Monday, 24 July 2006

Moral equivalence inducement to war

MORAL EQUIVALENCE: the position whereby those who initiate force and those who defend themselves against that initiation are considered morally equal.

A position equivalent to a parent who treats a bully the same as a child being bullied.

A position easily taken here in New Zealand at the distance of twelve-thousand benign strategic miles, with the luxury of not having Katyusha rockets raining down on us and enemies permanently at our gates who have expressed for fifty years their desire to drive us into the sea.

A position of appeasement that rewards the aggressor, punishes the defender, and refuses to see any difference between the two.

Peace cannot be achieved in the Middle East as long as individuals there continue to see themselves only as part of some tribal entity or collective. It will not be achieved as long as 'the world community' condemns Israel for defending itself, but fails to condemn those, like Hezbollah and its masters in Syria and Iran, who define themselves chiefly by their aim of exterminating Israelis. It will not be achieved as long as 'peace' is imposed without justice. It will not be achieved without a permanent cessation of Arab violence and permanent outrage at its rebirth.-- it will never last as long as entities exist that declare they intend to exterminate Israel and drive its citizens into the sea.

There are dangers in defending oneself, that for example a war of defence will radicalise new oppononents. There are heart-breaking tragedies that result. But what else can one do when rockets are falling on your cities, fired from sites intentionally embedded in civilian areas, and when no-one else is either condemning or even lifting a finger to stop those firing and supplying those rockets? There are those who say Israel should work with 'moderates' among those who fire rockets at them and send out suicide bombers to blow themselves up in the buses and restaurants of Israel. As Tel Aviv professor Barry Rubin pointed out, however, the problem is that "a Palestinian moderate [and presumably a Hezbollah apologist] ... can usually be defined as someone who apologizes for terrorism in good English."

At the end of the day, those responsible for the present tragedies are not those defending themselves from rocket attack . They are those who have initiated force from the 'defensive positions' of teeming civilian areas. The destruction and heartbreak are the direct result of those who fired the first rockets and who continue to fire them, knowing full well what the response had and has to be.

Only those who accept the principle of moral equivalance could fail to condemn the initiators of force, while noisily condemning those defending their citizens. Failure to condemn is an act of moral blindness, and an invitation for the same thing to happen again in future.

UPDATE 1: I just heard a good, combative interview from Naftali Tamir, Israel's ambassador to NZ, on National Radio, followed by the usual flatulent pro-terror apologetics from Richard Fisk. The audio from both is up now.

UPDATE 2: If you want to challenge yourself, you could download and print off a ten-page PDF 'In Moral Defence of Israel' produced by the Ayn Rand Institute back in 2002. "We hold, it begins, "that the state of Israel has a moral right to exist and to defend itself against attack...
Israel and those who attack it are not moral equals. Israel is a free, Westernized country, which recognizes the individual rights of its citizens... It uses military force only in self-defence, in order to protect itself.

Those attacking Israel, by contrast, are terrorist organizations, theocracies, dictatorships and would-be dictators...

Fundamentally, Israel is the target of those organizations and regimes precisely because of its virtues: it is an oasis of freedom and prosperity in a desert of tyrany and stagnation...

This is not an ethnic battle between Jews and Arabs. but a moral battle between those who value the individual's right to be free and those who don't. Those Arabs who value individual freedom are enemies of the [former] Arafat regime [and also of Hezbollah and its allies] and deserve to be embraced by Israel; those Jews who do not value individual freedom deserve to be condemned by Israel.
Nothing substantive has changed since 2002 for this analysis except of course for Arafat's death, and the analysis becoming all the more pertinent through recent events. I highly recommend this and related articles as a good thought-provoking moral purge.

LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - War: What is it good for? - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Force - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
In moral defence of Israel - Ayn Rand Institute [10-page PDF, 2002]
In moral defence of Israel - Ayn Rand Institute [collection of web-based articles]

War, Politics-World, Ethics

Cartoon hat tip Samizdata. For "a soldier of Palestine" you may also read "a soldier of Hezbollah."


  1. I wanted to make you aware of a couple of facts:

    1. Palestinian/Lebanese rockets fly into Israeli towns from groups resisting the occupation of Palestinian lands. Israel will never be recognized in the eyes of the Arabs, because the Palestinians were living in peace 50 years ago, when all of a sudden a combination of foreign and local Jews threw them out of their home. I do think that both Israeli and Palestinian people are sick and tired of this war, but it's bitter for the Palestinians to accept an Israeli government (generally an assembly of human butchers). I don't believe any problems would occur if the governing power was a combination of Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Jews.

    2. You conveniently forgot to compare the arsenal of the resistance groups to the force of the Israeli army. If the resistance groups were armed with enough arsenal to drive a military war, maybe you will see a very similar fighting style to that of the Israelis in Lebanon. A question springs to mind: Would the Israelis accept the "5 star treatment" they're giving the Lebanese on themselves?


  2. Why not drive them into the sea, the land is Palestinian land. Sharon is a war criminal (he's getting his payback now with a coma), Olmert is now a war criminal. Google "UN resolutions against Israel". The jews have been stealing arab lans since the late 1800's and are still riding a wave of sympathy from WW2's atrocities.
    Why does Israel have the right to defend itself and not Lebanon. Why do we constantly hear about Hizbollah's Syrian made rockets, but not about the US made Israeli Planes and weapons. Killing civilians is Terrorism if your Hizbollah or IDF.

  3. "Why not drive them into the sea ..."

    The tone and fatuous hatred of these last posts eloquently demonstrates a number of things:
    a) why the survival of Israel's population has been on a knife-edge since 1948;
    b) why it has needed to defend itself against Arab agression since then;
    c) how a poor grasp of both history too often accompanies the bankruptcy of the view of 'moral equivalence';
    d) why some particular commenters prefer to post anonymously, rather than be identified with the odious views they peddle.

  4. The people defending the actions of the 'can't do wrong' Israelis are just as set in their simplistic thinking as those who defend the various 'can't do wrong' Arab groups. No faction's actions in this conflict deserve to be defended.

    They are all savages!

    Who did what to whom became irrelevant a long time ago. The point now is to sort this mess out. The pro-Israeli views held by people like Peter are blind ideology, as are the views of the anti-Israel or pro-Arab/Palestinian groups. Anyone who can't see that is ... well, I'll say no more about that.

    Both groups have their grievances and both have used violence to sort it out. And before people accuse me of being a pinko peacenik pacifist commie hippy, 60 years of violence has shown me that THIS isn't the answer!!!

    Peter, I wonder if you would be willing to participate in a discussing with staunchly pro-Israel and staunchly pro-Palestinian bloggers to come up with possible solutions to this debacle? That is, to come up with solutions, not a debate on proving to the other side that they are wrong and you are right, but actually coming up with a solution. If as an intellectual exercise only?

  5. You know, Andrew, there have been simplistic views in evidence here.

    The idea that one is either pro-Israeli or pro-Arab is simplistic, not to say tribalistic.

    The idea that this blog is 'pro-bomb-the-ragheads' as one commenter characterised it is simplistic, not to say tribalistic, and also wrong.

    What I have been arguing for is the right of a legitimate state to defend its citizens against the initiation of force. What I am at root is pro-individual rights. Please try and understand that before you simplistically accuse me of simplistic thinking, and please try and understand the legitimacy of the right to self-defence, and the right of Israel to defend its citizens against rocket attack.

    To say for example that, "no faction's actions in this conflict deserve to be defended" is to say that no-one has the right to defend oneself militarily; it is to invite and reward aggression; and it's simply another example of the moral equivalence I'm decrying here.

    "Both groups have their grievances and both have used violence to sort it out."

    Why yes they have, and I've said as much before. But these grievances have been used for sixty years by forces both inside and outside the region not as motivation to solve the grievances, but instead merely as fuel to foment hatred for the purposes of those forces.

    In that respect, the current use by Syria and Iran of Hezbollah 'soldiers' is little different in intent than the Soviets using the PLO, and Arafat using the Palestinians for their own ends. Their aim is simply the furtherance of hatred, not the solving of whatever grievances exist.

    "They are all savages!"

    No, they're not. If that's your starting point, then any road offered therefrom is not going to be a useful one.

    "Peter, I wonder if you would be willing to participate in a discussing with staunchly pro-Israel and staunchly pro-Palestinian bloggers to come up with possible solutions to this debacle? That is, to come up with solutions, not a debate on proving to the other side that they are wrong and you are right, but actually coming up with a solution. If as an intellectual exercise only?"

    Yes, I would, but I suspect we would run into the same problem as real-world negotiations along these lines. As long as Israeli citizens -- both Jews and Arabs and other individuals that have that title -- must live under threat of being driven into the sea for the crime of living in the only prosperous, secularised semi-free country in the Middle East, then negotiations will solve nothing. Until all the Arab world recognises the state of Israel's right to exist, as some of the Arab world now does, however reluctantly, then no negotiations will ever have any possible basis for success.

    That really is the tragedy of Israel in a nutshell.

  6. I should say too that 'grievances' are no justification for jihad or other slaughter.

    As Christopher Hitchens said around the time of the London bombings:

    "We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are.

    "The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way."

    'Grievances' such as these are not a licence to kill.

  7. Guess what Peter, I agree with you. Grievances are not a licence to kill. I don't support the actions of terrorist organisations, the actions of puppet 'political wings'. The actions of all the 'grievances' you list are certainly NOT a justification to kill.

    Yes, I do agree that Israel has a right to exist.

    Yes I do agree that Israel has a right to defend itself against violence.

    Of course others see the Palestinian attack on Israel as a legitimate state defending its citizens against an occupation. Do they have that right?

    I admit that the word 'savages' was wrong. However, the behaviour by both sides IS savage. It is excessive, cruel, mindless and ultimately pointless.

    Sorry if I accused you of being simplistic in your views, but your comments (from my reading, and I may have it all wrong) appear to be selectively one-sided. We have crossed words before (remember Hirsi Ali), where I thought you overstated an injustice. Yes, it was unjust, but that was a small issue compared to some of the injustices that have committed against Arab groups by Western and Israeli groups. However, you don't ever seem to mention those. That is why I made the accusation. Again, apologies if I am wrong.

    To give you some insight into why I feel this way; I get frustrated by people trotting out their one-sided, uninformed and knee-jerk reactions. Yes, of course I am guilty of it at times, but I try to listen to other points of view. I still read your blog! I am not pro or anti Israel. I am not pro or anti Palestinian, yet I am accused being an apologist if I dare criticise Israeli excesses. When I see news from that region I am confronted with one thing and one thing only. Lunacy!

    Furthermore, I get really freaked when I see dimwits peddling Israeli/Palestinian/Hezbollah paraphernalia (look at this for example which I got from as if this is a world cup.

    I just wonder if after so many years of evolution we might be able to do more than merely pick sides, and actually come up with a working solution. It has been 60 years now, and the murkier things become, the clearer people’s partisan views seem to become. Support for both sides is growing and that is what worries me.

    By the way, what ever happened to rock throwing Palestinian youths?

  8. From a non-tribalistic perspective:

    1. Targetting civilians is wrong, full stop. Whether they're Israelis or Arabs. Whoever murders an innocent man/woman/child should be punished. The way Palestinians and Israelis settle their differences is anything but right from both sides; however, the lifestyle and ability in terms of military force is anything but comparable on the two sides. Anyone watched the movie "Paradise Now"? It was part of the film fesitval last year, it showed a comparison between the prison-like lifestyle in Gaza, and the relaxed Californian-like lifestyle in Tel Aviv. It also showed how desperate a young 20-something Palestinian man becomes as his life is limited and there's no glimpse of a bright future (e.g. getting educated at a university, going into research, getting a proper job and succeeding). This isn't to justify the killing of an innocent civilian, but it shows a reason behind the actions of the killer, and who's to blame.

    2. Israel does not have the right to exist, it is a state that was formed on an illegally occupied land.

    If an anti-american country does the same illegal occupation in our time today (as Iraq did to Kuwait in 1990 for instance), then the UN (aka the US) won't waste a minute in approving a MILITARY response against the occupier. So why should the illegal state of Israel get exclusive treatment? Because of the atrocities committed against the Jews in WW2? What about the atrocities committed by the zionists since the occupation of Palestine?

  9. H.A., you said: "Israel does not have the right to exist..."

    In which case, there is no basis for further discussion as to the method by which Israel must defend itself against those who hold that view while using rocket launchers to assert it.

  10. Using rocket launchers to resist injustice seems much easier on the stomache than using jet fighters and heavy artillery to assert injustice, wouldn't one thinkso?

    Before I stop commenting, I'd just like to reiterate the point that I'm not in any way justifying the killing of innocent people, whether it is by Israel or by Arabs. But the fact is what's happening over there is injustice, and the picture you posted which portrays an Israeli soldier as a defender of children and the Palestinian fighter as an immoral soldier is unfair and doesn't reflect the truth; there are over 400 dead civilians in Lebanon alone, let alone the dead Palestinians over the past month. If justice was a real scale, it would have been broken a long time ago by the zionists.

  11. When did self-defence become a crime?

    When socialism took over.

  12. When did self-defence become a crime?

    Right after defending yourself against occupation!

  13. "Israel will never be recognized in the eyes of the Arabs" - to solve the problem, we need to dispose of something: Israel, Arabs, or just Arabs' eyes :)


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