Borges, boldness and Israel's mortality

Israel's existence depends on country's ability to confront its possible impermanence.

Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell in Gaza 311 R (photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell in Gaza 311 R
(photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
On its face, Israel's best survival course is to think positively and prepare for the best. Could anything be more obvious?  After all, isn't this advice irrefutably the core wisdom of American philosophical thought?
Perhaps not. Sometimes, especially in matters of life and death, truth only emerges through irony and paradox. In one of his most illuminating parables, Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine writer who once wished that he had been born a Jew, examines the meticulous calculations of a condemned man.
Having noticed that human expectations rarely coincide with reality, this man deliberately imagines the circumstances of his own death. Because they have become expectations, he reasons, they can never really come to pass. 
With this seemingly simple story, Borges uses savvy indirection and subtle inference to illustrate the unlikely benefits of overtly negative thought. He leads us to understand that at least in certain identifiable circumstances of mortal danger, nothing can be more purposefully life-extending than extreme pessimism.
Today, Israel refuses to typify this individual character of Borges. To be sure, this beleaguered country has not been "condemned" to "death," but it does still face indisputable existential perils. The threat comes not only from nuclearizing Iran, but also from several seemingly discrete dangers. The combined effect of rocket attacks from Gaza or Lebanon and Iranian nuclearization could create a uniquely debilitating force multiplier.
For both states and individuals, fear and reality can go together naturally. With this odd fusion in its collective mind, Israel, even its place as the post-Holocaust Jewish community, should soon come to firm grips with its mortality. Then, Israel's leaders could more effectively undertake the political and military policies needed to secure the Jewish State from myriad assaults and ultimately forcible extinction.
Most people, especially Israelis, will consider the advice drawn from this unfamiliar and arcane literature counterintuitive and foolish.  After all, they will argue, fear of death is plainly debilitating. And anxiety? Don't we already understand that such a species of fear is always a symptom of weakness?
What possible advantages could there be to deliberately nurturing any thoughts of national fear and trembling? This suggestion is meshugga (crazy).
The relationship between fear mongering and truth can only be considered ironic or paradoxical. Imagining a collective immortality, one likely encouraged by a panoply of contrived hopes and false dawns, will only discourage Israel from taking the steps urgently needed for its collective self-preservation.  Even in the expanding circles of enlightenment where, at last, there is no longer any faith in the one-sided and delusionary “peace process,” many Israelis will instinctually resist any portents of national annihilation. 
In the fashion of many of its enemies, Israel conveniently imagines its own everlasting life.  Unlike these enemies, however, Israel individually and collectively does not see the ritual "sacred" murder of foes through war and terror as the means to immortality.  Rather, it sees its collective survival as the permanent but complex product of divine protection, reasoned diplomatic settlements, and prudent military planning. These expectations should never be allowed to displace the awareness of possible impermanence.
Strategically, Israel and its adversaries have conflicting interests, which place the Jewish State at a considerable disadvantage.  Israel's enemies, especially Iran, put their hopes for immortality in the slaughter of Jews. In Islam, the Jihadi nexus between these hopes and the slaughter is often codified, fixed, and compelling. Israeli leaders display their own country’s naive hopes for a collective immortality by acquiescing to incremental surrenders of vital lands, and releasing thousands of jailed terrorists in endlessly unreciprocated gestures of "good will."
Now, after a brief interlude of statehood for 64 years, shall the Jewish wandering begin yet again?  Has Israel unwittingly prepared to hand its sworn enemies the Promised Land?
Significantly, in spite of its reassuringly simple charms, the childlike American ethos of "positive thinking" is flush with intellectual error.  By rejecting the patronizing ethos and instead acknowledging conspicuously dreadful military disaster scenarios, the People of Israel may still boldly contemplate connections between Palestinian statehood, Iranian nuclearization, and regional war. 
The alternative, to sheepishly accept the twisted cartography of a "two-state solution," or the inevitability of atomic weapons in Iran, could make an unforgivable mockery of Borges' deducible insights and hidden truths.
Borges' wisdom extends in many unforeseen directions. Eventually, "positive thinking," understood as a wrongheaded denial of national vulnerability, could hasten Israel’s final exit.
In critical matters of Israeli and Jewish survival, American-style expressions of pure optimism may actually be dense with irony and paradox. It's far better for Israel to confront its existential vulnerabilities, and then plan accordingly.
The writer lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945, he was Chair of Project Daniel (Israel, 2003). Among his ten earlier books are Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980), and Security or Armageddon: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (D.C. Heath/Lexington, 1986).