Adam was right to taste the apple. His was a pure rational analysis, not free will: the talking serpents are credible. Moses likewise believed a talking burning bush (not that Bush).

Humans are automata. Decision-making is series of electric impulses in our brains. All fleeting influences are reflected in physical processes: serotonin levels, voltage, etc. Humans, theoretically, are fully predictable, but complexity defies predictability. A predictive machine must model every particular brain—including those of animals—and factor for every remotely relevant event. How remote? Think of Bradbury’s butterfly; the conditioning event could be ages apart from the current decision. Israeli relations with Egypt stem from the mass migration which took place thirty-five centuries ago. The prediction machine would have to know everything that ever happened and delve deep inside all the brains. The machine would have to be omniscient—any lesser knowledge only allows for probabilistic modeling. Free will is the inherent unpredictability of human decision-making, a function of complexity error. The more complex a system is, the less it is predictable, the more it is said to possess free will.

Societies aren’t necessarily more complex than their components, humans. In physics, uncertainty increases towards the micro-world while the universe is fairly predictable. The uncertainty of components combines in systems, but they also cancel each other. At election day, each individual’s mood is unpredictable, but statistics can estimate the overall mood of society. If societies consisted of equal components, they could be modeled with a high probability.

But people in societies are not similar; some are far more influential than others. America invaded Iraq entirely because of one man, Bush. Had he wanted to attack Iran instead, his acolytes would have reinforced that opinion. Iran entered the nuclear race because of one man, Ahmadinejad; before him, Iranian nuclear research was dormant. In the long run, trends prevail: a few men made Russia a communist state, but after decades the country out of habit re-dressed itself as a Slavic empire. Democracies with a four-year election horizon don’t concern themselves with century-long projects, planning only for the short term. It is the short term, however, that cannot be planned, either in economics or politics. Certainly most Islamic countries will have nuclear weapons by 2100, but Ahmadinejad’s reaction to sanctions and Bush’s reaction to Ahmadinejad’s moves remain uncertain.

Political bureaucracies rely on procedures and quantifiable methods. The Soviet Union possessed more tanks and nuclear warheads than NATO, and therefore was deemed a threat. Western politicians could neither comprehend nor explain to the public a subtle, non-quantifiable thing: the Soviet gerontocracy was cowardly and wouldn’t risk its comfortable position in a major war. The Soviets allowed themselves to be dragged step by step into what promised to be a minor war in Afghanistan, but would never have attacked the US. In politics, major decisions often rely on intuition, but intuition doesn’t look good in secret briefs and public policy announcements. Bureaucracies play it safe—and wrong—and stick to the numbers; thus the senseless Cold War, in which neither side would dare to attack the other.

Rationally, Iran won’t nuke Israel. One or two nuclear explosions wouldn’t kill a statistically significant number of Jews or devastate the country, while retaliation would be overwhelming. Syria needs rapprochement with the world community, not the Golan, and wouldn’t gain by starting a Hezbollah-style war over the Heights. The Palestinians want safety and economic development; they have enough land, and will live in peace with Israel.

All of that is rational. None of it is true.