Monday, July 31, 2006

Moral Compasses

I meant to post yesterday on the subject Jen referenced this morning. I also meant to put in some combat time against the wasps (or hornets or yellowjackets, I can't really discern which) that relentlessly infest the eaves of my house and pay a few bills as well, but I ended up sleeping for most of the sixteen hours between getting home from church and getting up this morning. I guess I just can't get by with staying up half the night several times a week like I used to. It's either that or guzzle that "Volt" or "Jolt" soda or take up coffee-drinking, and I don't relish becoming a caffeine addict even in a figurative sense.

Tracing Jen's post back to Mona Charen's Corner comments brought me to John Podhoretz's New York Post column from last week and its very relevant, salient question, "Is Israel - and, by implication, are we - too nice to win this war?":

What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?

What if the universalist idea of liberal democracy - the idea that all people are created equal - has sunk in so deeply that we no longer assign special value to the lives and interests of our own people as opposed to those in other countries?

What if this triumph of universalism is demonstrated by the Left's insistence that American and Israeli military actions marked by an extraordinary concern for preventing civilian casualties are in fact unacceptably brutal? And is also apparent in the Right's claim that a war against a country has nothing to do with the people but only with that country's leaders?

Can any war be won when this is the nature of the discussion in the countries fighting the war? Can any war be won when one of the combatants voluntarily limits itself in this manner?
Read through the rest of the column and you find that every last sentence is a question of this nature. Could the Western Allies have won the Second World War if they had not been willing to firebomb German and Japanese cities, including the two nuclear strikes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and which did, in fact, save millions of Allied AND Japanese lives from the grisly invasion that was the only alternative)? Would World War II have EVER been truly won had the Axis powers not been completely destroyed, leaving their people in no doubt that they had been comprehensively defeated? Is the failure to inflict defeat upon the psyche of enemy populations, not just their leaders, motivated by our squeamish reluctance to be coldly ruthless in our own interests, not the core of the reason why our enemies - whether al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, North Korea, Iran, the "insurgency" in Iraq - continue to fight against us? And is that what is getting in the way of Israel eradicating Hezbollah once and for all?

Fair questions, all. I myself posted on this topic a year ago in the context of a "nickle & dime" terrorist strategy designed to wear us down over time the way the Intifadas did Israel. The enemy's target? Western decadence. The amoral self-centeredness of a spoiled, pampered populace that doesn't want to be bothered with confronting threats, thinks they can be bought off, all the better with someone else's money, and if that fails just ignored altogether, as if pretending they don't exist and will go away if we don't acknowledge them. The moral emptiness of a post-modern people that don't believe in anything bigger than themselves and therefore are not willing to sacrifice anything, much less themselves, even in the survival of their fellow countrymen and the nation that has given them so much. And yet possessed by "a form of godliness that denies its power" that in practice manifests itself as a debilitating, paralyzing, inwardly-directed self-righteousness that endlessly flaggelates friends (like Israel) both for daring to do what is necessary to survive and not doing everything possible to attain "a form of peace that denies its reality".

What our elites lack is, on the Left, a true moral compass, by which is meant the ability and willingness to make moral distinctions; and on the Right, the courage of the like convictions that they do, in fact, possess. To examine the Israel-Hezbollah fight morally inevitably leads to the conclusion that Hezbollah is a genocidal terrorist gang guilty of wanton, murderous aggression, and Israel is a liberal, Western democracy with no aggressive or extraterritorial ambitions that just wants to be left alone to live in peace. It also leads, inevitably, to the further conclusion that something needs to be done about Hezbollah - i.e. it needs to be eradicated - because they are not amenable to diplomatic entreaty or coercive threats. And that, therefore, leads to the final conclusion that peace on Israel's northern border can only come after a war against Hezbollah to destroy them as the recalcitrant threat they have been, are, and will always be as long as they still exist.

However, war is, to the post-modernist, itself a sin, no matter the form, and can never be just. To the amoral peace and justice are entirely separate realms, and not just need not be interlinked, but MUST not. Peace is, for the decadent, simply the quiet that is the absence of war. And since Israel, being a liberal Western democracy, as well as entirely dependent upon American aid to survive, IS vulnerable to diplomatic entreaty and coercive threats, the "international community" will ALWAYS demand that Israel yield, retreat, and make all the sacrifices for "peace" that will, inevitably, just perpetuate the conflict and lead to bigger, bloodier (and, sooner or later, nuclear) wars down the line.

The lesson of history is that only just peaces last. Just peaces only come after the just wage unlimited, total war upon the unjust until they are completely defeated beyond any possibility of renewed resistance. And such war efforts can only come from a people that recognize and value justice more than peace and are willing to do what it takes to preserve those institutions and national entities that embody and defend it.

J-Pod saves his most toe-curling questions for last:

What if Israel has every capability of achieving its aim, but cannot unleash itself against a foe more dangerous, more unscrupulous, more unprincipled and more barbaric than even the monstrous leaders of the Intifada it managed to quell after years of suicide attacks?

And as for the United States, what if we have every tool at our disposal to win a war - every weapons system we could want manned by the most superbly trained military in history - except the ability to match or exceed our antagonists in ruthlessness?

Is this the horrifying paradox of 21st century warfare? If Israel and the United States cannot be defeated militarily in any conventional sense, have our foes discovered a new way to win? Are they seeking victory through demoralization alone - by daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing we will fail?

Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our civilization as well?
Yes - because our civilization is no longer morally great. Its one-time virtue has been at the same time substantively rejected as "square," "inconvenient," and even "oppressive," and twisted into a suicidal cultural neuroses that welcomes the Islamist onslaught as the extreme secularist equivalent of "divine" judgment for all our society's supposed multi-culti "sins".

We make frequent reference to America's "greatest generation," yet it was that generation that matched its enemies in "ruthlessness and barbarity" in order to preserve the "moral greatness" of our civilization - by preserving the civilization itself. If that civilization now so trivializes that moral greatness as to transform it into today's enemy's most potent weapon, perhaps it deserves the disastrous defeat it is inexorably bringing down upon itself - for which Israel's would be a little-noted downpayment.

UPDATE: How's this for moral clarity?:

Terrorists and their supporters have lost the right to complain about civilian casualties, since all they have done this entire war is target civilians. Every single one of the more than 2,500 rockets launched into Israel is launched into populated towns filled with women and children. Just today, another suicide belt meant to kill civilians in Israel was detonated harmlessly by our forces in Nablus.

So, don't cry to me about civilian casualties. Cry to those using your babies and wives and mothers; cry to those who store weapons in mosques, ambulances, hospitals and private homes. Cry to those launching deadly rockets from the backyards of your kindergartens and schools. Cry to the heartless men who love death, and who, however many of their troops or civilians die, consider themselves victorious as long as they can keep on firing rockets at our women and children....

If you hide behind your baby to shoot at my baby, you are responsible for getting children killed. You, and you alone.

Would that John Bolton would read these words verbatim to the UN Security Council before vetoing its prooffered "immediate cease-fire" resolution.

'NOTHER UPDATE: Double-H dittos:

Hezbollah has tried for three weeks to inflict a 9/11 on Israel, but Israel is being damned because its defensive measures have led to civilians held hostage by terrorists. This is an insane inversion of the laws of war and customary international law as well as of common sense. Hezbollah began this war and is responsible for the deaths of everyone on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Each day of the war Israel struggles to minimize harm to civilians. Each day Hezbollah tries to kill them and uses Lebanese civilians as hostages. Yet Hezbollah's tactics are condemned in passing by Kofi Annan, and only Israel's mistakes summon the Security Council to its labors, which is why Kofi Annan is a joke, a cartoon of an international leader. Annan and the UN are legitimizing a terrorist organization and its tactics. They are demanding, in essence, that Israel accept defeat.

While the world should be horrified that this war has claimed many more innocents, its diplomats and representatives ought to have been denouncing in a single voice the invasion of Israeli territory by Hezbollah and the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and the use of terror tactics against civilian populations as well as the use of civilian populations by Hezbollah as shields

The West must not acquiesce in the elevation of Hezbollah to the status of state actor, in the non-condemnation of its tactics, or in anything remotely like a return to the status quo which would allow Hezbollah to resupply and deepen its hold on south Lebanon.

Or else....

Hezbollah would become Lebanon. And it would do so under the protection of the UN.

And that would lead to this bitterly, but it seems, inevitably ironic endgame:

Condemning Israel for the deaths of civilians living near terrorist missile launchers will only result in the placement of more terrorist missile launchers near civilians....

The longer the world delays in recognizing that terrorists and their state sponsors are leading us all to conflagrations on a scale far beyond 9/11, the greater the likelihood that we will awake not to the awful news of dozens of dead children but the news of hundreds of thousands of dead, or millions. [all above emphases added]

The decadent Western appeasers of the 1930s had the blood of at least thirty million innocent civilians on their hands - including, I might add, some six million Jews. One of the reasons why the cry afterwards was, "Never again!" wasn't just the shock and remorse of the Nazi slaughter that the West allowed to be unleashed; it was because of the knowledge that, with the advent of nuclear weapons, the next time really would be the "war to end all wars" - by ending humanity itself.

George Santayana's timeless adage - "Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it" - simply cannot be indulged anymore, if history itself is to continue.