together, as I usually do, to give you an S-complete picture of the aftermath, psychological aftermath, of fighting within dense human populations, door to door, room to room, house to house, hand to hand, face to face, you and the other person, and only one of you will come out alive.

My name is Sam Vakhnin.

I'm the author of My Lingon Self-Love Narcissism Revisited.

I'm a former visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University in Russia.

I'm currently a long-time member of the faculty of CEAPs, Commonwealth for International Advanced Professional Studies, Cambridge United Kingdom, Toronto Canada, and an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria.

Legalities aside, let us delve right into the urban landscape.

First, don't try this at home with your significant other.

I'm going to describe the features, the military features, of urban warfare, and then I'm going to move on, the second half of the video, I'm going to move on to psychological analysis of the psychological impacts of urban warfare on mostly the attacker, the military that is initiating the urban warfare.

Now first of all, the vast majority of armies in the world are not built for urban combat.

Most armies in the world focus on what is known as combined arms maneuvers, or combined arms maneuver warfare, which is the air force, infantry, tanks, the navy, all acting together and creating an envelope, a containing envelope, mostly for infantry soldiers.

The aim of traditional conventional armies is to overwhelm an enemy by concentrating speed and mass at critical points with an element of surprise.

So modern armies are highly mobile and they transfer forces where the enemy does not anticipate and the idea is to break through defenses and flanks of the enemy and somehow perhaps to surround the enemy at any rate to break the resistance of the enemy.

Now this has been going on since Alexander the Great and Napoleon and others, so there's nothing new in any of this, but this is doubly so with modern armies, modern militaries that include heavy weight elements such as tanks or fighter planes and so on.

In cities, all the above means nothing.

All the above is actually a disadvantage.

The bigger the force that infiltrates a city, the easier a target it becomes.

So cities force you to break down into smaller and smaller and smaller units, sometimes only two people, and you have to move slowly through side streets.

This moving through a main thoroughfare, through main street, big street, is seriously flawed, is seriously wrong.

You move through side streets, through gates, shortcuts, above roofs, and so on and so forth in order to reach your destination.

This cannot be done with 20,000 people.

So you naturally end up breaking up to tinier and tinier units and you cannot, with such a small force, overwhelm defenders, overwhelm your enemy. You can do this in a forest, you can do this in a desert, you can do this in a field, but you can't do this in a built environment. And the irony is, the more buildings you destroy, the more defenses you provide to your enemy. Because rubble is optimal, ruins can be booby trapped and serve as concrete covers. So you're creating an effect, your enemy's defenses, by bombing buildings from the air, as Israel has been doing for three weeks now. So you move in small units, you're much more likely to end up in an ambush or a killing zone.

Actually, a well-prepared enemy channels your movement, makes sure that you can move only along a certain axis or conduit or a venue so that you end up where they want you to end up, and then they kill you.

And then they kill you again.

The enemy is hidden.

You have to constantly guess.

Surprises are the only unsurprising thing.

Surprises are the only guaranteed thing.

And it's very shocking.

It's a constant, it's a percussion, it's a constantly shocking environment.

And it involves hand-to-hand combat, face-to-face, eye-to-eye.

You smell the sweat of the enemy. You look into their eyes, their pupils dilating. You see the veins in their necks pulsating.

It's very, very intimate.

It's very intimate.

Some people even say erotically charged.

It's a life and death dance, repeated over and over and over again until you die.

Because your chances to die in open warfare are much, much higher than in open warfare.

The enemy is everywhere. It is underground. It is on the ground. It shoots at you from tops of buildings.

So this is a three-dimensional death envelope. You're enveloped by death and destruction. And you begin to develop the belief that you're doomed, that there's no way out of this.

And so you begin to behave accordingly, as we'll talk about it later.

Sometimes you become much less careful and cautious than you should be, defiant in your face, defying death, you know.

It's a grind.

Open warfare is a grind. There's no clear end, well-defined goals, success, mission statement, horizon. It feels like it could last forever.

An army starts usually with shaping operations, preparing the ground. And then open warfare follows in the form of invading the territory, an invasion.

But all the advantages in open warfare accrue to the defender.

Open warfare is bloody. It's slow. It's complex.

That's why it's known in military jargon as the great equalizer. It equalizes the poorly equipped, poorly trained defenders with highly equipped, highly trained attackers.

It equalizes because the defender knows the terrain much better than you do. And so they can counter-attack in very, very unexpected ways.

And there's always civilian collateral damage.

Civilian casualties are absolutely inevitable.


And that makes you, the attacker, the bad guy.

Even if you are fighting a terrorist organization such as ISIS or Hamas, which is indistinguishable from ISIS, even then you are the bad guy because you end up killing babies and children and pregnant women and women who could have become pregnant, they do not kill them.

So you become the bad guy.

And there's no way to avoid this because terrorists fight from within populated urban areas. And they very frequently use the population, the civilian population, as human shields. They maintain their headquarters, their warehouses, their munition dumps, their launching pads, everything within hospitals and mosques and schools and kindergartens and shopping malls.

That's a fact. That's a fact in Gaza as well, where major hospitals are actually the headquarters of Hamas operations.

And so civilians are going to die.

And the idea is to somehow push the defenders or the terrorists or whatever you want to call them, somehow push them into a demarcated location, a boundary location, and besiege them in these pockets.

But these seizures can last like years. Remember Stalingrad? They can last years.

So this engenders a siege mentality. It is like static trench warfare. Only trench warfare is in open fields.

And this is trench warfare where even the trenches are invisible and shapeshifting.

So there's a siege mentality of both the attacker and the defender. They both feel under siege.

Now, you don't take prisoners in open warfare. Anyone moves? You kill them. You kill everyone in sight.

Yes, I know. This is a crime of war. This is a crime against humanity.

And no military commander would admit to it. And no military, no army would admit to it.

But this is how it's done. It's done this way because a prisoner with his hands up could be booby trapped. A child coming out of a tunnel could carry a Kalashnikov.

You don't play games. You don't take chances. You don't speculate in second guess. You shoot first. You ask questions later.

So this is total warfare. And as a soldier, you end up killing children. You end up killing women. You end up killing civilians who are somehow allied with the defenders or the terrorists or whatever.

Clearly allied with them because they emerge with them or from their hiding places.

And this is devastating, mentally devastating.

Even during the Holocaust, there have been Nazi soldiers and Nazi commanders and very high level commanders who went bonkers, who went insane, having had to shoot civilian population on a regular basis.

Now, most modern urban warfare is carried out at night. It's a night operation because the attacker, which is usually a regular conventional army, has superiority of night vision technologies.

So most of these attacks are at night. The warfare is asymmetrical in terms of technology, material supplies, munitions, air cover, and so on.

And this asymmetry is at its peak at night where the attacking soldiers can see pretty well and the defending ones are blinded by the darkness.

All kinds of assets are used in modern urban warfare. I'm talking about drones. I'm talking about robots.

And this renders the fighting impersonal, mechanical, automated, robotic.

The assets are airborne or they lead or they're involved in land warfare. To clear rooms, for example, you would send a drone into the room, send a robot into the room and blow them up if you see someone there.

So it's all very kind of video game.

War is a video game.

When you blow up a building in a contested urban warfare zone, it's exactly like shooting someone in a video game.

And it dehumanizes. It dehumanizes or objectifies the other person. They're no longer human beings. They are just characters in a video game.

And we've seen this in the recordings released by WikiLeaks, recordings of pilots, American pilots and others fighting, bombing humans, but treating them exactly as characters in video games.

Now, even in urban warfare, there is a place for combined arms maneuvers. Infantry and commander units guide pilots, fighter pilots, bombers, navy and artillery as to where to direct the fire.

But this leads to a lot of friendly fire incidents. And so in truth, fighters in urban warfare prefer not to. They use air power and artillery and so on. Only very, very rarely and scarcely because they're terrified of their own, of their own military.

You're on your own. In urban warfare, you are all alone. No one can help you. No one has your back. It's you and only you.

There's been an interview that I read with with the top Ukrainian commander, Kevljuk. And he said that the heavily armed forces are followed by isolation forces.

We first to devastate, destroy the whole area and then the next echelon, next round, next wave of army comes in and kind of cleans.

These are the cleaners, the clean after.

And he said the assault echelon carries with it a double supply of grenades, disposable grenade launchers, jet flamethrowers, anti-tank missiles, man pads, combat medics in armored evacuation vehicles wait at the distance of visual communication just in case they're needed.

He says, never walk the streets, yards, private buildings, holes in fences and walls of the way to victory. He said that everything should be close by the logistics, the medical units, the UAVs, the unmanned aerial vehicles, the crushers, the drones and the commander of the force, so the assault force should be in control of what these drones are doing, as well as feeding bomber pilots and fighter pilots with exact coordinates, pinpointed coordinates in real time.

So airplanes are always above head waiting to attack and they usually do so within seconds.

Kevljuk mentioned something very important, which leads us segways into the second part of this video, which is the psychology.

He says urban warfare is personal responsibility.

He says, if you don't have something in battle, if you miss something, it's your fault.

Ballistic protection, a first aid kit, a tourniquet, preferably two.

You must have these things.

When you pack your backpack, says Kevljuk, an extra pack of cartridges is much better than a can of food.

Everyone should clearly identify their combat tasks. They should know who is acting to the right and to the left of you. They should know how to contact the commander, the combat medic or the sapper.

The sapper is a combat military engineer. And this is the crucial element in urban warfare and the key to understanding the extreme psychological impacts of urban warfare.

You are absolutely responsible for what's happening to you. If there's no one to blame, it's your fault. One hundred percent.

And no one has your back and no one supports you and you're on your own. And it's life and death and it's hand to hand and it's not to back to belly. And it's just that the way it is.

And you must survive at all costs.

This, of course, creates post-traumatic stress disorder in many veterans of urban warfare anywhere between 10 and 40 percent, depending on the severity of the battle.

This is lifelong. The PTSD is lifelong.

The sights in urban warfare are nothing like what you see in regular battle. Nothing. The civilians, the babies, the slaughtered mothers, the body parts, the charred bodies, the surprises, the shocks, the explosions, the knives in the back, your own people firing on you by mistake.

I mean, it is absolutely devastating.

And that's why very few soldiers can survive more than a week or two or three in urban warfare.

And most urban warfare winds up in days or there is a kind of rotation involved because the attrition rate is enormous.

You see this in urban warfare very often, there's no movement, no discernible movement. And there's no way to define your accomplishments.

It's like a bit of a frozen scene. It's very surreal, very nightmarish and gruesome death, gruesome forms of death are your constant companion.

The stench, the visuals, there you wake up to it, you go to sleep to it if you catch some sleep, very few are able to sleep.

And this becomes your scenery. This becomes your life. This becomes your environment.

And you don't hesitate to step on bodies, to eat next to a decapitated head or a dead baby. You get desensitized.

The enemy becomes so many body parts, totally dehumanizing.

By the way, there's the same effect in the medical profession. Medical doctors often describe the same effect, especially in specific departments like emergency rooms and ICUs and so on.

You need to reduce the human form to an organ or a body part in order to survive, simply to survive.

There's a constant sense of abandonment, constant sense of isolation. "Oh my God, I've lost my units" or "I'm stuck with only one body and he's wounded".

There's a constant sense of wandering off and never being able to find your way back. It's very primordial. It's like a tiny, tiny infant in a giant shopping mall having lost his or her mother.

There's extreme dependency on other people. So there's an external locus of control. You feel that your life is determined from the outside. There's nothing much you can do about it.

The next explosion, the next mine, the next booby trap, the next knife in the back, the next attack, the next terrorist, the next defender, the next whatever you want to call them.

Where from, up, down, under, this room, that room, rubble, this child, this woman, what?

You're constantly on the alert. It's a flight of fight response taken to extremes.

And this external locus of control is a form of surrender. You give up on your life, in effect. You move, continue to move, continue to go through the motions like a zombie.

And there's a lot of splitting going on. The enemy becomes diabolical, demonic, worthy of extermination, extinction and eradication, regardless of any human considerations, let alone legal or criminal considerations.

I mean, you just need to kill this thing out there that is no longer human in your eyes and threatens your life on a constant basis because it is evil. This, of course, provokes alloplastic defenses.

Inability to take responsibility for what you've done, because if you do, the trauma will be all-consuming and destroy you from the inside.

So you deny it. It wasn't my fault. I had to do it. I had to do it to protect myself, to protect my bodies, to protect the country, whatever.

So there are a lot of alloplastic defenses involved. At some point, you simply give up on acting human.

And you defy. You defy the defenders or the terrorists. You defy the situation. You defy your own commanders. You challenge your fate and destiny to a duel. Say, I'm going to do whatever the heck I want. I'm going to act out. I'm going to crazy make. I'm going to defy you. I'm going to, in your face, challenge my own mortality.

Let's see who wins. This leads to behavior that is very risky and often leads to death.

At a point where you say, I no longer care. See if I care. I'm going just, I'm going out there and I'm going to shoot like crazy everywhere. I'm going to spray the whole compound. I don't care. The minute you say, I don't care, you don't. You're lost.

And there's a moral collapse, a tendon upon it. You're no longer a moral agent or a moral person. You act more like a predator, an animal. All the venere of civilization melts down, dissipates.

And what's left is animal versus animal. You look like an animal. You haven't showered in days. You're caked with mud and sweat and blood. You're terrified inside. Your eyes peer through the mud cake mask and they're demented. You look like a deranged escapee from a mental asylum. And all you can think of is how to kill, kill, kill.

You become a killing machine and you develop magical thinking. There's all kinds of superstitions, talismans, mascots, sentences. You have to repeat to yourself a sequence of and this is a sequence of activities which will kind of isolate you, offend you or defend you from bad happenings.

This is obsessive compulsive. These are obsessive compulsive rituals. The only defense you're left with, primitive, against the horror that you find yourself embedded in and perpetrated.

Perpetrating also bears a mental cost. This, ladies and gentlemen, is urban warfare. Should Israel invade Gaza? Full scale invasion?

This is what awaits both the Israeli army and Hamas fighters. None of them will be spared the agony of fighting and then the agony of recalling the fighting and the trauma that will never leave them for life.

Another sleepless night as thousands of innocent civilians are slaughtered and massacred in the most horrifying and graphic ways in Israel and in Gaza.

The latest round in a war that has been going on since 1882 when the first Jewish settlers arrived from overseas in occupied land in what used to be at the time Palestine joining an existing settlement of Jews throughout the Holy Land.

We are all acquainted with the trite and tired arguments on both sides. The Jewish historic right to the land of the forefathers. The Arabs, Palestinian, continued presence in the same territory. The religious edicts regarding a Jewish state in the midst or amidst the Muslim world in the front against God's cosmic order and will.

The Jews, as the last of the colonialists in Israel, is the only remaining colonial outpost in a world that has moved on to other forms of government and other organizing principles. We all know the grievances, who did what to whom repeatedly in dozens of bloody drowns, massacring, slaughtering and killing each other. Sometimes with glee and joy and sometimes inadvertently and sometimes because there is no other choice. But beyond the historical and the religious and the political scientific theoretical considerations and arguments and debates, beyond the eggheads, butting heads, what do we have? What is the psychology of this intractable conflict, the longest ongoing conflict in modern history? Why doesn't it seem closer to solution at all? And I'm talking about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, not the conflict between Israelis and Arabs, which is nearing its solution. Many Arab states have signed peace agreements and established diplomatic relations with Israel. I'm not talking about the conflict between Judaism and Islam. That has never been really a real thing. I'm not talking about any of this. I'm talking about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Both these peoples lay claim to exactly the same piece of land, the size of New Jersey in the United States.

And both of them demand 100 percent of this land. Both parties are intransigent, inflexible, uncompromising, devout in their dedication and commitment to maximizing outcomes at the expense of the other.

Both of them regard the situation as a zero-sum game because of this skewed viewpoint. They are incapable of reaching any accommodation, striking a deal of coexistence and perhaps, perhaps, mutual prosperity.

Instead, they kill each other's babies and women and the elderly and, of course, each other's military.

What is the military? 20-year-olds flowering the prime of their lives. This is the military on both sides.

These young men and women are dying and they are dying because of the psychology behind this conflict.

And that is the topic of today's video.

My name is Sam Vakni. And for a change, I'm not only the author of Malignant Self-Love. I'm not only a former visiting professor of psychology.

I'm also an Israeli and an analyst of international affairs. I'm trying to balance these two as an Israeli, of course, to some extent, unbiased.

Although I'm highly critical of Israel, especially in the last 20 or 30 years, under the criminal and demented regime of the authoritarian pseudo-dictator or quasi-dictator Benjamin Netanyahu.

But I'm trying to balance the fact that I'm an Israeli energy with my allegiance to the truth as I see it as an analyst.

And I hope I will succeed in this delicate, delicate treading of the line in this video.

What goes on in the minds of the Hamas, of the Islamic Jihad, of Fatah, of Palestinian refugees in camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestinians in the diaspora?

What goes on in the minds of Jews all over the world, of Israelis, of military service agents, of older Israelis?

What passes in the minds and what compels them to behave in ways which ultimately are self-destructive and self-defeating?

Because this is going nowhere. This is going nowhere. This is leading to no favorable outcome. This is not self-efficacious. This is ruinous to both parties.

Every decision each of the parties makes, every such decision, drives the deciding party closer to the edge of the cliff and very often beyond.

What is behind this essentially suicidal behavior?

It is very telling that both parties have their own suicidal myths, suicidal ideation, which is often coupled with religious righteousness.

Israel has the Masada story, a group of Jewish far-right extremists in today's terms, who fought off the famed and celebrated Roman 6th Legion in Masada, an outpost in the desert.

And they succeeded to hold off the hallowed Roman army for a very long time until they had no choice.

And under the siege, they all committed suicide in a suicide pact that is one of the founding myths of Israel, a suicide.

Similarly, in Islam, religious righteousness is associated with Shahada and Jihada.

Shahada, which essentially means witnessing, is conducting a life that is right in the eyes of God.

But it also means committing suicide in order to further military or political goals, at least as the interpretation of the hadith.

And Jihada is striving to conduct your life in a way that is good and would incur God's pleasure and approval.

But Jihada is also a holy, righteous, religious war in which, of course, one dies as a shahid, as a martyr.

So death and suicide are at the heart and core of the ethos and the myths that motivate both these people, the Jews and the Palestinians, the Muslims, the Muslim Palestinians.

And so it's a bad starting point. On both sides, there is a trauma response, a fight response.

Both parties, the Jews and the Palestinians, are in the throes or in the wake of trauma. They are in a post-traumatic condition.

Israel is the product of the Holocaust, the greatest and most horrible genocide ever perpetrated. The Germans killed well over six million Jews in an industrial, heartless, faceless process.

The Holocaust is a major trauma. The entire Jewish people, regardless of its origins, regardless of its locations, is heavily traumatized to this very day.

The Palestinians have their nachba, the disaster of the catastrophe of 1948, when they have been expelled from their homes by the advancing Jewish army on the one hand and encouraged by their own arrogant leaders.

To leave their homes because the Jews will soon be defeated and thrown back to the sea where they came from.

These are two motivating, identity-defining traumas on both sides.

And so the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a form of competitive victimhood. These are two victimhood movements. There's a clash between two entitled and self-centered victimhood movements.

And this competitive victimhood, of course, gives rise to narcissism and psychopathy on both sides.

These movements, Zionism on the other hand, the Arab National Movement on the other, they were hijacked by narcissists and psychopaths, who currently constitute the leadership on both sides.

In the Israeli side and in the Palestinian side, thugs, bullies, murderers, dictators in the making, criminals are in charge today of the state of Israel and of all major religious Palestinian movements such as Hamas.

Like every conflict in history, the parties, it gave rise to specific dynamics, psychological dynamics in the parties involved.

Conflict triggers narcissistic defenses. Conflict, also known as dissonance in clinical terms, conflict creates cognitive distortions.

In the case of Israel, conflict led to the emergence of grandiosity, a sense of immunity to the consequences of one's actions, a sense of invulnerability and invincibility.

All of them, of course, counterfactual. All of them have been falsified on October 7th, but not only in October 7th, on multiple other occasions.

The Israeli army has been repeatedly defeated time and again, and yet this is denied and repressed in the collective Israeli consciousness, refrained as victory.

Similarly, of course, there are cognitive distortions on the Palestinian side, which also involve forms of grandiosity, the belief that the Palestinians are fulfilling some kind of godly or divine mission on Earth.

The divide is of cosmic proportions that signifies some apocalyptic timeline, these are all grandiose notions for a group of bedraggled, unkempt terrorists who decapitate babies, rape women and kill men in their beds, especially elderly men.

Both parties, therefore, have an impaired reality testing. They are unable to grasp reality as it is because they need to deny it, they need to repress it, they need to reframe it in order to avoid narcissistic injuries and narcissistic modification in public.

Both cultures, the Jewish Israeli culture, and even more so, much more so, the Palestinian Muslim Arab culture, are based on shame, on not losing faith, on maintaining one's reputation.

It's very much a mob, a mafia mentality. And so they need to ignore reality and to inhabit a fantastic space, a paracosm, in which they are perfect, in which they can do no wrong, in which they are always morally upright.

This impaired reality testing leads to wrong decision making, erroneous choices, it is a path to hell, a hell mutually imposed upon one another.

There's a lot of magical thinking involved. If I only ignore the Palestinians, they would go away. If we only attack Israel, it will fall apart.

Magical thinking, my thoughts shape reality, my words have power. I'm going to magically, wizardry, sorcery of sorts, I'm going to transform the world, solve my problems simply by wishing them to go away somehow.

And I'm going to act and pretend as if they are no more these problems, these issues. I'm going to besiege the Palestinians in Gaza Strip, well over two million people, most of whom are refugees, 1948, and their children, grandchildren and grandchildren. I'm going to just ignore them, I'm going to besiege them, forget about them. I'm going to annex territory, establish illegal settlements everywhere, because I can. And I can because I want to, and I want to because God is on my side, so is history.

This is magical thinking. And of course, on the Palestinian side, there's even more magical thinking, even more egregious magical thing.

Magical thinking leads to gradual psychotic break, a departure from reality. And all activities and all operations are conducted within a mental space that is solipsistic, self-contained, self-sufficient. And frankly, insane.

Both parties are demented. Both of them require medication on a regular basis. They are so divorced from reality and from the mere fact of each other's existence.

And so this leads to reactance. Reactance is associated in clinical psychology with psychopathy. It's an antisocial feature. It involves defiance, consummationness, the rejection of authority, the other's authority, defiance against the other, pushing back in your face, see if I care. I'm going to do it regardless of the cost.

Both sides, it's not limited to Israel, although it sounds a lot like Israel.

And so the losses mount and they are enormous. And the parties are unable to move on. Unable to move on, Israel has built thriving economy, scintillating cultural sphere, life.

The Palestinians have tried to hope under impossible circumstances.

But both of them are locked into this dance macabre. Both of them are unable to let go of the other because the other, the pernicious, nefarious, malevolent other, the demonized other, has become a determinant of their identity.

Palestinian identity is in opposition to the Israeli, the Israeli as the other.

What does it mean to be a Palestinian if not to hate Israel and oppose it in every way?

Palestinian resistance is Palestinian identity and there's no resistance without Israel and Israelis.

Similarly, the Israelis came to define themselves via their conflict with the Arab world and with the Palestinians.

The two parties, Palestinians and the Israelis, engage in negative identity formation. Identity politics that relies on negating the other, rejecting the other, demeaning and debasing the other, humiliating the other, ignoring and denying the other and ultimately exterminating the other.

But not too fast because what would happen then to one's identity?

One needs an enemy in order to feel that one exists. It's a form of self-harm and self-mutilation.

Israel is committing suicide by Palestinians and Palestinians are committing suicide by Israel.

It's a form of recklessness. Disregard for the consequences of one's actions. No long-term foresight and planning, no intelligence employed or deployed into any of these decisions and choices.

It's short-term, it's knee-jerk, it's impulsive, it's crazy-making, it's acting out, it's decompensation, the loss of all psychological defenses which leads to violent externalised aggression.

And both parties of course react to this ongoing self-inflicted trauma the same way that individuals react to trauma.

There's mood-lability, elation and then depression.

There's emotional dysregulation, emotional thinking and emotional decision-making.

People are driven by negative affectivities such as rage or envy or vengefulness and vindictiveness and hatred.

The parties of the conflict abuse each other and manipulate each other as the exclusive modes of interacting with each other. They don't talk to dictate. They don't communicate, they posture. They don't shake hands, they shake guns. They don't sit down to reach a compromise. They sit down to engage in one upmanship. It's a zero-sum game in the sense that the other's gains are your loss and your gains are their loss. And it's a hundred to zero. Its winner takes all. It's you or me. This decontinous thinking of black and white, good versus evil, a morality play. The parties are like actors in a play scripted by a higher power of some kind, power of history, power of their own trauma, perhaps God.

But they are actors.

They're not free.

They're not at liberty to determine their own script, to control their own destiny, to shape their own fate.

They've handed control to the outside.

They have an external locus of control.

And of course they have alloplastic defenses.

They blame the other for everything that has gone wrong, for every defeat, for every failure, for every missa, for every deotic choice, for every malicious decision, and for the backlash and inevitable consequences and outcomes of such misbehavior and misconduct.

And the parties seek to manipulate each other exactly as abusers do.

They gaslight each other.

They try to cause the other party to doubt their own judgment regarding reality.

They try to cast the other. It's crazy, insane, unreliable, demented to be shunned and avoided because they are no longer with us.

They're psychotic or they are religious fanatics.

So there's a lot of gaslighting going on.

Gaslighting of the other.

Palestinians gaslight Israelis, especially the Israeli left, and Israelis gaslight Palestinians.

And there's gaslighting of the rest of the world, of course, also known as propaganda.

And this projective identification, the parties provoke each other to behave in ways that conform to their expectations.

And they need this.

These provocations are not accidental or incidental or unintended. They're premeditated.

They're part of a plan. They're part of a pattern.

There's a need to provoke the other in order to buttress one's self-identity, in order to remove doubts as to one's misconduct, own misconduct.

Both parties at heart have a negative self-image.

They see themselves as somewhat inadequate, somewhat bad, somewhat wrong.

And the only way to get rid of these doubts, self-doubts, the only way to reassert oneself in a position of 100 percent righteousness and right, is to force the other party to behave in ways which remove the shame, negate the negative self-image.

If the other party abuses you, kills you, slaughters you, besieges you, then definitely you are the good one.

And this leads, of course, to splitting. We are all good. The enemy is all bad.

But how can we reassure ourselves that the enemy is all bad?

With objective identification, we're going to push the enemy. We're going to provoke the enemy. We're going to make sure that the enemy behaves in horrendous, unacceptable ways. We're going to make sure that the enemy is condemned by one and all.

And we are going to drive the enemy to behave this way. We are going to dump our shame on the enemy. We are going to recruit the enemy to help us feel that we are perfect, to help us with our narcissistic defenses, fantastic, inflated, grandiose self-image.

We need our enemy to help us with this.

So we need our enemy to act as an enemy.

And not only just any enemy, an evil enemy, an implacable enemy, a god-hating enemy.

And so both parties provoke each other to act the enemy in order to purge themselves of these bad objects, internal bad objects, the feeling that one is less than perfect.

This gleeing, we are all good, our enemies are all bad, is the exact reason why no meaningful dialogue is taking place, why all the attempts at peacemaking have failed, and why a compromise can never be struck.

The positions of both parties are maximal precisely in order to ascertain that they will never cease to be each other's enemies.

Enemies and lovers, as Bashevi Zinger once famously wrote, "Patriot and love are flip-sides of the same coin. This is known as ambivalence. You love your enemy, because what are you without your enemy? Nothing. Your enemy defines you. Your enemy provides you with an identity, a purpose, a direction. Your enemy imbues your life with meaning, makes sense of your reality. You need your enemy. Had your enemy not existed, you would have needed to invent it."

The United States is doing this very often.

So this is the tango in which these two parties are engaged, barely on their feet, wary, dying, at least morally, if not physically, and very often physically as well, and yet unable to disentangle, to stand apart, to detach, held in each other's arms, they lean into the horror, attempting to perpetuate it.

Because that is their comfort zone. That is the only thing they've known for decades now, well over a century and a half. They know no better, and they know no different.

And the horrifying news is, no one can ever teach them.

At the heart of all conflicts is the inability to empathize, the incapacity to put yourself in someone else's shoes, especially your enemy's shoes.

The lack of will and wish to somehow attain objectivity, neutrality, the ability to observe impartially and to make decisions based on reality, including the reality of your enemy.

Wars and conflicts are the sad outcomes of our declining ability to empathize.

A decline that started thousands of years ago, when the Palestinians see an Israeli, they don't see a baby, they don't see a mother, they don't see a sister, they don't ask themselves what common experiences do we have, what things we share, what do we share, what makes us more the same than different.

They don't ask these questions. The stereotype, it's two dimensional cartoon figures, and they react to the stereotype. They react to the cartoonish rendition of the other, the enemy.

And similarly, of course, the Israelis.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians work inside Israel. Almost a million Arab Palestinians are Israeli citizens. And yet the Israelis never bother to get acquainted with the other's culture, the other's world, the other's life, the other's point of view, the other's pains, the other's wishes and dreams, including and especially broken dreams.

There's no interface between Israelis and Palestinians both ways. Palestinians are as guilty as Israelis in pretending that the other is less than human, in dehumanizing and objectifying the other.

In a way, both parties instrumentalize each other. They use each other as tools to obtain political goals, military aims, and most importantly, a sense of moral uprightness and superiority.

You can't do that if you, even when you empathize. Empathy reduces aggression. Empathy prevents malevolence. Empathy is the antidote to narcissism. Narcissism is crucial in any conflict because narcissism helps you to pretend that this is a morality play in which you are good and fighting against evil, fighting to eradicate it and eliminate it, making the world a better place.

Even the Nazis claimed that exterminating the Jews would make Europe a far better place. It's for the greater good, they said.

This argument, the most pernicious, despicable, abhorrent and abominable argument in human history, it's for the greater good, is a cover for the most heinous crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Anything that is for the greater good is evil because it overlooks the individual. It overlooks the inner life of human beings. Human beings are relational. They inhabit collectives. They share, of course, many things in common, common ethics, common culture, a society within which they function.

That is all true. But every human being, every human being shares with other human beings much more than he or she shares with the collective. Every Israeli has a lot more in common, a lot more in common with every Palestinian than it would ever have with the state of Israel. And every Palestinian has a lot more in common with every Jew than it would ever have with Hamas.

Collectives are not and should never be definers of identity. Identity is human. We are first and foremost human beings.

This should be our primary and possibly only allegiance and affiliation. We are members of the human tribe, the human species. We get up in the morning, we are hungry. We are thirsty. We are terrified. We are happy. We are joyful. We are laughing. We are making love. We are raising children. We have dreams. They get broken, promises. We experience pain and loss and we outgrow them and develop and become.

This is a universal experience of Palestinians and Jews and Sikhs and Russians and Ukrainians and Americans and Mexicans everywhere around the world who is bipedal everywhere around the world who is human.

It's the same experiences, 98% of what it is to be us, humans.

The layers of statehood, nationality, citizenship, history. That's a veneer. That's a veneer. It's a coat of paint. It's not who we are. It's not our essence and quintessence. We are above all human.

And if we are given the possibility and the choice to empathize with other humans, the very concept of enemy is dead. The capability to live together, to collaborate, rests heavily and sometimes exclusively on the capacity to reimagine ourselves as the other, as our enemy.

And it is through this reimagining, through the inhabiting of the space of the other, the world and life of the other, the mind of the other, the hopes and dreams and narratives and stories of the other, that we come together as humans.

And this is what's missing in conflicts such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The other is demonized, stripped of its humanity. The other is not human. It's devilish. It's evil. It's vermin, as the Nazis call the Jews.

And if the other is not human, then slaughtering the other is justified. It shouldn't provoke any moral indignation, pangs of consciousness and conscience.

Scaling the other should be as simple as eradicating insects in your kitchen.

This reduction of the other, of the enemy, into non-human form is at the core of the atrocities that people commit when they're engaged in conflict.

We must never let that happen. Whether you're Palestinian or an Israeli, a Jew or a Muslim, you must never let that happen.

Remember the humanity of the other. Try to be your enemy for one day, one hour, one minute. Maybe it will stay your hand on the way to slaughtering a baby, bombing the family. Maybe if you go through this exercise a sufficient number of times, the conflict will be over.

Scott Douglas Jacobson has just returned from Ukraine, where he met with another collaborator of mine, Remus Chernia, of Newsweek.

So today we've had an exchange about war, war, esponography, and war as a form of entertainment.

He started by covering familiar ground, but then if you're patient enough to listen to the interview to his end, I think he will be rewarded with a few politically incorrect insights to use the understatement of this century.

Scott Douglas Jacobson asked me, actually said, "Welcome back, Dr. Wachnym.

I returned from Ukrainian territories, visiting several cities in rapid succession over two weeks in late November and early December.

I have war on my mind, which makes me think about the mind in war.

What is the nature of war?" And the aforementioned Saint Wachnym responded, "Welcome back in one piece.

War brings out the best in us and the worst in us.

Throughout the ages, war has been perceived as the epitome and quintessence of masculinity, even when women like the Amazons had been doing the fighting.

So war was about valor, heroism, courage, overcoming fear, selflessness, altruism, self-sacrifice for the greater good and protectiveness of the weak and the meek.

These are all allegedly masculine traits.

But violent conflict leads to negative identity formation, defining oneself in opposition to the other by dehumanizing, objectifying and demonizing your enemy.

Most wars are cast as morality plays.

Good, our side versus evil, the other side.

Good guys versus bad guys.

Wars amount to role-playing in an adversarial, rule-based game.

This is revealed when, for example, veterans, veterans on both sides of a conflict, meet after the war is over.

And there are convivial and chummy that shows you it's all been a game.

Winning a war validates the triumphant party, the victors take it all.

It is proof of a divine blessing, of having adopted right over wrong and of having been chosen.

And this is reminiscent of the Protestant work ethic, which regarded success in business as proof positive of God's favor.

Even the Nazi SS had got mitt uns, God is with us, carved on their daggers and belt buckles.

And finally, war mediates the tension between individual and collective via the concept of self-sacrifice.

Special ops may be the only exception, the middle ground.

Okay, let's move on.

Jacobson asked, what happens to human psychology around war at a distance, a remote war, when you witness war, when you see war on television?

What's happening to you?

On the one hand, I answered, there is the pornography of extreme, gory battle.

War is perceived as the ultimate reality TV.

A video game come alive, a horror film incarnate.

There is vicarious gratification in witnessing all this safely from the comfort of one's living room, of having been spared the atrocities on screen.

There's a smug sensation of accomplishment of having gotten away with this somehow.

Distant wars also legitimize aggressive and entitled virtue signaling and competitive morality, a noxious, self-aggrandizing, ostentatious form of self-imputed altruism and virtue and sanctimonious.

There are of course those who empathize with the dying and wounded and the suffering, and they do their best to help people without seeking the attendant accolades of the professional do-gooder.

Jacobson persisted, what happens to human psychology in a war up close?

Sam Wagner answered, from personal experience, war is a grind.

There is no clear end or horizon to it all.

War feels like it could last forever.

PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is very common, and so is a mounting and all-consuming paranoia, a sense of extreme isolation and ubiquitous threat.

It is as if war is a giant gaslighting experience where the very fabric of reality is torn asunder and is suspect.

In many wars, there is little movement, very few accomplishments.

The scene is frozen, surreal, gruesome death and mutilation, constant companions.

There is an acute fear of abandonment, of getting lost, and an extreme dependency on other people, an external locus of control.

So war regresses its participants to infancy.

They are like babies.

Primitive psychological defense mechanisms take over, splitting, alloplastic defenses, defiance, acting out, crazy-making, moral collapse, magical or superstitious thinking.

Jacobson said, "What separates the psychology of a bystander in war versus a combatant in war?" I answered, civilians in war are instantly and all-pervasively traumatized. They react with the form of trauma-bonding or Stockholm Syndrome.

Civilians perceive soldiers, even the royal soldiers, soldiers on their side, as looming, inexorable, hot-headed, trigger-happy, demented and reckless threats who are hell-bent on endangering all and sundry.

It is as if the civilians are caught in the crossfire between two rival criminal gangs. They are wary of both parties of combatants.

This radical loss of ability to trust and to feel safe, this no-secure base, this yields terror, emotional dysregulation and self-destructive acting out in some people.

In others, there is a freeze response.

Jacobson, when it comes to politics and its psychology before, during and after war, what characterizes the minds of the political class citizen from high to low status in each of these phases of war? I answered, all politicians regard war as a legitimate and integral part of the toolbox of human affairs and, I must say, justly so. Hostilities are always in the background of diplomacy. Violent conflict is ineluctable, inexorable and periodic. In many cases, warfare is considered a superior form of geopolitical signaling and the only efficacious way to secure goals. Politicians are therefore fatalists. They are resigned to war. They are inured to it. They comprehend it as a force of nature and the reification of being human. Jacobson, when it comes to politics and its psychology before, during and after war, what characterizes the minds of the non-political class citizen from high to low status in each of these phases of war? I told him, vociferous protestations aside, people love a good war. It is a prime variant of dramatic entertainment, a kind of exalted sport. They exult in it.

This state of mind comprises also extreme anxiety and fear. Every experience is rendered sharper, more crisp and memorable.

In clinical terms, war is a psychotic fantasy, a mass psychogenic illness of sorts.

Jacobson, what factors of human psychology increase the odds of war and what decrease the odds of war?

I answered, nothing decreases the odds of war. It is a myth that economic prosperity and democracy are bulwarks and defenses against the eruption of violent conflict. They're not.

Conversely, literally everything in human psychology predisposes us to aggression. Even empathy makes us choose sides and aggress against the abuser on behalf of the Vicar in Dujour.

War is therefore the natural state of the human mind. It caters to numerous deep-set psychological needs.

War cleanses, establishes a new equilibrium. War catalyzes the replacement of the old with the new, for better and for worse.

Jacobson, what are the positives and negatives of war in the advancement of human civilization?


War is a cultural social activity that facilitates intimacy, bonding and cooperation. It also brings about war, brings about technological innovation and the emergence of a cathartic, new social or political order, each and every time. It's not an exception.

War is a rite of passage, a redemptive ritual, an engine of progress and a demarcator of eras.

Jacobson, what happens to the mass psychology of a citizenry or a society of the original provoking power, the aggressor and the defender in the long term from war after war?

In other words, what happens to people who are exposed to war on a constant basis?

Humans who are exposed to repeated violence, I told him, in wars, in prison, even in hospitals. Such humans grow insensitive to it. They dehumanize and brutalize both the other and themselves. They are suspended in a post-traumatic state replete with infantile psychological defenses, dissociation, cognitive distortions such as grandiosity and emotional numbing.

Jacobson, given the above, what can be the coda, the summative principles of human psychology at war to comprehend individuals and humanity vis-a-vis war?

My answer was succinct.

Like climate change, war is a human phenomenon.

Rather than confront it self-delusionally, we better accept war and adapt to it.

It is not going away, no matter what we do.

So why waste our scarce resources on its impossible elimination?

Jacobson, thank you for the opportunity and your time, Sam.

You notice at the beginning it was Dr. Wackmin. I ended up as Sam.

The chest-ties Dr. Wackmin responds, "Thank you for enduring me yet again, Scott. You are a brave man indeed." Thank you.

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