With all the handwringing about Israel’s “disproportionate” response to hundreds of rockets (and thousands more in wait) being fired willy-nilly at its civilian population from over the Lebanese border, almost absolute silence in some quarters about Hizbollah itself.
So let's get to that part first.
As Alan Dershowitz reminded us the other day, you hide behind a civilian while you're shooting up the place and the civilian gets killed in the return fire, it's you who hold the moral (and legal) responsibility. Your intended victims have the right to shoot back---in the real world, self-preservation is always justified. (In fact, a fellow named Beccaria inveighed against capital punishment because even a justly condemned man has the right to fight for his life. An elegant argument, that.)
Theories of "just war" have been thrown around, too. Hizbollah has not a prayer of defeating Israel. Therefore, according to Just War Theory, Hizbollah has initiated an unjust war. The news coverage by the Arab media and the US press has highlighted the misery of Lebanese civilians, but war cannot be fought without mistakes or even criminal acts by the warriors, even the "good guys." Such is the nature of war, and of human beings.
But it was Hizbollah who loosed these remorseless dogs of war, and let's be clear, this is war. Ten thousand rockets pointed at Israel's civilian population make it so. The moral and legal responsibility is Hizbollah's.
That is (or should be) the easy part. However, the water gets deeper in a hurry.
It was Ward Churchill who opened a Pandora's Box that none of us really want to peer into. People are going to die. Civilians are going to die. The question is who, and whose.
A difficult moral case arises when a civilian population lets murderers operate freely in their midst. In Lebanon, Hizbollah has public offices, holds marches to cheering crowds, and certainly didn't move thousands of missiles to the Israel border without anyone noticing. And if Lebanese choose to live in apartments above Hizbollah headquarters, that's hardly Israel's fault either.
The fact is, Hizbollah is quite popular in southern Lebanon and nobody lifted a finger to stop them taking over for all practical purposes.
If there's a sniper in my neighbor's window killing my family, I'm taking him out even if I have to blow up the place, unless the sniper took the occupants hostage, which, for the sake of this illustration, is not the case in southern Lebanon. The "innocent civilians" there watched Hizbollah bring in 10,000 rockets with which to murder the Israeli civilian population. To maintain otherwise is naïve or disingenuous.
"They're Israel's problem," they must have thought. Guess again. They're yours. That's how it works in the real world. If it's my family or yours that is to die, sorry, you're out of luck, because you let the murderers in your front door.
Lebanon's civilian population brought this on themselves, and are morally complicit (indeed many are members of Hizbollah themselves, another inconvenient truth).
If Hizbollah starts launching rockets at Israel, and they have, Lebanon takes the consequences (and Israel has been good enough to drop leaflets warning of impending attacks, which of course the Hizbollah murderers do not).
I should be past being appalled at the moral cowardice of some of the more Enlightened folk in the West, who can only work up a decent indignation for Israel failing to meet the highest of standards and barely a word for the bad guys who have no standards at all. On the scale of moral outrage, Hizbollah is a 9, Israel a 2. Talk about "disproportionate."
I am past being surprised, but not yet jaded enough to be past being appalled.
There is also a confused moral calculus that somehow Israel's civilian casualties should be somewhat "proportionate" to Lebanon's. Utter rubbish.
The civilian deaths at Hiroshima were a great human tragedy, but not one fresh-faced Iowa GI was morally required to give his life to avert it, nor was President Truman obliged to sacrifice his own people. (Ironically, there are fresh-faced Iowa GIs voluntarily risking and giving their lives at this very moment to protect the lives of civilian Iraqis from Hizbollah's murderous cousins.) Perhaps Japan's individual civilians were in a sense blameless, but not as blameless as the Iowa GI.
The Japanese warlords, and Hizbollah, brought it on. The people of Japan and Lebanon let it happen.
Not one Israeli child should be asked to die at Hizbollah's hands. And for those who sit back and moralize in the comfort of a peaceful country, expecting those in mortally besieged ones to let their children die for your tut-tut morality, well, imagine a sniper just shot some of your children dead from next door. He has unlimited ammunition and is targeting more of them.
No, I don't think you are able to imagine that. It's far too real.