Polarized politics is dialectical politics. And dialectical politics is bad — a hall of mirrors in which each extreme at once defines itself by its opposition to an ideological enemy and depends on that opposition to enhance its own power and public support, transforming bad events into good news, and positive developments into setbacks.

Think of the interminable dispute in and around the state of Israel. The Palestinian extremist’s greatest enemy is the maximalist Israeli settler committed to permanently annexing the West Bank for Greater Israel. Yet the would-be terrorist’s aims are also advanced by the incendiary words and deeds of the maximalist settler, because they justify greater acts of armed defiance — just as the settler’s cause is furthered by every act of Palestinian terrorism.

The same was true during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, when every bombing by the Irish Republican Army strengthened the hand of hardline Unionists and every Unionist crackdown served as justification for the next IRA bombing. In the end, achieving a lasting peace required short-circuiting the tilt-a-whirl of cyclical provocation.

Put another way: The best way to weaken or defeat one side (or both) in a polarized standoff can be a refusal to play the dialectical …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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