Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Moral Clarity

The Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have become an interesting feature of the interregnum, when there's no American President to restrain Israel from ill-considered violence. At the heart of the Israeli justification for its attacks is an echo of the Bush Doctrine, and righteous insistence that what it is doing is morally justifiable, even if the results are gruesome and the strategic rationale is hard to find.

The fundamental derangement of moral analysis of foreign policy and war policy, that Bush brought to full flower, and which was greeted by his supporters as a refreshing "moral clarity" is getting a much needed critique, now, with Israel filling the role of proxy for the U.S.

I'm feeling under the weather (bad cold), so I'm going to be lazy about this, even though I think I ought to be ambitious in documenting what I take to be a very hopeful trend, in advance of the coming to power of a new, more liberal American Administration.

To represent the range of viewpoints, viewpoints I regard as somewhat morally confused, at best, I offer David Bernstein: "Boy, am I already getting tired of hearing this. The basic claim is that since the thousands of rockets that Hamas has lobbed into southern Israel have caused relatively few death and injuries--just some deaths and injuries, along with massive panic, children living in bomb shelters, thousands of shock victims, etc.--Israel has no right to respond with overwhelming force." David, a denizen of Volokh Conspiracy is fairly vicious, but he's bright and mostly rational. Somewhat to his left, Jonathan Zasloff at The Reality-Based Community has the same basic moral hangup, which is Hamas intransigent hostility to Israel's existence.

George Washington's warnings and U.S. policy towards Israel - Glenn Greenwald -

Matthew Yglesias » Problem Solvers:
. . . throwing up our hands and saying “it’s too hard!” isn’t an option. We can decide we don’t want to be involved, which would mean unwinding the ties of collaboration and assistance between the US and Israel, or we can try to play a constructive role in bringing an end to the conflict. I’m not personally sure of how you do that. But I’m quite certain that the first step would be pressing Israel — hard — to stop expanding settlements in the West Bank and start dismantling them. To show to Palestinians interested in a two-state solution (perhaps including some Hamas people or perhaps not) that there’s credibility on the other side. I think Israelis wouldn’t welcome such action by us, but ultimately it would be in their own best interests. On the other hand, those who really do think the best thing for the United States is to just wash our hands of the whole mess have an obligation to really stand behind that belief and urge us to wash our hands of the situation. But just proclaiming a pox on both houses while in practice heavily subsidizing one side isn’t a viable option.

EzraKlein | The American Prospect goes right to the core of moral clarity:
the intellectual clarity of the distinction is so far from the lived experience from the Palestinians as to be meaningless. He says Hamas would kill more children if they could. The Palestinians say the Israelis kill more children. Which is why Israel's attack on Gaza was so unwise. The Palestinians just watched the Israelis slaughter dozens of children, mothers, and other innocents. Protestations that they deserved it because Hamas threatens to kill Israeli innocents will not make sense to them. And so the battle will continue, with Israel's supporters comforting themselves by looking at Hamas's stated intentions and Hamas's supporters justifying themselves by pointing towards the fresh graves of their dead. I don't know how you reconcile the interests of a threatened nation with an occupied one. But you have to start by recognizing the lived experience on both sides, not just one.

This is such an important issue, I wish I was a better blogger, and healthier at the moment, so that I could pull together better this critically important discussion.

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