Friday, July 14, 2006

Business As Usual

All day long the main headline in The Drudge Report has been "World Leaders Split" on Israel's attack on Lebanon. That's not what I read. Seems to me America accepts what Israel is doing while the rest of the world condemns it.

As usual, Israel is the only country in the world not allowed to defend itself.


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

I take a sort of odd view on this, but I think it comes from a correct reading of the traditional doctrine of a Just War.

To be just, a war must be winnable. That is a sine qua non. It's okay if you aren't sure you can win it -- that can still be a just war.

But if, like Lyndon Johnson, you deliberately wage war in such a way that victory is made impossible, then the killings you do in that war are no longer justified.

If Israel is serious about stopping the terrorists -- which includes the entire government of Palestine, IMO -- then they are within their rights to wage war. They need to make a serious effort to minimize civilian casualties (which Israel usually does, btw) but they can't be faulted for the fact that some -- indeed, many -- civilians will die.

But if every time the terrorists bomb a disco, the Israelis set up checkpoints to make life unpleasant for people for a week and then take down those checkpoints, that is unjust: not because such actions are not permissible in a just war, but because Israel, by refusing to attempt to win a war, has no right to do such things.

6:57 PM, July 14, 2006  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Of course, checkpoints could also be permissible in a police action. But the same criteria applies: is this part of a strategy to win?

If the LAPD knows that a violent criminal is inside an apartment, they have the right to knock the door in and apprehend him. But they don't have the right to knock down the door, and then just walk away. That would just be pointless vandalism of an apartment building.

Of course, the reason that Israel does this is the exact same reason LBJ did it: the political 'right' is pushing for tough responses, the 'left' is pushing for peace through diplomacy and handouts, and the result, in a democracy, is an inconsistent policy.

And sadly, this leads to one (of many) causes for anti-Israel sentiment: the fact that this has gone on for forty years now. The world is always forgiving of things in the past, but the Israel-Palestinian conflict never ends, so it's always in the present.

If Israel ended the conflict, even using brutal means, the world couldn't scream louder than they already are. But in twenty years, most of the non-Muslim world wouldn't care -- any more than they care about the American annexation of Arizona.

8:00 PM, July 14, 2006  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I'm not sure if I follow the logic. You seem to be saying if Israel tries to fight a war as minimally and humanely as possible, this is morally impermissible? Leaving aside the fact no one knows what is a winning strategy, Israel may feel it's doing the least it can do just so it may survive. Do you think Israel's only choices are complete victory or destruction?

I might add your theory gives enemies a sort of heckler's veto. The more brutal and unforgiving they are, the less you are allowed to fight them, since there's almost no chance then you'll prevail unless you're willing to use tactics and power a moral country might have trouble using.

8:15 PM, July 14, 2006  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Leaving aside the fact no one knows what is a winning strategy...

But some things are known to be losing strategies. Israel, for the past fifteen years, has engaged in two particular strategies with great frequency:

(1) Engage in complex negotiations with the Palestinians, but then declare such negotiations to be in hiatus whenever an individual terrorist bombs a civilian location. Then return to the negotiations after some time has passed.

This strategy clearly is doomed to failure. There is no logic in cutting off negotiations, unless you believe that the folks you are negotiating with are somehow behind this attack or could stop it. If the former, you are at war and should use your real weapons. If the latter, then why restart negotiations even though the other side hasn't actually done anything to restrain these terrorists?

(2) When a terrorist attack occurs, punish the people of that area by means of border checks, etc.

This makes sense only if you believe that you can cause the populace of that village to root out the terrorists among them. This requires them to blame the terrorists, not Israel, for the checkpoints and crackdowns. But it is an acknowledged fact that this doesn't happen: they blame Israel.

Heinlein wrote, "Never appeal to a man's 'better nature.' He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage." But what happens when your enemy doesn't even have self-interest? What happens when he just hates you?

Then any strategy based on reasoning with him must be abandoned.

I don't think it necessarily follows that the only remaining strategies are passivity or all-out attack (this could be the case but you'd need to prove it). But any strategy based on the dream of a peaceful neighboring Palestinian State whose people don't uttery hate all Jews needs to be abanoned.

10:56 PM, July 14, 2006  

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