Now that Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian 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 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 against 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 Annan has joined the chorus 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.
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 representative of the maximum damage that opponent can inflict (
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.
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 plausible 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 people, which may lead to some change of governmental policy that terrorists don’t like. It may also lead, much like
In World War II, both sides targeted cities and civilians as a way of assuring that their opponent’s 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
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.