Edward Luttwak
October 17, 2011, 03:35 PM
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I`d been seeing the name of national security expert Edward Luttwak for decades, but until I read David Samuels` interview with him in Tablet I had no idea what a fun interview he is. Luttwak conceives of himself as a cross between Henry Kissinger and Jack Bauer of 24: Talleyrand and Rambo, combined. He interrupts the interview for phone calls in fluent Italian and Korean. (How many people in the world speak Italian and Korean?) He would make a good supervillain in a big budget movie. The only thing that would make this interview better is if at the end, Luttwak shot somebody in the knee to make him talk.

David Samuels, by the way, is one of the most consistently interesting feature magazine journalists in the country. Here`s a segment on Israel that`s very Peter Turchinish:

"Q. Do you think the cost of the violence and other social ills that come out of the [Arab-Israeli] stalemate you are describing is something Israeli society can easily afford, or do you think there is any alternative to it? 

A. I’m not sure it’s a cost. 

Q. Because the strategic depth that it affords and the control over those borders is more important? 

A. Listen, ... Israel’s success as a state has been made possible by Arab threats of different kinds. Arab violence or threats of violence are part of the Israeli soup. There are certain levels of violence that are so high that they’re damaging, and there are also levels that are so low they are damaging. There is an optimum level of the Arab threat. I would say for about nine days of the 1973 war, the level of violence was much too high. Even when Israelis were successful, the level of violence was destroying the tissue of the state. Most of the time, the violence is positive. 

Q. When you say that the effects of Arab violence are positive, you mean that they generate social cohesion inside Israel? 

A. Lenin taught, “Power is mass multiplied by cohesion.” Arab violence generates Jewish cohesion. Cohesion turns mass into power. Israel has had very small mass, very high cohesion. If only the Palestinians understood that, they would have attacked the Jews with flowers."

But without Israel, there would be no Palestinian nation for Palestinian leaders to lead. So, it`s all part of the Great Cycle of Life and everybody is happy (or at least the politicians have jobs).