Sunday, July 23, 2006

What Do I Think of the Latest Mideast Conflict?

I haven't posted about this because I haven't been able to synthesize the different thoughts going through my head. But the situation doesn't lend itself to pat answers, so I can't wait for that to happen. In lieu of a careful analysis with themes and a conclusion, I'll present various thoughts I have:

1) Hezbollah sucks. There was zero legitimacy in their beef with Israel going into this mess, since Israel had already pulled out of southern Lebanon.

2) Hezbollah (and other terrorist organizations) suck. Because they purposely use civilian shields and deliberately attempt to a) kill the other side's civilians and b) get their own civilians killed by the other side. They care much more about PR than about civilians.

3) It sucks that using civilians as PR works.

4) It sucks that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people who just want to go about their lives are living with death, fear, and displacement because of events completely outside their control.

5) It sucks that Israel's actions (not to mention the Iraq war) are the best recruitment tools Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda could have hoped for.

6) It sucks that Israel has killed so many civilians.

7) It sucks that so many Israeli partisans don't care about Lebanese civilians.

8) It sucks that anti-Israel bigots assume that all people who support Israel don't care about Lebanese civilians.

9) It sucks that Israel is between a rock and a hard place, in more ways than one. It sucks that they pretty much always will be, at least for the foreseeable future.

10) It sucks that rational debate on this subject is impossible because pretty much everybody on both sides now has had friends and family members killed.

11) It sucks that the crazies on both sides ruin everything for all the regular people. In effect, hardline Arab terrorists are allied with super-right-wing Americans and Israelis in the War on Peace.

12) It sucks that people can't question the wisdom of Israel's actions without being shouted at as if they had criticized Israel's right to use military action.

13) It sucks that people can't question Israel's actions without being branded anti-semites. Even if they're Jewish.

14) It sucks that people can't question Israel's actions without being labeled "vermin," or worse, by people who should really know better.

15) It sucks that even those who explicitly state that Israel has the right to do what they're doing but that it isn't necessarily in their best interest are still yelled at by the aforementioned yellers.

16) It sucks that there is a large segment of the power elite in Washington who are using this suckiness to agitate for war with Iran, which will spread the suckiness immensely.

17) It sucks that the right, as always, is co-opting patriotism (or in this case Zionism) to mean "believing in whatever the right-wing faction currently thinks." Anyone who doesn't agree with these actions is branded "anti-Israel," just as war protesters in the U.S. were called "anti-American."

18) It sucks that Iran is working towards nukes.

19) It sucks that we don't have any good options regarding #18.

20) It sucks that nukes exist.

21) It sucks that nukes will almost inevitably fall into terrorists' hands, sooner or later.

22) It sucks that it's only going to get easier to design biological weapons much more deadly than HIV or malaria. In a couple generations, an average scientist with a chip on his shoulder might be able to kill a billion people.

23) It sucks that so much of humanity's brainpower and resources are devoted to waging war.

24) It sucks that George Freaking Bush is in charge of the sole superpower of the world for another two years. When we most need a wise leader, we have an incompetent boob with the hubris to repeat disastrous mistakes forever.

31 comments:

CyberKitten said...

Yup. Pretty much sums the present situation up.

Sucks bit style, doesn't it?

Orthoprax said...

As I see it, although it is unfortunate, whatever civilian casualties (within reason - I know, a variable term) are made through Israel's military actions, they are directly on the moral shoulders of the terrorist groups. If a bank robber takes an innocent bystander as a human shield and that human shield is killed by an officer's bullet in the officer's attempt to stop the robber, that robber is charged with felony murder - not the policeman.


As I see it, it may not be in Israel's best interests for the "long term" to agitate the Arab and Muslim peoples against Israel by military action, but I think that the only people who can leisurely consider the long term are people who aren't at risk _today_ by terrorist missiles raining on their cities.

I also have zero qualms with the thought of a united coalition military effort against Iran. Unless they change their tune really soon, which they won't, they only mean to do harm to the West (the US and Israel specifically). That is why they seek nuclear arms. I hear Ahmadinejad's hateful rhetoric and I believe him.

universist said...

The greatest enemy we all have is our fear.
The only way to deal with the fear of the schoolyard bully we(I) was told was to stand up to him or he would pick on you more and more and the fear would grow.
I wish their was a way forward where we didn't live in fear as with the Budhist monks of Tibet when China took it upon themselves to comit atrosities beyond human comprehension and the same with the Nazi's and indeed throughout history.
However the Tibetans didn't react with hatred and contempt for their persicutors but with a sense of compassion, pitty and even forgiveness.
I have been brought up as a post war baby boomer thriving on the glamour of the westerns and John Wayne type do gooders, good guys and bad guys. Your sentiment of compassion for the innocent on both sides is correct and admirable.
I agree that the masses are in the main peace loving and want only to get on with their lives. Wether we like it or not we as a participating human being we can't help but to get caught up in politics and look to our leaders for a solution.
I beleive that greed and ego and pride get in the way of true humanism.
We are after all not the almighty that is a power beyond us all.
If ever their was a call fo a greater power to resolve our world and self inflicted problems it must be near that time.
When the tsunami struck Asia and the power and devastation that it caused did nothing to alert the spiritualy blind power mongers of the world to stop conflict, it is no surprize that lessons don't get learnd by the so called leaders.
It might take a greater lesson to avert the attention of those strugling for power and wealth but the biggest price is to ignore the lessons of nature and our almighty mother earth.
We as individuals can only search within our own individual universe that exits in each and everyone of us and try to embrace the miracle of our existance and realise the love that we are capable of giving and exchanging with our fellow humans.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

I know what you're saying, but an analogy more fair to the situation would be a murderer who's holding 30 innocent hostages. If the police went in and just mowed everybody down with machine guns -- or if they bombed the bank -- you'd have an analogous situation. I agree that Israel goes to sometimes extraordinary measures to minimize "collateral damage," and that's commendable, but the total lopsidedness of civilians killed on each side makes Israel look really bad. Israel had two soldiers kidnapped and a bunch of property damage, but what they've wrought in Lebanon is incomparably worse. It may be necessary and therefore as moral as war gets -- and I'm not sure if it is -- but it sure sucks either way.


I also have zero qualms with the thought of a united coalition military effort against Iran.

If I believed we could pull together a legitimately broad and uncoerced coalition (as in the first Gulf War or better) and we had a specific, realistic goal and reasonable exit strategy, and the American people supported it without being lied to, I might support such action. However, given Bush's history, I wouldn't trust him to order a pizza either correctly or honestly.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"I know what you're saying, but an analogy more fair to the situation would be a murderer who's holding 30 innocent hostages."

Ok, and an analogy even more fair would be if half of those 'hostages' politically support the murderer's activities and some of them are even physically and/or monetarily aiding and abetting his activities.

The fact that the Lebanese people allow Hizbollah (and the Palestinians allow Hamas, etc.) to operate within their villages makes the line from 'innocent' to 'collaborator' blurry.

"...the total lopsidedness of civilians killed on each side makes Israel look really bad."

You're right, it's a PR nightmare. But the point is still that the cause is just, the method is moral, and Israel is right to act as it has. I know some people would only be 'morally' satisfied if Israeli casualties were more than the other sides, but Israel is the more powerful of the two sides and it would be downright foolish for it to not use that power to its advantage.

I don't recognize the validity of the statement 'disproportionate force.' It is a political ruse by the European nations to keep the conflict forever simmering and unresolved. If you have the means to crush your mortal enemies and they give you cause to do so, why the heck should stop before you get the job done? Any nation would act likewise.

"but it sure sucks either way"

The whole situation sucks. It sucks that Israel has to live with terrorism and it sucks that Israel has to be lambasted when they try to route out terror. It sucks that people in the region hate Israel so much that every Israeli citizen (with exceptions) needs to be drafted into the military. It sucks that violence is what rules the day there.

A lot of things suck but taking half-measures will only force more death and more suffering and more property damage in the future.

"The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly." - Theodore Roosevelt


"However, given Bush's history, I wouldn't trust him to order a pizza either correctly or honestly."

To be completely honest, all of those political niceties could be flushed down the toilet if I knew that Iran would be neutralized as a threat. Ensuring an exit strategy or a sufficiently wide coalition is small beans when you have a nuclear threat around with leadership crazy enough to use it.

Mark said...

We have a VERY effective response to #18 .. forcing Israel to give up her illegal nuclear weapons. Until such time that we do we are guilty of hypocrisy and double-dealing on an incredible scale .. a scale that comes close to justifying everything that goes on.

It sucks that EVERYTHING we accuse the Muslim world of is something that goes on every single day in Israel; but that we think it is OK for Israel to be doing it, because we are scared of the Zionist lobby and their use of the holocaust card.

Mark said...

"they are directly on the moral shoulders of the terrorist groups"

Like Israel?

Carpet bombing half a country with leaflets telling the civilian population to flee, in an attempt to terrorise the civilian population to leave their homes IS terrorism and very reminiscent of the ethic cleansing through which Israel claimed territories well beyond those of the UN partition plan for the region.

A kill ratio of 10 to 1 is terrorism.

So lets dispense with this preposterous notion that only those opposed to Israel are terrorists ... and lets dispense with this preposterous notion that only Syria and Iran are sponsors of terrorism, when the USA spends $ billions every year on arming the terrorist organisation that is the IDF.

Those who only see the starting point with whatever the latest hostile action against Israel was ARE terrorist sympathizers.

Orthoprax said...

Mark,

Since when are nukes illegal? I don't want Iran to have nukes because their leadership is insane. Israel has shown that despite several wars (one of which was particularly dreadful for Israel) she has refused to use the nuclear option.

Your whole last paragraph is simply libelous.

Orthoprax said...

Mark,

Your last post here is full of silly statements, red herrings and outright lies. It's obvious that you are incapable of a civil discussion.

CyberKitten said...

Knowing how quickly this discussion would degenerate into name calling I think that its very brave of JA to post on the subject in response to the question possed in the previous debate.

I am highly confident that much more heat than light will be produced here....

As JA himself said:

It sucks that rational debate on this subject is impossible...

asher said...

It sucks that the only reporting is of Lebanese civilians being killed after being warned to leave the area by Israel.

It sucks that Hezbollah is only concerned with killing Jews and no one has ever mentioned that.

It sucks that Haifa and other Israeli cities are under constant bombardment from an enemy who sole interest is killing them because they are Jews.

It sucks that mostly socialist and liberal governments can't understand Israel's actions and most conservative governments have no problem with it.

It sucks that the UN, as usual, is totally incompetent.

It sucks that news reporters use Hezbollah spokespersons to give them tours of the bombing.

It sucks that no Hezbollah party leader has been interviewed regarding their latest war effort.

It sucks that anyone can think there are two sides to this story.
Moral relativism doesn't work when one side wants wholesale slaughter of the other side.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

Ok, and an analogy even more fair would be if half of those 'hostages' politically support the murderer's activities and some of them are even physically and/or monetarily aiding and abetting his activities.

Good point.

I don't recognize the validity of the statement 'disproportionate force.'

If a woman tries to slap you and you break her arm, is that fair? Should we be like the Muslim theocrats and chop off arms for stealing? Disproportionate force is sometimes justified, but often unjustified. One could argue that Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the carpet bombing of other Japanese cities were justified, but nuking or carpet bombing Afghanistan, for example, would not have been.

To be completely honest, all of those political niceties could be flushed down the toilet if I knew that Iran would be neutralized as a threat.

Fair enough.


Mark:

Allowing Israel to have nukes isn't a question of fairness. It's a question of U.S. self-interest. Israel is not going to nuke us. But they keep Israel strong in an area where they're the only counter-balance to some very powerful and very evil governments.

It sucks that EVERYTHING we accuse the Muslim world of is something that goes on every single day in Israel

Really? I acknowledge that there are some nutso religious people in Israel and furthermore that the Israeli military does some evil stuff (torture, etc.) but it's hardly comparable. Israel doesn't specifically target civilians as their main objective. Israel allows Arab citizens to vote. Israel allows Islam and Christianity (and Baha'i, etc.) to be practiced openly.

Carpet bombing half a country with leaflets telling the civilian population to flee, in an attempt to terrorise the civilian population to leave their homes

That's pretty cynical. Even if you assume that Israel is doing it just to scare them, it would be more psy-ops than terrorism.

A kill ratio of 10 to 1 is terrorism.

Maybe. But not necessarily.

So lets dispense with this preposterous notion that only those opposed to Israel are terrorists ... and lets dispense with this preposterous notion that only Syria and Iran are sponsors of terrorism

I doubt anybody here had those notions. The IRA was a terrorist group not specifically opposed to Israel (that I know of.) And lots of countries sometimes support terrorism, including Israel and the U.S.

Those who only see the starting point with whatever the latest hostile action against Israel was ARE terrorist sympathizers.

Trust me, everybody commenting here knows the long, awful history of the region.

but that we think it is OK for Israel to be doing it, because we are scared of the Zionist lobby and their use of the holocaust card.

Really? It's because they're scared of... lobbyists and "the holocaust card?" That's a pretty unsophisticated view you have there. You're verging on an "Elders of Zion"-like conspiracy theory. Why should the Zionist lobby be so much more effective than all the other lobbies?


CK:

I am highly confident that much more heat than light will be produced here....

Most likely. I'm going to try to steer it, but we'll see how that goes.


asher:

It sucks that anyone can think there are two sides to this story.

There are two sides to every story, even when one side is more right than the other. The world isn't black and white.

swurgle said...

JA: The suckiness of this whole situation knows no bounds. I admire you for taking this on. Whenever the issue of Israel comes up, I leave the room.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

JA:
I don't want to take anybody on here, I just want to thank you for addressing the subject. I'm just reading and thinking … it sucks that it's such a complex situation, there are no easy answers.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

The only "disproportionate force" is not enough force. You use as much force as needed in order to defeat your enemy (as long as you don't deliberatly target civilians) The U.S. didn's stop attacking Japan after they killed the same number of Japenese as Americans killed in Pearl Harbor. Would it please the Europeans if there were 200 dead Israelis? Would that make everything better?

Ezzie said...

22/24, not bad. :) (16, 24)

asher said...

JA,

Okay fine...please tell me the two sides to the story of Hezbollah. I'd really like you to tell me what legitamate right they have to shoot rockets into civilian targets in Israel, a country which has never attacked them or Lebanon. Apparently, if you say there is another side to this story, you have to be able to say that Hezbollah believes it has a right to blow up people simply because they are Jews and living and Israel. And this is their legitimate side to the story. If you agree that a terrorist organization working with a country has a right to attack a neighboring land which did attack it, you've proven your point.

Can I load the question any more?

jewishskeptic said...

It sucks because you have so many Jewish, so called intellectuals,bleeding hearts (for the enemy!)who identify themselves with the enemy!
Just yesterday,here in Israel,a group of film producers (Jewish!)signed a letter prostesting Israeli atrocities.The letter was sent to their Arab coleagues at a conference somewhere in Europe.
NOT ONE WORD MENTIONING HIZBALLAH!

The same thing with demonstrations last night in T.A.& Jerusalem
with signs protesting Israeli terrorism,without one word about Hizballah lobbing rockets into civilian populations...
And then you have the Noam Chomskys in the U.S. & elsewhere.

No doubt 2000 yrs of exile has affected the psyche of the people,& I don't mean for the better!

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"If a woman tries to slap you and you break her arm, is that fair?Should we be like the Muslim theocrats and chop off arms for stealing? Disproportionate force is sometimes justified, but often unjustified."


You're mixing things up. Would it have been right for the US to go after Al Qaeda after the bombing of the USS Cole? Or would it have been 'proportionate' to do so after the bombing of our embassies in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia? Or after the first WTC bombing?

'Disproportionate force' is not about the force used as opposed to the force required to do the intended goal. Disproportionate force is the force used as opposed to the force deployed against you. It's the idea that if Hizbollah only uses rockets and guns to kill Israelis, Israel can only use similarly low-end force to fight back. That's the recipe for ensuring the fighting goes on for a long long time.

The Europeans just want to ensure that the status quo is realized for as long as possible because they have many interests in the region. This term 'disproportionate force' is the term used to tie Israel's arm's behind its back so that they can never clean house.

I have no doubt that the longer Israel allows Hizbollah to operate the more dangerous and powerful that organization becomes. America should have gone straight after Al Qaeda in 1993 and none of the following events would have happened. But no, that would have been 'disproportionate.'

Does Israel have to wait until they gets their own 9/11 before they can clean out the terrorist den sitting on their backyard?

Jewish Atheist said...

asher:

The two sides to this story are what's happening to Lebanese civilians (not Hezbollah) and what's happening to Israeli civilians. If you read my post, my FIRST ITEM is that Hezbollah has no legitimate beef with Israel.


CWY and Orthoprax:

First of all, note that the two of you are using different definitions of "disproportionate force." CWY is talking about disproportionate deaths and Orthoprax is talking about disproportionate weaponry or tactics. All "disproportionate force" means -- as I understand it -- is that one side is overreacting, or reacting too harshly. In this case, those who make the charge are arguing that a few Israeli deaths, kidnappings, and property damage do not justify hundreds of Lebanese civilian deaths. That's what they mean by disproportionate.

Now I don't begin to pretend I can determine what's moral in warfare. I'm almost more comfortable thinking about what the best strategies are and avoiding war crimes. So when I look at the situation today, I ask myself, is Israel helping itself and are they being fair to the Lebanese civilians (or at least those civilians who do not support Hezbollah.) My answer to the former is I'm not sure, but I doubt it and my answer to the latter is just I'm not sure.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"All "disproportionate force" means -- as I understand it -- is that one side is overreacting, or reacting too harshly. In this case, those who make the charge are arguing that a few Israeli deaths, kidnappings, and property damage do not justify hundreds of Lebanese civilian deaths. That's what they mean by disproportionate."

The only reason Hizbollah exists is to harass Israel and cause civilian deaths with the ultimate goal of destroying Israel and clearing the land of Jews. Just because they've only killed a few people so far doesn't mean that they aren't planning on killing much more in the future. It's great to play the 'proportionate' game and wait until more of your civilians are killed (it sure looks better PR-wise) but I vote in favor of actually stopping those who mean us harm before they do us harm.

They gave us an excuse to start, so let's finish it. I don't like pussyfooting with terrorists.

I mean, the attacks on 9/11 were only a few buildings - and the US then goes and destroys an entire country - Afghanistan. Isn't that disproportionate? Sure is and I support that too. Like I intimated before, had I been politically conscious in 1993, I might have supported a disproportionate force to attack the fledgling Al Quada right then and there.

"My answer to the former is I'm not sure, but I doubt it and my answer to the latter is just I'm not sure."

That's why it's great to be in America where you have the luxury to analyze the moral complexities and vote for action on a purely theoretical basis. It isn't you who has bombs coming down in your town. You don't live just a few miles away from a burgeoning terrorist group who would kill you in cold blood if you gave them the chance. You don't have to worry about how your inaction or hesitation will put your own people in mortal danger.

While you mull it over, please allow Israel to do its job.

A concerned Jewish Agnositc. said...

Thank you!!

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

You keep leaving out the phrase "whatever the cost." Obviously, I'm all for completely wiping out every terrorist group on Earth. Kill every terrrorist there is.

Except that there's always "collateral damage." And unforseen consequences. And a new generation of terrorists. You can't just look at one side of an equation when making choices. The question is not "Should Hezbollah be destroyed?" but rather "Is it worth it?" Answering yes is reasonable, but so is answering no.

That's why it's great to be in America where you have the luxury to analyze the moral complexities and vote for action on a purely theoretical basis. It isn't you who has bombs coming down in your town.

Because people being bombed are more likely to make rational decisions? What's your point here? It isn't you in Lebanon being bombed by the Israelis, either.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Except that there's always "collateral damage." And unforseen consequences. And a new generation of terrorists. You can't just look at one side of an equation when making choices."

I understand that and I do believe Israel is making the right move. Collateral damage sucks and I wish it weren't a fact of war - but it is. And it's even worse the way the terrorists prefer operating in densely populated areas to promote the most number of civilian deaths.

"We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours." - Golda Meir.

The moral burden is on their shoulders.

And as for the possibility of a new generation of terrorists, no nation plans wars for the long term. It's true that the best way to counteract the draw of terrorism is simply to not react at all to terrorism. Completely ignore it. Shield it from the media. Don't let families grieve in public. Terrorists thrive on the public's responses to terrorism. But in the meantime, your people are dying. You can't let those bastards get away with it.

"Because people being bombed are more likely to make rational decisions? What's your point here? It isn't you in Lebanon being bombed by the Israelis, either."

My point is that abstract moral uneasiness is a luxury that people actually at risk cannot afford. If you were in their position you would in all likelihood act exactly as they are acting.

Jewish Atheist said...

My point is that abstract moral uneasiness is a luxury that people actually at risk cannot afford. If you were in their position you would in all likelihood act exactly as they are acting.

Maybe. But that's true of both sides. I don't think it's relevant to the point. I already lamented the fact that it's too hard for people to discuss this subject rationally.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Obviously, I'm all for completely wiping out every terrorist group on Earth. Kill every terrrorist there is.

Unfortunately that's absolutely impossible & a dangerous fantasy.

Because (as JA pointed out)there's always "collateral damage." And unforseen consequences. And a new generation of terrorists.

Anonymous said...

"t sucks that George Freaking Bush is in charge of the sole superpower of the world for another two years. When we most need a wise leader, we have an incompetent boob with the hubris to repeat disastrous mistakes forever."

Oh now there you go again. You wanted Kerry or Gore? That would have been positively scary. Atheist or not, you should be saying B"H Bush is in the White House.

Another anon

Anonymous said...

25) It sucks that the US is going to get involved in this mess one way or another.

And it sucks even MORE that, when all is said and done, that these fanatical terrorists will have an even BIGGER ax to grind with us.

Jack's Shack said...

It is not a great situation. There are no easy answers. You could choose any leader you want, Lincoln, Washington, Ben-Gurion, Sharon, Clinton, Rabin, Eshkol, FDR, Kennedy, whomever and it wouldn't change anything.

Mark,

If the all powerful Zionist lobby was truly all powerful people like you wouldn't have the opportunity to voice your opinion, ignorant though it may be.

Israel is not above criticism, no country is. That is why you hear internal and external criticism. The difference is that some people know how to be balanced and others do not.

Half Sigma said...

It seems to me that Bush is doing EXACTLY the right thing here, which is to let Israel do its job.

Hezbollah, committed to the destruction of Israel, has been building up this army in Lebanon, and the official government of Lebanon had no inclination to do anything about it.

So Israel could have continued to let an army build up on its borders thats committed to its desctruction (stupid), or attack now before the army gets too powerful (smart because attackers have the advantage in modern warfare).

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof said...

It sucks that terrorist groups are called freedom fighters until they bomn the west.

It sucks that lebanon was supposed to dismantle Hezbollah and Blames Israel for defending itself.

It sucks when thousands of muslims are killing thousands of christians in Darfur and the world says screw them there is no money there so we don't care.

It sucks when Commie China has concentration camps for Falun Gong members and harvests their organs while they are still alive and then cremate their bodies and the world says "eh its no big deal"

It sucks when Belaurs enters a full fledged fascist dictatorship under Lukanshenko and no one in the western world knows or cares.

It sucks that there is a double standard: if your a Jewsih State you have to lay down and die for the world but if your not you can kill civilians like in Serbia (Kosovo),Mogadishu,Iraq and Afghanistan like the U.S Did under Bill Clinton and George Bush.

It Sucks that the Kofi Annan is involved in scandalous affairs like recieveing a bribe from the UAE but is still allowed to keep his position.

It sucks when the Frecnh who couldn't control the riots in their own cities for 2 weeks, failing to protect their citizens are telling the Israeli's how to protect theirs.

It sucks when you realize that there are wars,murders,genocides, and all sorts of heinous crimes going on all over the world and all the western world gives a damn about is blaming the Jews for defending themselves wherever possible, and selectively ignoring other citizens of the world.What about aid to the Falun Gong who are being persecuted? "Nah Screw them!" Says the west.

it sucks that Arab Oil Contracts dictate western involvement and It really sucks that people only care about Justice when its lucrative or controversial but completely ignore other areas.