Friday, July 21, 2006

Israel At War: Problems and Fallacies
By Alexander Marriott

Now that Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestian people (who elected Hamas), the people of southern Lebanon (who sit idly by as a group of armed thugs turn their country into a base of operations), Syria, and Iran have showed their hands and begun a shooting war with Israel (that Israel is finally recognizing with a sizeable retaliation) all of us have been witness to the essence of what is wrong in the world today. The enemies we face are equivocation, relativism, context dropping, and all sorts of other inanities one can find in ivory tower settings where most of the leaders of the world, good and bad, were taught and where they still live, intellectually. The media, even the alleged administration lapdogs at FoxNews, have engaged in this to an alarming degree as well. The media and most world leaders speak in near unanimity, wringing their hands and desperately wondering when the violence will end (the assumption being that is should end immediately).

To cut through the whole morass which has descended upon us since hostilities commenced (which everyone, including me, is rather preposterously dating to when Israel started its campaign against Hezbollah, as opposed to years ago when Hezbollah began its campaign agaist Israel and the United States) would be an immense undertaking, but some of the most blatant problems in the approach of the media and world governments are easily identifiable and easily countered. For instance, the call for an immediate end to hostilities on both sides is an equivocation between offensive and illegal violence perpetrated by state-backed terrorist groups like Hezbollah and perfectly legitimate defensive measures taken by the Israelis.

Kofi Annon has joined the corus of much of the rest of the world by condemning the Israeli response as "excessive" or "disproportionate." People seem to have forgotten what war is. Sherman described war as hell, and he unleashed hell upon a rebellious, slave-holding south during the American Civil War. Sherman and countless other commentators on war were right to describe it as one of the worst things one could see or participate in. War is death and destruction. These are axiomatic truisms about war. Because war is so terrible does not mean we then submit ourselves to things worse that war, worse than death. Such things exist in the world. Such things as slavery, which would certainly come to any free country that refused to defend itself. A life with no hope of liberty and freedom is no life at all. Our country is dedicated to that premise. It took hundreds of thousands of lives to finally realize this goal. When a country is attacked and a state of war commences there is no such thing as proportional responses and measured retaliations. It is a risk of war, especially when one purposely engages a much stronger opponent, that the response could and probably will be harsh and respresentative of the maximum damage that opponent can inflict (Israel has not done this as their maximum damage is represented by nuclear weapons). To whine about this is only the cunning move of the terrorists and their backers to play on the downright gullibility of western leaders, including the Israelis who have pledged to avoid civilian casualties. All casualties in a war are ultimately the responsibility of the party who started the war. This is not a schoolyard fight we are talking about here where schools now hold both parties accountable. The party which attacks, crosses a border, embargoes, etc. first is the party which commences hostilities. The casualties, civilian or otherwise, are the responsibility of those who look to start wars, not those who respond. Once a war commences the attacked party is not obliged to keep a defensive posture, in fact, such a move is unwise, the offensive is how wars are fought if one wishes to win, and winning a war is the quickest way to end it.

Lebanon is not innocent. Lebanon cannot claim territory it does not control. If it does and the people who do control it (Hezbollah) begins a war then the Lebanese cannot be surprised when they are bombed, invaded, or whatever else happens to them. If they want to disassociate themselves from Hezbollah without destroying them, then all they can do is renounce their claims to all territory which Hezbollah controls and use their army to make sure Hezbollah does not take over the territory they do wish to control. The Lebanese government cannot have its cake and eat it as well. They cannot claim territory which Hezbollah controls and then say they have nothing to do with Hezbollah's acts of war against Israel, this is sophistry at its worst.

Civilians are not sacrosanct in war. This goes for American citizens, myself included, as much as any other civilian. War is death and destruction, of civilians especially. Terrorism is a tactic of people at war. The Islamic fundamentalists and the states that they control have chosen terrorism, almost exclusively against civilians, as their main tactic because they are militarily so much weaker than their opponents it's really their only option with the plausable deniability necessary to avoid immediate response. It is also a tactic, when aimed at civilians in democratic governments, that assures a weakening of the resolve of the the people, which may lead to some change of governmental policy that terrorists don't like. It may also lead, much like Spain, to the total abdication of self-defense. In World War II, both sides targeted cities and civilians as a way of assuring that their opponents capacity for making war deteriorated and to weaken the resolve of their opponents. These were perfectly legitimate methods of trying to win a war, and they still are. They were and are terribly destructive of human life and infrastructure. That's the whole point. If war is not so costly as to force one side to quit then war could conceivably go on ad infinitum, ala the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It matters why a country or group is at war. To lose the context and just see Israel and Hezbollah as two butting rams, both the same, is to do a grave injustice. Hezbollah fights to destroy a free people and wipe a country away. Israel fights to make sure their people can live without being kidnapped, blown up with rockets, blown up by suicide bombers, or totally annihilated. One of these goals is heinous and unjust, the other is perfectly legal and common sensical. If Israel wished to gain territory they could have easily invaded and conquered Lebanon (not to mention they could have chosen to stay in Gaza and the West Bank and consolidate their positions), that is obviously not their goal. Israel is the victim and is engaged in a war. The only rules of war concern chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and prisoners. These rules are in place, among the general agreement of most nations, to avoid complete bloodbaths, the destruction of large swaths of the planet, and the needless destruction of honorably surrendered and captured soldiers. No paper charters will prevent the violation of any and all of these rules in a war that becomes serious enough, a fact everyone should be mindful of. War is hell, but dropping context, equivocation and putting justice on par with its opposite is sure death.
Bush Veto Correct but for wrong and irrational reasons
By Alexander Marriott

President Bush issued the first veto of his presidency this week in order to prevent federal money from funding embryonic stem cell research. His rationale was that because this research is based on the alleged death of a life (the unimplanted embryo) it could not go forth under federal auspices. The immediate reaction of anyone who relies on reason and not mystical revelations in dealing with the world might be outrage. It should be if we are speaking strictly of Bush's reasons for the veto. He is using an irrational and mystical luddite philosophy that, if accepted, would stymie all scientific progress (just as it would be stymied if irrational environmentalists had their way) and cause untold harm to humanity. But, while his reasoning is horrendous, the decision was the right one regardless. If any of us ever want the great benefits this research may promise us then we must make sure federal money, or any government money at all, stay out of it.

Embryonic stem cell research is the province of private drug companies and research labs, universities, etc. The federal government has no authority to interfere in such research (which Bush has not done, unless we mean to say he is interfering by preventing federal dollars from pouring in) and nor should we desire such interference either by preventing it altogether or by flooding it with subsidization. Government subsidization never has had results tied to it. The goal of people being subsidized by the government is to extend the subsidization. The private sector, on the other hand, must produce some sort of result in order to make profits, it is not the goal of a drug company to research on end without producing some marketable product. To ruin this incentive process with federal subsidization will mean that results will either be needlessly prolonged or indefinitely delayed.

Bush's reasoning (or lack thereof) should be decried and combatted. The principle of keeping the government out of the economy and scientific research should not be sacrificed in combatting Bush's mysticism. Bush made the right call in spite of himself (since he has no objections to economic interference, without his irrational mysticism he would surely have signed the bill). That does not mean we let his justification escape the condemnation it so richly deserves. Luckily, it also means that embryonic stem cell research can proceed forwith, under private auspices, without unneccessary intereference from the federal government, for now.