"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cease Fire: It's National Brotherhood Week

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

---Tom Lehrer, "National Brotherhood Week," c. 1964

Re the current unpleasantness in the Middle East, I see everybody in the world except Israel wants a truce, a cease-fire. War is so danged messy. Can't we all get along?

But no talk of peace, is there? No one offering it, no one suing for it. Because when you want peace with Israel, you tend to get it. (You could ask Egypt and Jordan.) Cease-fires are for suckers, let's face it. Israel is Charlie Brown, the Arab/Muslim world is Lucy with the football. Land for peace? Peace for peace? War for peace?

Doesn't matter. No peace.

Modern Israel (post-1948, that is) for perhaps the first time in its history is without a strong leader, righteous peacenik or dirty warrior. Its people, on their own now, left, right and center, have come to the conclusion after 2000 years or so of nonstop persecution, mere survival can be the Jewish people's only realistic goal.

Today's Jews and their grandparents, fathers and mothers learned during the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler that non-Jews will never really protect them. To fast forward to the present day, there are/were "peacekeepers" in Lebanon per UN Resolution 1559, and Hizbollah brought in their rockets anyway.

Even in 1983, during the Reagan administration, after Hizbollah blew up 241 American servicemen who were in Beirut to get Israel's back, we, the US, fled immediately. The Jews, as they always have been, were on their own.

And neither will the "moral high ground" or the good will of "world opinion" help Israel a whit, because it hasn't at any time in their history.

Leaving the moral tut-tutting that the luxury of our living rooms affords us (living rooms on which no missiles are presently falling), the morality of the real world is that you don't let your children die while you fish for a diplomatic solution. Israel is quite aware of the morality of a comfortable chair thousands of miles away. But they are unwilling to sacrifice their children to it.

Nor is it reasonable to expect them to do so. This isn't about your morality, and it's not about mine. It's simply human nature to protect one's own, and any attempt at moral calculus that doesn't accomodate human nature is useless abstraction. Israel simply doesn't care what everybody else thinks, and I for one cannot blame them.

Because everybody hates the Jews. You could look it up. We all do what we must, and what we must do first is survive, and especially ensure the survival of our children. Anyone who doesn't understand that knows nothing of human beings.

Abraham was asked by his G-d to sacrifice his child Isaac to Him. The difference in understanding between the Torah and Hizbollah, militant Islam, etc., is that Abraham's G-d, in Genesis, duly appreciated the offer, but didn't accept it.

Because that would be inhuman. Sacrificing your own life and sacrificing your child's are two very, very different things.

17 comments:

Francis W. Porretto said...

It's possible -- hard to credit, but just barely within the range of plausibility -- that if the rest of the world were to butt out, the Muslims and the Israelis could reach some sort of accommodation. However, it would require a settling-out period during which the Israelis would have to kick an awful lot of Muslim ass.

This won't occur for a single reason: There are wannabe powers that see the Muslim Middle East, with its oil resources and strategic geography, as the key to the construction of a counter-power alliance that could successfully oppose the United States in world affairs. The Soviets were the last power large enough to oppose us at all successfully. The states of the European Union can't aspire to the Soviets' level of military threat. So they're groping for an economic club to hold over America's head -- and the current situation almost pops out of a slot.

I'm afraid we're in for a long, hard slog. The half-century of warfare in the Middle East to date has been but a preliminary.

Watch Iran.

Michael Simpson said...

I'm entirely puzzled by the equivalence-speak that goes on in discussing the conflict between Israel and its enemies. (How do you describe them? They're not all Muslims - or at least not Islamists. They're not all Arabs - the Iranians aren't. "Neigbhors" seems incongruous.) In fact, there's a basic asymmetry here. If Israel's enemies were to decide (genuinely) tomorrow that they were going to leave Israel alone, stop funding terrorist organizations, stop threatening it with "annihilation", etc. the "conflict" would be over. Done. Finished. Sure, there would be a few Israelis who want to extend the borders to include all the ancient lands, but they're not all *that* powerful. The "conflict" is all on one side - it's Israel's enemies that make the fighting happen and until they decide to stop, it won't. And urging Israel to show "restraint" in the hope that such restraint will induce them to decide to stop seems naive in the extreme.

Tlaloc said...

It always amazes me how the right can invert things in their heads. The Catholics Church isn't a huge organization controlling billions of dollars of assetts and with millions of adherents worldwide, no, they are the small weak little christians threatened by the potent gay agenda!

The republicans aren't in control of all three branches of the federal government as well as a disgustingly corrupt k street graft machine, no, they are the righteous small government conservatives who'd manage to succeed at anything if only the democrats/MSM wouldn't obstruct them!

Israel isn't by far the most powerful military in their neck of the woods and the only power there to have nuclear weapons not mention impervious to any international efforts to reign them due to the US security council veto, no, they are a tiny fragile country clinging on for their very survival!

Seriously, it's a gift.

Tlaloc said...

"If Israel's enemies were to decide (genuinely) tomorrow that they were going to leave Israel alone, stop funding terrorist organizations, stop threatening it with "annihilation", etc. the "conflict" would be over. Done. Finished."

Uh huh, sure. Cause Israel has never attacked their neighbors without provocation, right?

oh wait. The Suez war, the Six Day war, the 1982 Lebanon war, the current Lebanon war...

Apparently Israel does in fact attack it's neighbors without reason.

SO here's a question: conservatives are always railing on about the horrors of appeasement and how terrible a thing it is. So why is it that the Arabs should appease Israel? I mean Israel is the invader that stole land and has slaughtered thousands upon thousands of civilians. The murders of all the terrorist organizations arrayed against her pale by comparison.

So why is it the Arabs have to appease Israel by giving her everything she's been trying to take by force anyway?

James Elliott said...

Casting this conflict in a moral light is ridiculous to the point of idiocy. There is no morality in war. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to make themselves feel better about violating basic human decency. Just War Theory is merely an intellectual exercise among opponents who realize that they might have to interact with one another after a war. A geopolitical struggle like war is far too complex for moralizing and ideology.

My question is: What makes this latest provocation by Hezbollah so different from previous ones that Israel had to respond so vociferously? Tom nearly hits it on the head but then decides to skate over it, his focus being on morality and philosophy and not international relations - as is his right and his wont. The response of the Olmert government is almost assuredly one that Sharon would never have taken. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the point to make isn’t about “proportionality” - a nonsensical moralizing in war if ever there was one - but about accomplishing one’s goals. Israel’s response cannot and will not make it more secure. Indeed, Israel has done the nigh-impossible: it has (temporarily) brought Shi’a and Sunni together against a common foe; a truly dangerous development. Instead of pounding Hezbollah into dust, Hezbollah has replaced al-Qaida and The Muslim Brotherhood as the leading romantic heroes of the radically militant Islamists - they are now the Robin Hood of the Middle East.

Good job, there. Morons. Who’s running this war, Gomer Pyle?
This is not the same as saying Israel should turn the other cheek. I agree that the Israeli government has a responsibility to act to protect its citizens. But part and parcel of that is a responsibility to be restrained, to think several steps ahead, rather than reacting.

Part of the difficulty with the UN’s presence is southern Lebanon is that UNIFIL is forced to abide by typical peacekeeping strictures. As in Rwanda and Bosnia, UN peacekeepers may only load ammunition into their weapons and use them when fired upon. This is a silly rule, meant to preserve the UN’s fetish with “neutrality” - another conceit. NATO would be a far more effective peacekeeping force. There is no neutrality in war. You pick an action and hope that it was the right one.

Which brings me to the frankly disturbing comment by Mr. Porretto. Leaving aside the “Muslim ass” comment - a disturbingly racist one if ever I saw one - for the nonce, let’s discuss the actors here a bit. Truly, I wonder where all the hostility toward Europe comes from. The European Union is a demand-side competitor for oil, along with the United States, China, and India. In terms of oil supply, you have the multinational oil corporations - NGOs - and the countries where the oil is located. The European Union is not interested in creating a counter-pole to the United States: there is a geostrategic element to that dynamic that Europe is almost pathologically opposed to embracing. The U.S. should be afraid of the increasing ties between Venezuela and Iran, and Venezuela’s increasing influence in Latin America, not Europe.

The West spent generations exploiting the Third World. Is it really any wonder, after those generations, that the Third World wants to kick our ass? I’m not saying we should stand and take it out of some bullshit multi-generational existential guilt complex, but let’s at least try to understand why we’re in this situation to begin with! The Middle East, Africa, and Latin America have recognized that they are sitting on the single most valuable natural resource in the world, one the West desperately needs for its economic well-being. And now they want to eat at the adult’s table. Israel is the only First World, Western-style country in the Middle East, making it a useful proxy in this conflict.

Israel is a vibrant, complex democracy with a stimulating and exciting society. This is a threat to the “order” in the Middle East. By manipulating Israel into attacking Lebanon, Israel has succeeded only in destroying the only other vibrant, complex democratic society in the Middle East: Lebanon. Doing so causes near-irreparable harm to its long-term security.

Stickwick Stapers said...

tlaloc,

Whether or not you think Israel's response in any of those conflicts you listed was disproportionate, none of them were unprovoked, i.e. you will have a very difficult time making the case that Israel, out of nowhere and apropos of absolutely nothing, has attacked anyone at anytime. Each of these conflicts were provoked by acts of aggression toward Israel (and its allies).

James,

"Muslim" does not connote race. There are Arab, black, white, and Asian Muslims.

James Elliott said...

Stickwick,

By referring to Israel kicking "Muslim ass" Mr. Porretto is clearly referring to the Arab Muslim world. But indeed, in a larger sense, you are correct. What's the equivalent term to anti-Semitism when directed at Muslims?

Doug said...

James,

The equivalent is "anti-Semitism" as Arabs and Jews are both semitic people.

Joseph said...

If you're an antiquarian, does that mean you're opposed to quarians?

If you anticipate, do you hate cipates?

Are the Antilles about to declare war on the Lles?

Does the element antimony chemically neutralize the element mony?

Should you avoid eating antipasto and pasto at the same meal?

Stickwick Stapers said...

James,

Would not simply "anti-Muslim" suffice? It doesn't quite elicit the same emotional punch as "racist," but it's more accurate.

As to your assertion that Fran is referring to the Arab Muslim world, that's problematic, too. Presumably Fran's sentiments extend to Iran's collective "Muslim ass," and, as any Iranian will point out, they are not Arab, but Persian.

James Elliott said...

And your point is what, precisely? That Porretto's comment is not odious because my objection didn't use the proper semantics? Is this the idiotic death by a thousand nitpicks that passes for refutation among conservatives these days? "You incorrectly identified his offensive remark! Your point is therefore completely invalid!" Can we get some sort of substantive remark here, or what?

ELC said...

"And now they want to eat at the adult’s table." Looks to me like they want to smash it to pieces. (Sorry if that was a racist remark. Well, not really sorry....)

James Elliott said...

"Looks to me like they want to smash it to pieces. (Sorry if that was a racist remark. Well, not really sorry....)"

I'd say it's a fairly astute, as well as vivid, remark. Whether you believe it or not, I don't make such accusations lightly - clearly you have made the mistake of conflating my liberalism with histrionics. Though I am perturbed by your intimation that you find such remarks acceptable, it could also be interpreted as critical of me and not necessarily accepting of Porretto's remark; I am honor-bound to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Stickwick Stapers said...

James,

You want substantive remarks, and I would like to oblige, but frankly I'm not sure what to make of your comments. At first you state that there is no morality in war, and then you say: "There is no neutrality in war. You pick an action and hope that it was the right one." How can there be a right action in war if there is no morality in war? If you really believe that there is no such thing as Just War, then do you think the war against Nazi Germany was wrong?

It is stated in the Koran, and believed by many Muslims, that it is their duty to God to convert everyone on the face of the earth to Islam, if not by persuasion then by force. Would you argue that it is immoral to resist a war in which Muslims (or anyone else for that matter) are trying to impose their religion on everyone else?

As for the effectiveness of what the Israelis are doing right now, it was already the case that the Shi'ites and the Sunnis were united against the Israelis. The Shi'ites were pounding the Israelis and the Sunnis were pounding the Israelis -- what difference does it make if they decide to hold hands while they're doing it?

The fact is that the vast majority of the Muslim world is in agreement that Israel must be destroyed. Some of the governments, like those of Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey, understand the larger political implications of direct action, and realize that destruction of Israel through conventional warfare isn't going to happen. These governments have become moderate, but they are sitting on a decidedly non-moderate, very anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-West population. Now when it comes to the surface people are acting as if all of this is brand new. It's not.

There may be incessant fighting amongst Muslim groups, but the only substantive way in which they disagree is on the means, the feasibility, and the willingness to endure destruction on their own people in order to destroy Israel. The people who are suddenly afraid of all the anger and shifting loyalties taking place in the Middle East are people who simply don't understand what's been lying under the surface to begin with. Israelis aren't generating anything new here, they're bringing it out in the open. The fact is, the majority of Muslims have a genocidal hatred of Israelis. Until that goes away, you only have two choices. You can sacrifice the Israelis -- millions of men, women, and children. Like that Hezbollah creep said, let's gather the Jews into one place so it's easier to kill them all. Or you can do what international law and morality call for, and defend a democratic and free nation from this genocidal hatred.

When is the last time in history that a group of people espoused a genocidal hatred of Jews? Who else does that sound like? Everyone's calling for appeasement and saying, please, don't make Muslims mad. It's the 1930s all over again with Israel as Czechoslovakia. Muslims deeply covet Israel, just like Nazis coveted Czechoslovakia, and if the West gives in and lets the Israelis suffer and get worn down, then we're in an exact replay of WWII. If Hezbollah gets sh*t-kicked, and we punish Iran and Syria for supporting it, then maybe, just maybe, we'll avert another world war. Anyone who condemns the Israelis for what they're doing are either closet anti-Semites like the French, or they are cowards or absolute fools.

I appreciate that you describe Israel as a vibrant and free society, but Lebanon? Up until a year ago Lebanon was occupied by Syria. You can't have a vibrant democracy that's only a year old. Syria didn't really leave, in the sense that they left Hezbollah behind to do the dirty work for them. This so-called vibrant democracy can't even assert its authority over parts of its own country. The government in South Lebanon and in the suburbs of Beirut is not the Lebanese government. It's Hezbollah, which performs all of the functions of government in those areas. Israel attacked the state of Hezbollah, which is inside of what should be Lebanon, but is so in name only. There is a de facto nation called Hezbollah that exists, and it hides behind this facade of Lebanon.

Doug said...

James,

There is morality in war. world War II was, in my opinion a moral war at least from the US and Western European view. Fascism had to be done away with at all costs even if it meant surrendering large parts of Eastern Europe and Asia to a communist dictatorship. Furthermore, stating that the "Israelis would have to kick an awful lot of Muslim ass." is not a racist remark in any way. Most Arab Muslims and Israelis are genetically cousins, much like the Irish and the Scots or the Russians and Ukrainians. The exceptions to this would be the Iranians and the Afghanis, neither of which is from semitic stock.

Finally, the Israelis do have a right to a state and sovereignty. This was guaranteed in the Balfour Declaration. Nothing has changed since then except for 58 years of attacks on the State of Israel by various Arab countries or their proxies.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thank you James, for your well-considered essay. True, I didn't go into the material effectiveness or strategic wisdom of Israel's response. Far better covered at places like The Belmont Club.

But I do not think Shia-Sunni handholding in hostility to Israel can survive more than a consecutive ictory or two. At least, I hope they stick to form. And, again for the record, it's Mr. Porretto to you, Mr. Elliott. (And to me, and all our guests.) Please.

Ms. Stickwick Stapers, welcome, and I like your blog. As a matter of accuracy, the Qur'an states there is no compulsion in religion. Unfortunately for our modern and wholly political age, there is compulsion in politics, which means that Islam is the state, and shar'ia is the principle of law.

Non-Muslims are welcome to live in peace under the Islamic state, as long as they don't evangelize and pay the dhimmi tax for their infidelity (infidelness?).

Joseph, thanx for your $0.02. We get our share of nonsense around here, and at least you meet our aspiration that it be entertaining.

Doug, you might turn out to be one of those people I have great trouble disagreeing with. Cheers.

Tlaloc said...

"Whether or not you think Israel's response in any of those conflicts you listed was disproportionate, none of them were unprovoked, i.e. you will have a very difficult time making the case that Israel, out of nowhere and apropos of absolutely nothing, has attacked anyone at anytime."

Are you familiar with the suez conflict? That's about as unprovoked as it gets. The Egyptians had nationalized the Suez canal. Britain was pissed. SO they convinced Israel to attack Egypt so that they could then come in as the neutral third party and retake control of the canal.

Reall Really.

My list was of wars exclusively started by Israel without provocation. Take the most recent. Attacks by Hizbollah could be seen as a provocation but Israel hasn't just warred on Hizbollah- they have warred on all of lebanon and all of lebanon did absolutely nothing to provoke that.