Neighborhood Bully?

  

This one is from a blogger that I’ve linked up to several times in the past. BobFromBrockley questions the strong use of force by the Israeli military in recent weeks, while destroying liberal idols that equate the Jewish State with some sort of fascistic regime. Few on the blogosphere are able to grasp both the nuanced dimensions of Israel’s existential concerns, as well as its more glaring social and political flaws.

From Bob: 

Israel/Lebanon-What About Proportionality?

I suppose I’m going to have to blog about the horrific state of affairs in the Middle East, if only to respond to Adele’s question “what about proportionality?” I guess I’ve got two things to say.

The first is that the way Israel is prosecuting its war in Lebanon and in Gaza is absolutely morally wrong, as well as strategically short-sighted and bad for Israel. It is morally wrong because there must always be a presumption against fighting a war that leads to massive civilian casualties, that kills more innocent families in their homes than it does enemy combatants. This is not to say that a state at war should never kills innocent civilians, but it must minimise these deaths and it must only use methods that lead to this scale of civilian casualties when it is faced by a serious existential threat, such as Israel is not in fact now experiencing.

The strategy only makes sense morally according to a racist moral calculus whereby some lives are worth more than others – whereby Jewish lives are worth more than Arab lives. This moral calculus is obscene.

And it is strategically short-sighted and ultimately bad for Israel because it further alienates Israel – on the Arab street and on the world stage – at a time when Israel could have had the moral high ground, after the kidnappings and rocket strikes by Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel’s status as a rogue state, as a neighbourhood bully, has rarely been so clear. It is the duty of Israel’s friends to demand a stop to this strategy immediately – and not in a couple of weeks.

The second thing I have to say about all this is that, however wrongly Israel is prosecuting this war, it remains the victim here. In the sort of left liberal circles in which I move, there is either ignorance or wilful amnesia about the literally thousands of rockets that Hizbullah and Hamas have been pumping into Israel, about the fact that Hizbullah is not some ragtag bunch of guerrillas but probably the third most effective armed force in the whole Middle East, that Hizbullah is armed to the teeth by Syria and Iran, that Syria and Iran are not peaceful little democracies but highly bellicose and brutal dictatorships. Thus, even if there is no clear and present existential threat to Israel, as long as Hizbullah and Hamas exist (and as long Ba’athism and Shi’ite theocracy exist), the spectre of such a threat continues to haunt the region, and there is no possibility of peace and co-existence.

Israel’s status as a rogue state is so taken for granted in left liberal opinion that the theocratic, inhumane, militaristic – in fact fascist – nature of Hizbullah and Hamas are completely denied. On the far shores of left liberal opinion, in fact, Hizbullah and Hamas are seen as plucky freedom fighters, as the legitimate voice of Arab self-determination, as essentially benign and progressive. It is the duty of truly progressive people to struggle against these malignant myths.

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Saudi Arabia Swings Both Ways

Saudi Arabia’s denunciation of the extremist organizations Hizbollah and Hamas this week for thier war against Israel is not unsurprising. Despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 descended from Saudi Arabia, and despite the well-known faustian pact that members of the Saudi government have made with leading anti-American Wahabi radicals throughout the years, Saudi Arabia has everything to gain in denouncing non-state actors like Hamas and Hizbollah.

With a growing, unemployed youth population, restive and attracted to Islamist propaganda encouraged throughout the madrasah system, one can only surmise that Saudi Royalty (of Fahd descent) are worried about a coup. Non-state actors would affect the dictatorial status of the Saudi regime if they were ever to press for political rights. It is therefore in the regime’s best interests to officially denounce the violence perpetrated by Hamas and Hizbollah, so as to squelch open hostility from Saudi Arabia’s radicalized dispossessed.

Although Hamas is now a democratically-elected majority party with Sunni leanings, it does not subscribe to liberal internationalist etiquette, and thus, is a much less savory representative of the Palestinian cause for the Saudi royalists than the corrupt, authoritarian descendents of the late Yassir Arafat’s PLO. For that reason alone, and not because Hamas calls for Israel’s extinction in its swaggering charter, Saudi Arabia has denounced Hamas actions.

As for Hizbollah, it is a Shiite guerilla movement in a majority Sunni Middle East. It is also a responsible party to the Khobar Tower bombings in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which saw the death of 19 and the injury of over 200 U.S. servicemen and women. (For a firmer grasp of Khobar history, read former FBI chief Louis Freeh’s account of the bombings and Iranian involvement on the Saudi-American Forum)

For Saudi Arabia, consequently, an Iran restrained by Western powers would also produce a more stable authoritarian regime in the elite House of Fahd.

From Reuters:

Some elements and groups have got loose and slipped into taking decisions on their own that Israel has exploited to wage a ferocious war against Lebanon and to imprison the entire Palestinian people,” a cabinet statement said.

“Saudi Arabia stands together with the legitimate and reasonable-minded national forces in Lebanon and occupied Palestine to combat these dangers to the Arab and Muslim nation,” it added.

Saudi Arabia last week criticized Hizbollah and its backer Iran saying “elements” in Lebanon and “those behind them” were responsible for an Israeli offensive on its northern neighbor to stop strikes by the Shi’ite guerrilla group.

Should Israel Commit to Total War?

This blog will be–as promoted–a sounding board for the next “big idea for ambitious minds”, a place to call home after the dark days of ideological warfare.

My goal is to use my current training in political theory to enter into a conversation with as many people as possible on issues related to global stability (terrorism and the threat of nuclear anhilation), toleration (what the enlightenment means in actual terms), democratization (the strengths and weaknesses of imposing democracy), total war (the Schmittian legal analysis of what constitutes an exceptional extra-legal rationale for war), and, to question with great vigour and insight all these meaning-laden issues.

That said, read this downright scary rejoinder by Dr. Louis Rene Beres to the cherished values of pluralism and peaceful conflict resolution. I intend to answer Dr. Beres’ argument for total war in the coming days.

For now I give him the podium.

Louis Rene Beres (P.H.D., Princeton, 1971), a lecturer on international relations and international law is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press:

Israel now faces existential destruction from two main sources: The Islamic Republic of Iran and the aspiring Islamic republic of “Palestine.” One source is an established state with an expanding near-term potential to inflict nuclear harms. The other is a Hamas-led configuration of terror groups that seeks to become a state for the immediate purpose of annihilating an existing state. Neither Iran nor Hamas is particularly subtle or circumspect about what it hopes to inflict upon Israel. On the contrary, both are entirely explicit about their unrelenting intent to commit genocide.

What shall Israel do in order to endure? The use of force in world politics is not inherently evil. In preventing nuclear and terrorist attacks, force is indispensable. All states have a right of self-defense. Israel has every lawful authority to forcibly confront the evil of Iranian missile strikes and Palestinian terror. Facing at least a two-pronged assault on its very survival, it now has the clear legal right to finally reject being a victim. Instead, it has the regrettable but clear corollary right to become an executioner. From the standpoint of providing security to its own citizens – a provision that is central to all government authority – this right has now become a distinct obligation.

Albert Camus would have us all be “neither victims nor executioners, …living not in a world in which killing has disappeared (we are not so crazy as that), but one wherein killing has become illegitimate.” This is a fine expectation, yet the celebrated French philosopher did not anticipate another evil force for whom utter extermination of “The Jews” was its declared object. Not even in a world living under the shadow of the recent Holocaust did Camus consider such an absurd possibility.

But Israel lacks the quaint luxury of French philosophy. Were Israel to follow Camus’ genteel reasoning, the result would be another boundless enlargement of Jewish suffering. Before and during the Holocaust, for those who still had an opportunity to flee, Jews were ordered: “Get out of Europe; go to ‘Palestine’.” When they complied (those who could), the next order was: “Get out of ‘Palestine’.” For my Austrian-Jewish grandparents, their deaths came on the SS-killing grounds at Riga, Latvia. Had they made it to “Palestine,” their sons and grandsons would likely have died in subsequent genocidal wars intended to get the Jews “OUT of ‘Palestine’.”

Failure to use force against murderous evil is invariably a stain upon all that is good. By declining the right to act as a lawful executioner in its struggle with genocidal war and terror, Israel would be forced by Camus’ reasoning to embrace its own disappearance.

Why was Camus, who was thinking only in the broadest generic terms, so mistaken?

The answer lies in his presumption of a natural reciprocity among human beings and states in the matter of killing. We are asked to believe that as greater numbers of people agree not to become executioners, still greater numbers will follow upon the same course. In time, the argument proceeds, the number of those who refuse to accept killing will become so great that there will be fewer and fewer victims. But Camus’ presumed reciprocity does not exist – indeed can never exist – especially in the Jihad-centered Middle East. Here the Islamist will to kill Jews remains unimpressed by Israel’s disproportionate contributions to science, industry, medicine and learning. Here there are no Iranian or Palestinian plans for a “Two-State Solution”; only for a Final Solution.

Martin Buber identifies the essence of every living community as “meeting.” True community is an authentic “binding,” not merely a “bundling together.” In true community, each one commits his whole being in G-d’s dialogue with the world, and each stands firm throughout this dialogue. But how can the dialogue be sustained with others who cannot “bind” in the absence of murder? How can there ever be any conceivable solution to the genocidal enmity of Iran and Hamas/“Palestine” to Israel, so long as this enmity is presumably indispensable to their declared primary meanings in the world?

In national self-defense and counter-terrorism, Jewish executioners must now have an honored place in the government of Israel. Without them, evil would triumph again and again.

For Iran and Hamas, the murder of Jews is not so much a means to an end as an end itself. In this antiheroic Islamist world, where killing Jews is often both a religious mandate and a presumed path to personal immortality, an Israeli unwillingness to use all necessary defensive force will invite mega-death and unrelieved despair.

To be sure, killing is sometimes a sacred duty, but certainly not for the loathsome reasons expressed daily by Iran and Hamas. Faced with undisguised sources of evil, all civilized states must sometimes rely upon the executioner. To deny the Israeli executioner his proper place at this 11th hour of danger would make a mockery of the principle of “Never Again” and would simultaneously open the floodgates of even greater human catastrophes. In the best of all possible worlds, Buber’s “binding” would supplant all “bundling,” but we don’t yet live in the best of all possible worlds. And in our existing condition, we must always remain prepared to fight strenuously for our collective Jewish survival.

Here are some blogs that have reprinted articles by Louis Rene Beres: The Freeman Center, The Black Kettle, IsraPundit, InfidelBloggers and Guy in the Army.