Recently by Jack D. Douglas: The US Farce of the Drone
“Playing a Game of Chicken” seems to be a term taken from American teen-ager pop-cult. The game was made famous as early as 1955 in James Dean’s classic teen flick, Rebel Without A Cause, in a scene in which two separate cars are driven at top speed toward a cliff. The first driver to stop or veer away from sudden death is the loser — a “chicken” lacking courage. There are movies since then depicting variations on that specific form of the “Game.” (There are probably earlier forms of it which I do not know.)
Needless to say. this is a very dangerous game unless both — or all — the participants are “wimps” willing to veer off early and avoid sudden death by choice or, far more likely, by accident — misjudging the distance it takes to turn away, losing brakes, etc.
The use of the term in other realms such as strategic analysis of conflicts between enemy nations is obvious. The actual practice is probably very rare except in some arms build-ups and war-mongering, jingoistic battles of taunts which make it harder and harder to turn away because more and more “face” is lost.
But we seem to be seeing an incredible instance of a three way “Game Of Headless Chicken” between the U.S. and Israel and Iran. The U.S. and Israel, aided by their puppets and allies, keep imposing more and more strangling embargoes and other very painful measures on Iran, and threatening to attack and annihilate Iran’s nuclear facilities and inevitably much else, if they do not do as ordered by the U.S. and Israel, including most importantly proving that they are not planning to build nuclear weapons. Iran totally denies this but refuses to obey and does not [or cannot?] prove they are NOT planning to build nuclear weapons. For a long time Iran merely resisted the taunts and refused to obey the commands and continued building their clearly observed, non-weapon nuclear programs, insisting they have no such plans and obviously no one outside has any proof they do. But recently they obviously decided they have to explicitly join this game of chicken against the U.S. and Israel and any supporting nations. They are now issuing counter orders to the U.S. and its puppets and allies, such as “Keep your carriers out of the Strait of Hormuz or else.”
Now any of the three major players — and maybe some lesser players — who backs down [veers off and does something to appease the others] severely loses face and is set up for more and more commands of obedience.
Consequently, they are less and less willing to veer off in any way, such as by compromising, and negotiating such a new move has become far more inherently uncertain, since there are now three primary players that can act independently and many lesser ones who can do so.
Moreover, they are playing some crucial parts of this game in the very narrow waters of the Strait and Gulf where there have been many dangerous mistakes and chosen wars before. And they are playing with missiles and other weapons that can be fired and hit targets in a few minutes, so an accidental Pearl Harbor can happen at any minute.
Even worse, they all know that any forces that do not launch immediately upon any sign of attack can be destroyed in minutes and devastate the chicken who did not fire immediately on suspicion of attack.
It looks to me like they have unintentionally, step by step, created an exceedingly dangerous War Game of HEADLESS Chicken in which the whole thing can blow up into attacks all around without anyone ever intending to do that, a situation possibly even more volatile and unstoppable once it gets going than the situation that led to the horrific World War I without the “heads” actually deciding to fight a vast war. The ruling heads then set early mobilization in motion and the massive plans and movements led others to rush to the next stage of mobilization, which led others…
Word War I started with a single shot, then grew and grew and became an immense war that killed tens of millions, maimed scores of millions, destroyed vast empires and many nations, and set the stage for the more immense and destructive WW II, many later wars and our global dilemma today of Nuclear Mad.
Israel and the U.S. look to me to be like that crazed, paranoid assassin who fired one shot in the Balkans which led in vastly complex, interdependent, inherently uncertain ways to a global catastrophe that still endangers all of mankind.
The whole vast Middle East and South Central Asia are already fighting wars, drifting wildly into civil wars, very explosive tinderboxes in a world in a Great Global Crisis on the edge of vast national implosions. This is one of the most inherently uncertain and dangerous situations mankind has faced and we are ruled by very ignorant bureaucrats and demagogues who understand none of this. And they are playing a vast Real War Game of Headless Chicken with many paranoid participants pulling the triggers.
Jack D. Douglas [send him mail] is a retired professor of sociology from the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on all major aspects of human beings, most notably The Myth of the Welfare State.