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Thursday, December 28, 2006

A measured response...

... to yesterday's commenters, not to the Palestinians (just so we're clear).

I would love to be able to tell you that yesterday's post was a calculated provocation on my part in order to get people riled up enough to provide their honest opinions on what Israel should and should not do in the face of the ongoing rocket and terror attacks. 

Unfortunately, I'm just not that good.  It was a rant, plain and simple.

What you read here yesterday was yet another emotional outburst from your host... and the only saving grace was that many commenters stepped up and provided some very interesting insights far beyond the scope of my tirade.  So, having read your comments I decided they deserved a more detailed response than a line or two in the thread. 

Here we go:

To those of you who were outraged by my 'immoral' suggestion that Israel begin targeting entire communities in Gaza for destruction, let me ask you the following questions:

1.  Is Israel at war (meaning are we under direct military attack)?

2.  Has the enemy declared Israeli civilian communities to be legitimate targets... and have they made good on that threat?

3.  Has there ever been a war in the history of the world where only uniformed, insignia-wearing combatants were involved in hostilities?  If not, why should Israel be asked to create such a ground-breaking precedent?

4.  Should the civilian population on one side of a conflict continue to be declared inviolate and off-limits to deliberate and concentrated attack when they:

  • declare overwhelming majority support for deliberate and concentrated attacks against their enemy's civilian communities?
  • give aid and shelter to combatants who carry out such attacks against civilian targets?
  • allow military workshops (bomb/rocket-making factories) within their urban population centers?
  • enable attacks against civilian population centers to be carried out from within their midst (essentially using themselves as human shields for the combatants)?
  • elect and support a government with a declared policy of targeting civilian population centers, not as a means to force their enemy to surrender, but rather to completely eradicate the sovereign state with whom they are at war?

5.  Has there ever been a war - just, or otherwise - in which the resolve of each side's citizens was demonstrated by their willingness to personally take the life of one of the enemy's citizens?  I know my grandmother was 100% in favor of the allied bombing of German cities in WWII, but I doubt whe would have had the stomach to point a gun at a citizen of Berlin and pull the trigger.  Does this indicate that our attacks on German cities were immoral?

Just as a side-issue:  The historical validity/relevance of my reference to Dresden has been called into question by one or two readers who have asserted that that city was in fact a strategic military target because of its location along the rail route of the advancing Soviet troops.  To these commenters I would suggest a look at a period map.  Please note that the rail route was on the outskirts of the city and almost all of the bombing was deliberately concentrated in the city's civilian center.

Now, on to the other side of the discussion:

To those who agreed with me and even took my rant to what you believed was the next logical level, let me ask you the following:

1.  Would your suggestions remain valid/ethical if you were to remove the subjective value judgments you have made about Palestinian society and/or religious beliefs?

2.  How much do you think your feelings about Islam/Muslims in general colored your statements about the justness of attacking Palestinian civilians?  Would you still maintain your support for my 'Dresden option' if the terror and rocket attacks were coming from a Buddhist or Shinto entity?  What about if they were Christians?

3.  Does a civilian population become undeserving of protection from attack during war simply because they:

  • place a different value on human life than their enemy?
  • are not empowered by their society to participate in demonstrations against decisions made by their political leaders and militias without fear of reprisals?
  • do not have a culture of social activism that would make protest appear to be a viable option?
  • would welcome such an attack as it would make them religious and political martyrs to their cause?

4.  If your support for collective punishment (i.e. viewing all citizens as part of the enemy war machine), can you honestly say that the civilian population has the ability to influence their leader's policy once they realize they will be targeted?

What say you all?


Posted by David Bogner on December 28, 2006 | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 29, 2006 8:05:14 PM


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The rail yards weren't in the center of town, but DID get bombed--Dresden contained over 100 factories which were essential to the German war effort, and it was one of the few remaining factory centers unbombed. It was not, as people like to imagine, all opera and art galleries.

As one who agreed with your rant (and the blogosphere and news items are increasingly leading your way) I'll answer your questions:

(1) & (2) Yes, because my agreement is not predicated on my opinions of Palestinians, Arabs, Islam or any other extraneous factor. My opinion is based solely on the fact that we are under attack by a 21st century totalitarian movement whose aim is to commit genocide. Reasonable efforts to change that genocidal agenda or even enter into discussion about settlement have proved fruitless and the enemy continues to proliferate parties and militias so it can play "good cop/bad cop" and disavow any responsibility for the 'bad cop' act while arming to the teeth and continuing to soften up Israeli society through terror attacks.

(3) No civilian society in the history of modern warfare has actually been treated as "deserving" of protection; the rise in numbers of civilians deaths in successive wars since the Renaissance is attributable to more massive weapons delivery and industrialization, which tends to centralize populations. Walking into a rural French village and shooting everyone is a no-no; bombing the #$@% out of Mannheim's ball-bearing factories (and killing thousands of civilians) is strategic. In the era of assymetrical warfare, there is no such clear-cut choice: Israel's enemies have adopted a strategy of hiding Kassam factories, rocket launchers, ammunitions and arms caches in the midst of a civilian population which overwhelmingly supports these military operations against Israeli civilians, and which has elected a party whose official platform is the eradication of Israel. They are, arguably, not civilians so much as accomplices. (That is, BTW, the Palestinian justification for killing every Jew in Israel, regardless of age or gender--we are "accomplices" of Zionist aggression....what's sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander...)

I personally think the Fourth Geneva Convention's blanket prohibition on "collective punishment" is overbroad and unenforceable---it is written in a fashion designed to protect individual rights in a wartime arena, and frankly, wartime arenas aren't really conducive to the protection of individual rights: there are two or more collectives engaged in the application of deadly force against each other and/or others. War is not a courtroom exercise.

(4) Yes. The civilian population is armed to the teeth and capable of revolt, peaceful protest, riot, and/or new elections.

Okay, who's next?

Posted by: aliyah06 | Dec 28, 2006 3:34:05 PM

What aliyah06 said.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 28, 2006 4:13:10 PM


I shall tell you an old and venerable story to chill out the population of ravers here:

Once upon a time a plane carrying an Englishman, a Frenchman and an Israeli crashes somewhere in a tribal area and all three are caught by a tribe. The chief tell the three that they are going to be eaten and offers each a last wish. The Brit wishes for a beer, gets its and drinks it. The Frenchman, naturally, wishes for a woman, gets her and... The Israeli asks for a good kick in his backside. After wondering a bit, the tribe satisfies this request. After being kicked, the Israeli gets an Uzi from his... whatever and promptly puts an end to the whole tribe.

"But why didn't you do it to start with?" ask the other two.

"We, Israelis, do not shoot unprovoked," was the answer.

IMHO, Olmert is accumulating his "provocation points" for the last few weeks of that "ceasefire" and all his amorous jesting toward Abu Mazen. It may be stupid, since the outside world does not care about all that, but this is how it looks.

Of course, when the real shooting starts, the world will not give a fig about the collected points... Instead the world will start baying about the red-toothed Zionist baby-killers.

But do we have re-education of the effing world in the list of our chores?

Posted by: SnoopyTheGoon | Dec 28, 2006 4:52:48 PM

One of the things I relate to people I converse with face-to-face is that Yakov prayed to HaShem before he met Esav for two reasons: One, that he be survive the encounter, the second that he be spared the need to kill others. I personally am well aware that killing other human beings, no matter how justified, can have long term consequences for the killer, not just the killed.

That having been said, there is NO doubt in my mind that unless we want this armed conflict to continue yet another hundred years, that we must pressure the entire Arab society that aides and abets terror. There is ONE precondition, IMHO, that must be met before we can commence such a wider scale of warfare. The "enemy" must have an option to escape the face-to-face conflict. Whether this is an escape route to North Africa or Canada, it doesn't matter. What does is that those individuals who do not want to be party to the conflict have a realistic and viable option to avoid it. Only then can we "open fire" and give the Arabs a taste of what they dream of giving us Jews.

Posted by: Yoel Ben-Avraham | Dec 28, 2006 5:30:01 PM

"Collective Punishment" has become an overused and misunderstood term. I'll just ignore it.

In this discussion it's also problematic to compare warfare from the 40's to that of today. It's a problem because of the leaps forward we've taken in precision weapons, and it's a problem because of media influence and the changes in the way that war is reported.

That being said, I look at the issue slightly differently. While my emotions are often in agreement with the "Dresden Option" I believe it is wrong-headed and immoral.

Wrong-headed in that it gives too much credit to the peasant Arab population, and focuses the conflict on those Arabs living in Gaza and the disputed territories. The palestinian Arabs are just pawns, they are only a small fraction of the enemy numbers. The roots of the real problem lie in Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, Tehran, Abu Dhabi, and Amman. As long as that fact gets ignored and the world looks on it as a Israeli-palestinian problem, and as long as Israel treats it as a palestinian problem, nothing will change. It will continue as a proxy war against Israel. To turn Gaza into desert only plays into the hands of the real puppeteers.

The "Dresden Option" is immoral in the sense that the vast majority of those who would be killed are merely ignorant pawns. Hate-filled they may be, but they have NO POWER, and no opportunity to affect change. At least they don't realize they have the power. Bombing them is immoral because it has virtually NO chance of achieving the desired end... in fact it furthers the enemies' progress . It would be killing without real purpose... just killing for anger.

Until Israel and the west recognize that the Arab world is simply, and effectively, fighting a proxy war against Jews, then Israel will remain in a no-win situation. All that can be done is to hunker down... build the fence... yes, even "disengage..." and continue to absorb the attacks being supported, encouraged, and applauded by far-off capitals.

Posted by: Oceanguy | Dec 28, 2006 5:36:01 PM

I'll respond to the first set of questions. BTW, I want to stress that yesterday's comments of mine, though somewhat harshly worded at times, were supposed to be merely attacking the idea, and not you... and I hope that you'll have a chance to comment on some of the alternative options I and some other posters suggested.

1. Yes.

2. Yes... but be careful in a definition of 'the enemy'. The Palestinian 'government' has very little control over its 'state', nor are the decision-makers really representative of the will of their constituents. Furthermore, most of those calling for Israeli civilian blood aren't even in the government. Thus, the 'enemy' of Israel that you refer to may not indeed be the Palestinian people. It could be a more limited definition, or a more broad one, encompassing the international nature of the terrorism threat.

3a) I don't know, but I'll assume the answer is 'no'.
3b) I'm not asking them to make a ground-breaking precedent. Israel has already killed civilians, in general unintentionally (or intentionally for individual soldiers, but not as a matter of official policy), and while I appreciate measures to reduce such incidents to a minimum, realize that world expectations for a 'clean' war are overblown and unrealistic.

That being said, I do not find it at all unreasonable for me to expect the Jewish State's military to conduct its operations with a respect for civilian lives... even though the definition of 'civilian' gets blurred in wartime. The IDF also prides itself on ethical conduct, which would be somewhat difficult to argue if they decided to slaughter thousands when each rocket fell.

I, too, and tired of double standards being applied to Israel along with unreasonable wartime expectations. Yet that does not condone something that many governments would refuse to do themselves today - deliberate mass killing of civilians (at least in theory).

4) Let me pre-empt the rest of the question by saying that civilians should always be declared inviolate and off-limits to deliberate and concentrated attack.

Oh, you can argue on the definition of civilian, and how many of the Palestinians fit into that criterion, but let me make it simple for you. Anyone under the age of, say, 10 is a civilian. They may hate Israel with their guts and want to grow up to become suicide bombers... but they don't have the capability to hurt Israel yet, so I think they can be safely put into that category. Given that 40-50% of the Palestinian population is under 14 (CIA World Factbook says 43% in WB, 48% in Gaza), we can assume we're talking about at least 1/3 of the Palestinian population should be off-limits... spread fairly evenly throughout Palestinian towns.

Thus, even if you include every able-bodied adult (with a very loose definition of adult to take into account teenaged terrorists), you still would be arguing we should be killing thousands of civilians. This is wrong.

Now, to your specific points:

1. Support for targeting civilians does not mean you would do it yourself. You mentioned that exact fact when discussing WWII and Dresden. If they merely approve of terrorist activity, that does not make them a legitimate target. It certainly makes it difficult for them to negotiate in good faith, but that's an entirely different issue.

2. Aid and shelter... well, Israeli civilians give extraordinary aid and shelter to IDF soldiers; does that make them targets? In fact, the entire Israeli civilian population is fairly unique in its incredible role as a support structure for a fairly large army. I wouldn't say that makes all the mothers who do their soldier sons' laundry and take care of them on Shabbat are somehow fair game.

3. Again, Israel has many strategic/military facilities in the middle of urban areas - it makes more sense if you need to do manufacturing. Furthermore, you are assuming that everyone in said region knows where the workshops are... an assertion of which I do not know the validity.

4. Ah, now this is a more telling point. I would argue that one could morally allow the targeting of terrorists in the midst of people who are deliberately using themselves as human shields. Shields imply that the shield doesn't get a choice - if they do have a choice, they are volunteering themselves for combat.

Thus, in the much-publicized case a few weeks/months ago in Gaza where the IDF called up a terrorist to tell him to leave his home, and hundreds of people crowded aroudn the home to keep the airstrike from occurring... I would commend IDF restraint as the world wouldn't have appreciated the airstrike, but don't believe there is anything fundamentally immoral about such an action.

That being said, being passively used as human shields is a different matter. I dont' wholly buy arguments about how civilian Palestinians are at the mercy of the armed terrorists, and thus have no choice about rockets/etc. being fired from their towns... but the arguments do have at least a partial point. The Palestinian civilian agreement is not wholly voluntary, nor is it an active choice on their part to turn themselves into human shields. Yes, this points blurs the distinction a little, but not enough for my mores.

5. Again, this is merely belief. Some would argue that those who voted for, say, Yisrael Beiteinu, were no better than those who voted for Hamas. Yes, there are differences, but belief is different from direct action against Israeli civilians.

On to your last question:
5) This wasn't really my point that you're countering, but I'll still answer it. I believe the gentleman who raised this point was arguing that your actions would be murder, plain and simple. Thus, he was saying, essentially, 'he who is without sin...' *Shrugs* I think it's a more general moral issue that has no bearing on who is carrying out the killing.

Lastly, I'm still curious about your about-face (or was it one?) wrt the efficacy (though perhaps not the morality) of bombing the Palestinians into submission.



Posted by: matlabfreak | Dec 28, 2006 7:33:47 PM

Immoral, Immoral, Immoral. To me it stops and ends there. Still, I'll try to address a few points.
1. Is Israel at war?
A constant state of war is not the same as an active war. Is the occupation of Iraq the same as the engagement of the Iraqi forces in the conquering of Iraq?
What difference does it make? You don't intentionally kill noncombatants if you are a legitimate government with any semblance of a democratic, free thinking civil form of governance.
And what is a noncombatant? Someone who may be opposed to you philosophically, and may wish to kill you if given the chance, but has not picked up a weapon of any sort. If not, then every miltary opponent is justified in killing any civilian who opposes their point of view.
2."The enemy" declared Israeli civilian communities to be legitimate targets.
Yes, and therefore the British in Mandate Palestine would have been justified in executing Jews indiscriminately who were pro Irgun after a bombing occured because if given the chance they would kill Her Majesty's soldiers. Nonsense. Pure stupidity. That logic would lead to massacres worldwide. Just kill your enemies, even if they're just potential combatants. How do people who survived the Holocaust toss about the value of human lives with such equanimity? It makes me sick just to read your posts.
3. Killing civilians in War. Let's forget pillaging and booty for a moment. Killing civilian populations in war is a 20th century creation. Some attribute it to WWI. Many to the Spanish Civil War, where aerial bombing became accepted. Others to the mass bombings of WWII. But it is not an accepted concept through history. Even if it was, it would not make it acceptable.
Face it, you're Jewish. You're not suppoosed to kill innocents, that's just who you are. And dropping a bomb INTENTIONALLY on civilians is killing innocents.
4. That's easy. The answer is yes. Otherwise, anyone who supports their country's war effort is under penalty of death. You must have standards.
5. Our attacks on German cities were immoral. But they were instigated by an enemy that bombed London with V-2 rockets. I would suggest that if the Germans hadn't been so brutal, we might not have gone for the unconditional surrender and used the tactics that we did.
Why do we keep prisoners of war? Shouldn't we just execute them? Aren't they, after all, bent on our destruction? Do you believe that the only reason is so that we can get our own soldiers back? If so, then all of Western civilization and all of judaism has been completely lost on you.
This is my last comment on this, as all the people who advocate killing Palestinians who aren't holding guns is more than I can read. Thank G-d Israel is run by more moderate people than you. Even the far right isn't advocating what this blog has, as far as I've read. If Israel started intentionally killing civilians, I would no longer support the state. It's that simple. I'll be back when this debate is over. Until then, I think I'll go read the funny pages.

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Dec 28, 2006 7:55:25 PM

The Kassams are primarily psychological weapons. The majority do no damage at all. A minority will do some physical damage to buildings, etc. I believe that Israel can live with this in the service of “restraint”, which (unfortunately) is a necessary PR maneuver. After all, Israel does live on planet earth and the effect of its actions must be calculated on the world at large.

The main problem occurs when the Kassams injure, main or kill its innocent citizens. It only occurs perhaps one percent of the time, but that is a gigantic one percent. It is a pernicious form of Russian roulette. The question is, how to find a response that is reasonable and effective – somewhere between “restraint” (doing nothing) and the Dresden response (which I believe is too extreme, immoral and ultimately self-defeating). Any response must be a direct consequence of Palestinian action and must put them at the same type of risk but in a less immoral fashion.

My solution is the following. Announce openly to the Palestinians and the world. “If you want to fire your home-made rockets and prove your pathetic manhood, go ahead. As long as no one is injured, we won’t care. We will sweep up the debris from your rockets and repair any physical damage. However, since by doing this we take the risk of our citizens being injured then you must likewise take the risk.”

Israel should identify 10 city blocks randomly picked from Gaza and clearly publicize their location. Everyone in Gaza should know that within 12 hours of an injury or death resulting from a Kassam attack, one of those locations would be utterly leveled to the ground. The particular location (the one of the ten) would be chosen by lottery. All 10 would have to be evacuated to prevent injury. Twelve hours would not be enough time to remove everything of value. There may be deaths or injuries if the area is not completely evacuated, but no one could claim there was not ample warning.

In order for this to work, the execution must be deliberate and exact. If the neighbors should flood these 10 sites in order to martyr themselves, then that would be their choice. In order to lessen the psychological impact for the pilots (or missile launching crews), 10 planes or missiles should be designated to be launched against the targets but only one of them (the one targeting the site chosen by lottery) should be armed.

I believe that after a few of these measured but effective responses, the launching of the Kassams would cease.

Posted by: Arnie in NYC | Dec 28, 2006 7:56:59 PM

Jersey Boy:

I suspect that given a reading of both sets of questions in David's post, he realizes that yesterday's rant may not have been a reasoned approach to the problem, but rather an emotional outburst upon the serious injury of those two youths.

I also suspect (but do not know) that now he's carrying out the position of Devil's Advocate to both sides, and doesn't actually condone the wholesale slaughter of Palestinians to solve the matzav.

So, please... let's try to keep this respectful towards our host? I'm sure you both agree on a lot more than you suspect. His previous writing (and today's semi-explanatory post) suggests that he has quite a bit of sympathy for rather more leftist views (though not whole-hearted agreement).

Just my $.02.

Posted by: matlabfreak | Dec 28, 2006 8:11:24 PM

Interestingly, I found a Wahhabist Checklist photocopy online... you can find anything with that Google site. I can reproduce page 1 here, but am uncertain as to exactly what it suggests:

Wahhabist Checklist, page 1

(1) Israel, aka Zion
(2) Zionist Jews not living in Zion
(3) Non-Zionist Jews not living in Zion
(4) Pick up ski mask at dry-cleaners
(5) Zionist Atheist Jews living in Zion, Utah
(6) Zionist Atheist Jews not living in either of the two Zions (see above)
(7) Pretend practitioners of Kabbalism (cf. Madonna, etc.)
(8) Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists not covered in steps (1-7), above
(11) Pretend Buddhists (cf. Richard Gere)
(12) Give alms to Non-Zionist poor
(13) Check for Jews missed in steps (1-6) above. If any discovered, repeat step (1-6)
(14) Christendom left in Europe, if any
(15) Christendom in Britain, which doesn't seem to really be part of Europe
(16) Christendom in South America
(17) Christendom in Asia (excepting South Korea)
(18) Christendom in Africa (get a "running start" on this NOW)
(19) Christendom in South Korea and North America
(20) visit Mecca
(21) Hollywood Insiders Who Have Supported Us Thus Far
(22) The United Nations

... this goes on for pages and pages. I'm no expert but it seems to suggest that wiping Israel off the map isn't going to bring peace upon anyone.

Posted by: Wrymouth | Dec 28, 2006 8:44:14 PM

In no way is my reaction an attack on my good friend David. I love and adore him. But in no way can I condone indiscriminate killing. The only way to respond to such a suggestion, IMHO, is forcefully. I do not mean any personal disrespect, but I do believe in what I said.

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Dec 28, 2006 9:17:26 PM

I don't think bombing Gaza out of existence is a good solution - I think it's morally wrong and won't solve the problem effectively.
What might work is Israel "occupying" Gaza for real - taking it back (since the PA's been doing a bang-up job of being a government) and offering the "Palestinians" a choice - become Israeli citizens or leave. A lot of these people are brainwashed and scared. They're only killing Israelis because they're afraid that they will be killed if they don't. Not all of them, OK, but some of them. Those - the ones that just want to be assured that their children will have indoor plumbing, real schools, food, a normal life - will be willing to do just about anything if you can promise them that they can live without fear. That's all they want. They can become Israeli-Arabs, since that's what they are anyways. Some of them will refuse to have anything to do with Israel. Well fine - they can leave. They can pick their favorite country. The actual evil people, terrorists, murderers, they can go to jail. And the Israelis that were kicked out of Gaza b/c of the disengagement - those that still don't have homes and have NOT been provided for by the government, which did a pisspoor job on the disengagement, whether you were for or against it, should be taken care of first and foremost, since they are already Israeli citizens. That's another post, but is relevant if Gaza becomes part of Israel again, because they may want to go home and should be given the option.

Posted by: warrior-poet | Dec 28, 2006 9:37:16 PM

After rereading my first post, I think I overdid it a tad. Thanks for pointing that out, MLF. Dave, I'm sorry to have come on so strong. Your idea of leaving a post overnight before actually posting it is probably a good idea. Maybe I should even reread them before posting. When you only write short stories on your blog, you are rarely controversial.
Sorry if I overdid it. I hope you can forgive me. Larry

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Dec 28, 2006 9:40:36 PM

If you want or need to do a thing, do it. All this suffering over prior justification of acts you know will cause you to lose sleep is wasted sweat. Don't tell yourself it is justified before you do it; wait until after.

But keep in mind that the sons of those you kill will someday kill your sons. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Unless he kills ALL his enemies.

Can you kill all the Palis? If you can, that solves one of your problems. If you cannot, killing innocents makes more enemies and ensures another generation of war.

Posted by: antares | Dec 28, 2006 9:45:14 PM

There is a difference between a.) not going out of your way to protect hostile civilian populations and b.) aiming right for 'em.

Posted by: ralphie | Dec 29, 2006 12:58:49 AM

*smiles at Jersey Boy*

See, people like you and David are why I love coming here. Because you have strong opinions - and excellent reasons for having those opinions - but you are also willing to see the other person's point of view, give the benefit of the doubt, re-evaluate one's own posts in the light of what others say...

That's all. *Smiles*

Posted by: matlabfreak | Dec 29, 2006 1:10:13 AM

We seem to be arguing why shouldn't Israel commit atrocious acts in the name of self-defense.

Perhaps we should instead talk about building peace.

In comments to the previous post, I brought up the similarity of situations in Israel and Northern Ireland. When bombs were going off in London and rioting was common in Belfast and Irish beer trucks needed tail gunners for defense, we brought groups of Irish teens -- Protestants and Catholics -- to the US for a month's holiday. The groups were divided so that two kids shared a room, one Protestant and one Catholic. You know what? They ended up liking each other. They began to question the hate they had been taught. Those teens are now adults. I wonder if those thousands made a difference. Northern Ireland has not been bombed in years.

Hmmm. Maybe we should do the same for teen Israelis and Palestinians.

Posted by: antares | Dec 29, 2006 4:28:27 AM

Your question seems misposed. It's as if you're asking, "What tactics are fair when a gang of thugs attacks you with knives?" The only sane answer to that question is, "Whatever works!" But then that should lead you to ask the correct question: "What tactics will win the fight."

If Israel is to survive, it can't let the terrorists' hiding behind civilians deter it from shooting back. But for practical reasons, it must always be clear that you aim at the attacker. (Thought it seems to me, the culpability of the civilian population may be considered in calibrating your boresight.)

One thing to keep in mind when fighting Arabs, it's wisest to leave them a path of retreat. If trapped, they will fight to the death. But if permitted to flee, they will withdraw just as soon as they've made enough show of courage to salve their sense of "honor". The Palestinian non-combatants need a retreat route, a way to withdraw "with honor" from their divine appointment as human shields for jihadists.

So perhaps the best question to ask is: "How can we best enable non-jihadists to honorably withdraw from the fight?" Sorry, but to that question I don't have a good answer. Yet my gut feeling is that lashing out at the general population only cuts off their path of retreat.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 29, 2006 5:43:59 AM

antares - that specific thing has been tried quite a bit with Israelis and Palestinians, actually. (Seeds of Peace, for example)

I can't say it seems to have made a significant impact.

Honestly, I think that the N. Ireland analogy only goes so far... the solutions that worked there don't necessarily work here.

A more in-depth analysis would be required to tease out the differences and reasons for them, but you get the point. The history is different, the arguments are different, as are tactics, etc.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Dec 29, 2006 6:01:33 AM

As an innovative defense variant I like "Arnie in NYC"'s idea: massive consequences but without the taking of massive lives. They really need to stop with the rockets, and a country does have the right to protect itself.

I would like more though. I would like to see someone come along with a comprehensive plan, well thought out, outlined in a short text. Something that caring people could get behind, that would both offer severe consequences, but also some good things. It needn't involve the entire world, but enough countries to make a difference.

Something workable, that we could throw our voices and resources behind, and push our representatives to support. It should benefit Israelis, benefit the Palestineans who really want peace, and be a nightmare for terrorists and those who support them.

The short term answer is, yes, defend one's country by all means, escalating as necessary. Politicians in general lack vision and compromise until something becomes meaningless. What we need is one good and clear vision of how it might be and what to do, laid out by a clear thinking, caring, grounded and intelligent person. Then it can be pushed on the politicians by massive grassroots support.

Naive? Maybe. But that is what I would like. I'm not one to be timid about pressing the "launch" button on a rocket, but I feel there is a lack of leadership or plan to get behind, to make things better for all.

It is painful to acknowledge that the majority of the Palis voted for a terrorist organization to run their affairs. Yet I feel there are good hearts and souls in their midst that can be won over by an upright people, who hold both the sword of justice and the hand of friendship.

Israel can be strong, honorable, and defend itself properly. There is a right path that can be found, and while I cannot eloquently state it, someone can.

Posted by: Seattle | Dec 29, 2006 6:25:02 AM

Selective transfer is more powerful and requires less killing while accomplishing the same results.

Posted by: Fred | Dec 29, 2006 3:29:15 PM


Thank you for your kind criticisms. Glad to hear some attempts are being made to build peace -- Seeds of Peace. I knew there were disparities in the situations of Israel and Northern Ireland. Still there is a need to find a long-term solution. War begets war. Peace begets peace. But as you know, peace is very fragile.

Even with the program here, the terorist attacks in Northern Ireland did not stop until Erie found economic prosperity.

I agree with the Chicago Way and all the proponents of massive retaliation. I advocated the solution of the "Grave of the Hundred Head". But when the fox kills your chickens, you cannot stop his attacks by shooting your neighbor's cow.

Posted by: antares | Dec 29, 2006 4:52:54 PM

You know, as an evil Western capitalist, I agree with you in principle; if the Palestinians are successful and prosperous, they will understand the benefits of peace and stability and will work that much more towards a reasonable solution.

For some reason, though, it doesn't seem to work as well as I would like. Shimon Peres pushed this idea at the beginning of Oslo, and was one of the main movers behind increasing Israeli-Palestinian economic interdependence (I'm sure Keohane and Nye are proud). The Palestinian standard of living did improve (the immense international aid didn't hurt, either), though it was significantly hampered by a corrupt leadership. In fact, even today, the Palestinian life expectancy and general outlook is still better than in most of the Arab world.

Somehow this has not translated into a significant 'grassroots' push for a peaceful settlement. I don't know why, as I'm unwilling to accept the all-too-easy explanations of 'well, they're just a violent people/culture/religion/etc.'. But that's what happened.

I've spent a lot of tie puzzling over this, and I don't have an answer yet. I've said for years that a long-term solution can only come from the Palestinians, though Israel can act now to improve it's medium-term security situation. But the exact how and why of the Palestinian change of heart is one I do not yet know how to engineer.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Dec 29, 2006 6:49:39 PM

You people think too much and your arrogant pride in your own brilliance oozes to the surface of every paragraph like festering puss.

All your silliness amounts to a puddle of warm spit. God is right. 'Give a man a brain and he'll think up fantastic new ways to screw up everything.' I'm paraphrasing of course.

You remind me of the enviro-nutjobs who tell me I should not kill the rattlesnakes on my ranch, "They were here first, after all." Jeeze Louise! Well I'm here now and my dogs are more important than the rattler. When it's hot I kill em cause they're too active to try and catch. When it's cool I scoop em up and take em to the local snake farm to be exhibited for the kids and curious.

It's just commone sense. Something the peaceniks on this board know nothing about. There will never be a negotiated peace or a stand-off peace or any other kind of peace between Arabs and Jews. You think you have peace with Egypt? Only because they're too poor to kill you wholesale any more. If sombody ever finds a way to turn sand into money they'll be on you like white on rice.

Israel is in the sh*t its in because it trys to be the 'nice guy'. Try being the nice guy when your car breaks down on the wrong side of Los Angeles or Boston. You better have a gun and the ability to run long distance cause thats the only way you're gettin out alive.

As long as there are muslims in Israel ... Israelis will die. Every dead Israeli should be like your own son was murdered. Rattlesnakes need to just go live somewhere else. It's just not my fault they aren't smart enough to figure this out.

Posted by: Scott Fleming | Dec 29, 2006 7:06:44 PM

I have to add: Given I know my own understanding is as given to stupid human pride and sin as the next guy I have only one way to determine what is right and what is not. I have to read my Bible.

As to forming a state it appears to me the Jews have two examples. Joshua and David. Following any other example is plainly going against God.

But then ... maybe God never wanted Jews to come back to Israel. Or perhaps not at this time or not in this way. Perhaps God doesn't care a fig about Jews any more and those silly promises were just Isaiah and Ezekeil et all passing gas.

Personally I don't think so. If I were a Jew I'd figure after 3000 years of losing .... maybe we just aren't doing it right.

Either be a real Jew or get out of Israel. You're just screwing it all up for the others.

Posted by: Scott Fleming | Dec 29, 2006 7:29:50 PM

Hi David AKA Trep,

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

I rhink that all those people who are holding out for perfect ideal moral decisions are living in an un-reality.

In reality, we strive for perfection and ideals while being consigned to living with the imperfections that we ALL have as human beings.

In an ideal world, we could talk out all of our problems with rational neighbors in that perfect world, but we live in a decidedy imperfect world full of irrational players. We need to learn to live with less than ideal or perfect decisions while still striving for the ideal and perfect.

May all nations have peace and earn respect for themselves through justice for all.


And on a lighter note, may we all have socks to our own satisfaction!

Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | Dec 29, 2006 9:02:23 PM

I think Larry Johnson is right.
And BTW, there was nothing excesive about your post. The idea of a Dresden like raid on Gaza should fill you with revulsion. And as we know from post WWII bombing analyses, it's bad strategy too.
That does not mean I oppose the idea of using military force on Gaza. On the contrary, I feel that should the government determine that force is the only option, the IDF should use as much force as it can bring to bear on the appropriate targets. One of the problems the IDF faced this summer is that when it was time to strike, they had not really ratcheted up the war machine to it's strongest point.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Dec 29, 2006 11:02:23 PM


A billionaire agrees with you.

Saw Charlie Rose on PBS today. He interviewed Sir Anthony O'Reilly . Mr Rose asked if the peoples of the Middle East could learn from the examples of Northern Ireland and South Africa. Sir Tony's reply was "No, there are significant differences."

Later, Mr Rose asked when the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland would learn to love each other. Sir Tony replied, "Maybe in ten generations. Maybe never. They don't like each other today. But at least they are civil to each other."

Posted by: antares | Dec 30, 2006 8:47:30 AM

*smiles* Well, a billionaire has got to be right about some things in order to get all taht money, eh? ;)


Posted by: matlabfreak | Dec 31, 2006 12:48:56 AM

It is important to understand the nature of war. A war is a state of violent conflict between two countries. A country consists of a civilian population and a military. The military’s job is to defend its civilian population and to defeat the enemy’s military, which is defending its own civilian population.

In a normal war, one side attacks the other side’s military targets, not because it is interested in moral warfare, but because that is the first order of business. The other side’s military presents the greatest threat. If one side’s military defeats the enemy’s military, then the enemy’s civilian population loses its protection and the enemy must surrender to avoid the slaughter of its civilian population. There is an inherent threat to civilians in all wars; it is just that in civilized warfare, there is no need to ever play out the “endgame” of directly slaughtering civilians. In other words, the civilized war depends on the civilized nature of the losing side as well as that of the winning side. If a civilized war involves never targetting civilians, you can’t have a civilized war if one side is going to fight to the last person. (So most arguments against dropping the A-bomb on Japan involve the idea that Japan was about to surrender anyway.)

When the Palestinians target civilians, they abandon all pretense to civilized warfare and cut directly to the endgame. The consequences of such action are clear when one side is clearly militarily superior to the other. The Palestinians must face the consequences of their actions. If they are faced with certain calamity, perhaps they will choose to avoid it. In any event, the choice will be up to them.

Posted by: Yitzchak | Dec 31, 2006 9:44:00 AM

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