Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Scariest of Them All?

Or, how Max and Moritz learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

− I understand that congratulations are in order for us.

− How so?

− Because we got through August safely. Well done.

− Don’t count your chickens so fast. Wait. First of all, we still have a few hours. And we all know what “a few hours” can mean in a region like ours. Second, after August comes September. Need I say more?

− Say more about what?

− About what “September” means in a region like ours. Not to mention October. And I don’t even want to talk about November.

− They’re that determined, Max and Moritz?

− You have no idea. The two will not rest until they have realized their apocalyptic vision. All the attempts at persuasion only entrench them more strongly in their position. It’s already beyond the bounds of the rational.

− But what about the international community, American pressure, domestic opposition, the sheer implications of the act? Does nothing influence the dynamic duo?

− It all slides off them like water off a duck’s back, to quote Raful. They are determined, fixated. By now it’s a matter of personal honor. As far as they are concerned, the train has already left the station. And, by the way, so has the one coming in the opposite direction.

− Maybe it really is psychological warfare? A question of who will brake first.

− Absolutely. A war of psychology in which no more than 500 people will be killed. The rest will be killed in the regular war.

− That reminds me of...

− Exactly. George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Remember? Turgidson says to the president, “Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing, but it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, postwar environments: one where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed.”

− And the president breaks in and says, “You’re talking about mass murder, General, not war.”

− And the general replies coolly, “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say ... no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops. Uh ... depending on the breaks.”

− And in our case, as I understand it, the two “postwar environments” which are “regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable,” are either a nuclear neo-Nazi holocaust or a hundred-year Islamic war.

− Tops! Depending, of course, on the breaks.

− But it’s just two decision makers in the face of the whole world. Can no force stop these two people from running amok?

− Nope. One is cobbling together a parliamentary majority, the other was chosen by higher powers. Anyone who gets in their way is trampled, silenced with the iron hand of the regime and its fanatical loyalists. Look what happened to the elder statesman who called for moderation. They jumped him like a pack of dogs, tore him apart like a fish.

− But what can Rafsanjani do against Khamenei and Ahmadinejad?

− Who’s talking about Rafsanjani? I’m talking about Shimon Peres.

− Excuse me. With all due respect for his mental and physical agility, how much influence can Peres exert on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad?

− Who’s talking about those two amateurs? I’m talking about two genuine weirdos: Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu. Anyone who saw them being photographed together wearing the same black shirts and the same sunglasses and with the same posture − hands on hips − had to recall the black-shirted, sunglasses-wearing Tonton Macoutes, Papa Doc’s secret police in Haiti. They, too, did all they could to impose fear and make people think they possessed voodoo powers.

− But the witchcraft doesn’t seem to be working. Otherwise they wouldn’t be rushing to ingratiate themselves with the bearded, black-robed priest of religion.

− Listen, that’s how it is in the Middle East. At the edge of every new spring and dawn of a new day, there sits a man with a white beard clad in a black robe who hands down his ruling and pulls the plug on everyone. That’s how it works in theocracies, and it makes no difference if they’re Islamic or Judaic. You can’t make a move without the authorization of the men of God, accompanied by a juicy curse and prayers for the annihilation and extinction of the enemy. To paraphrase one of the last secular leaders in these parts, Ben-Gurion, you can say that in today’s Middle East anyone who doesn’t believe in curses, prayers and a war of Gog and Magog doesn’t know what realpolitik is.

− And freedom of speech, humor, openness, equality: we should forget all that, eh?

− Abandon it, all those who enter the gates of our region. Beneath the suit-and-tied Western-style types lurk power-hungry desert chieftains. Look at the first thing the man does when he comes to power: not peace, not social welfare, not a future for the country − he takes control of the media. This one insulted him, that one carried out an investigation. So he launches an assault on the opposition papers to liquidate them, appoints editors and shapes journalists who will serve him and his propaganda. He floods the streets with his newspaper in order to stifle all the others, seizes control of the public broadcasting service and openly abuses the only television channel that still shows some sort of free spirit.

− Well, obviously. After all, he owes his whole career to the fundamentalist forces that brought him to power.

− And to Shadelson, of course.

− The billionaire? What’s the connection? It’s one thing to run candidates for the presidency in America, but I didn’t know he had influence on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

− Wait a minute, were you talking about Morsi or Netanyahu?

− Never mind, whatever. The truth is I already miss the postwar environment of the last war.