I’ve seen a lot of opinions flying around Left Blogistan about what the Israeli government and/or Hamas should have done to prevent this carnage. In one sense, I agree with all of it; in another sense, I find it depressingly academic. As osewalrus elucidates, leaders on both sides who chose to escalate made decisions that were perfectly rational in the short term. Neither side’s leadership is in a position to tell its constituents “I know this concession makes you feel like suckers, but trust me, if we stick it out for another year we will all benefit”, because before that year is up, the leaders can be replaced (or assassinated), or the other side can find some excuse for not making a reciprocal concession, or rogue elements can go out and make their own war. You might as well wish for a Middle East populated entirely by Jewish and Arab liberal intellectuals, whose representatives, elected by two-thirds majorities, could work out a comprehensive final settlement over coffee in an afternoon. And a pony.