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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pavlov and the Prisoner Swap

Many countries throughout the world, like Russia for instance, take a very hardline stance toward potential plane hijackings on their soil. They warn that any plane that is hijacked will be stormed and all hijackers will be shot on sight. While this hardline stance would put many that are hijacked in immediate danger, the policy makers believe that ultimate such a hardline policy would ultimately save more lives than it cost by discouraging would be hijackers from even attempting such an undertaking. This is the national security version of Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning.

is a form of associative learning that was first demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov[1] . The typical procedure for inducing classical conditioning involves presentations of a neutral stimulus along with a stimulus of some significance. The neutral stimulus could be any event that does not result in an overt behavioral response from the organism under investigation. Pavlov referred to this as a Conditioned Stimulus (CS).
Conversely, presentation of the significant stimulus necessarily evokes an innate, often reflexive, response. Pavlov called these the Unconditioned Stimulus (US) and Unconditioned Response (UR), respectively. If the CS and the US are repeatedly paired, eventually the two stimuli become associated and the organism begins to produce a behavioral response to the CS. Pavlov called this the Conditioned Response (CR).

Just more than two years ago, Hezbollah terrorists illegal entered the sovereign nation of Israel. They killed several soldiers that guarded the border and took two more hostage. Like any other legitimate military power, Israel has a hard and fast rule about protecting their soldiers in such instances. They normally stop at nothing to rescue soldiers taken by the enemy. There are many reasons and Pavlov's theory is among them. They want their own soldiers conditioned to believe that their country will stop at nothing if ever they find themselves in such a situation and the same for their enemies.

This incident set off a war that Israel, frankly, fumbled and fought half heartedly. Furthermore, Israel ended the war before either destroying Hezbollah or retrieving their own soldiers. Since wars are won or lost and not ended, and Israel didn't achieve either objective, they lost.

Today, things were compounded even more when the remains of those two soldiers were exchanged for some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world.

Now, if we were to approach this whole affair from Pavlov's perspective, here is what we have. Hezbollah illegally entered Israel. They illegally killed multiple soldiers guarding the border. They illegally took two more hostage. Then, that set off a war that public pressure ended before Hezbollah suffered any long term damage. Their reputation grew and now they have recovered 12 of their own brothers for the remains of the two soldiers that Hezbollah ultimately killed.

What sort of conditioning has Hezbollah learned from this? Does it sound like they have been encouraged or discouraged to perpetrate more illegal border incursions in the future? Does it sound as though they have been discouraged or encouraged to take more hostages? Does it sound as though they have been discouraged or encouraged to start more wars?

This prisoner swap is the culmination of many wrong and half hearted measures that will no doubt lead to further escalations soon enough.

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