“They blame the irresponsible dolts who started the war for all the consequences of the war and they admire Israel’s strength and its resolve for dealing with the appalling blood lust of the unhinged loons who start a war they can’t win, and then cower behind the corpses of the children their foolishness has killed.” –Walter Russell Mead
Hamas had launched nearly 1,600 missiles into Israel this year and already over a thousand in the last week. It is largely thanks to Israel’s American-funded Iron Dome that hundreds of these deathly probes were prevented from striking civilians. Unfortunately, this small solace is somewhat mitigated by an expanded target range that now puts densely-populated Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in sight of rockets.
Given that Hamas hasn’t yet figured out how to direct the missiles, you might think the Palestinian leaders in Gaza would avoid the possibility of striking Palestinian children or Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. You would be mistaken. The Israel Defense Forces indicate that roughly a hundred Hamas rockets have already exploded in Gaza, for which casualties Hamas conveniently blames Israel. Moreover, the ongoing belligerence is preventing Israel from delivering humanitarian aid to the strip. There is also, of course, the matter of Hamas hiding behind the civilians they claim to protect. It’s almost like they’re ideological fanatics or something.
It would seem a question-begging exercise to argue over the origins of the chicken-and-egg cycle of violence at this point, so it might be more useful to focus on more pragmatic concerns. Shockingly (to nobody), Hamas instantiates its violence through the largesse of Iran. Put another way, a government that dreams of wiping Israel from the map is arming a terrorist regime that denies the Israeli right to exist. It would be arguably suicidal for the only stably liberal democracy in the Middle East to appease a genocidal neighbor seeking freedom to arm, especially at a time when Iran aggressively pursues nuclear power and Islamists have replaced erstwhile partners in Egypt and Turkey.
The majority of Americans believe, as President Obama argued, that Israel is in the right to defend herself against the rain (and reign) of terror. It should perhaps be expected that most civilized people would agree that perennial rocket-fire makes for rather unsavory ambient conditions. As it happens, however, the numbers tell another interesting story: conservatives, moderates, Republicans, and Independents overwhelmingly support Israel’s measures of self-defense. Among liberals and Democrats, however, the yes-no split on whether military action is justified falls within the margin of error.
The finding is consistent with posts from my left-of-center Facebook feed (four years at Yale will have that effect, and I should add that some who disagree with me have already accused me of calling them anti-Semites). Opinions range from deranged dismissal of rigorous self-defense to predictably tendentious “fact checks” in favor of a terrorist organization to more well-intentioned if impractical paeans for “proportionality”. To the first two sentiments, I have neither interest nor patience. To the last, it is worth remembering that war is not an old gentleman’s game but an elemental struggle between peoples:
“Certainly if some kind of terrorist organization were to set up missile factories across the frontier in Canada and Mexico and start attacking targets in the United States, the American people would demand that their President use all necessary force without stint or limit until the resistance had been completely, utterly and pitilessly crushed. Those Americans who share this view of war might feel sorrow at the loss of innocent life, of the children and non-combatants killed when overwhelming American power was used to take the terrorists out, but they would feel no moral guilt. The guilt would be on the shoulders of those who started the whole thing by launching the missiles.”
At the crux of it, calls for Israeli proportionality privilege a willingness to succumb to slow but constant bleeding over attempts, however imperfectly aggressive, to heal the wound. This is not to say Israel has committed no atrocities or is otherwise free of blame. Such a situation is rarely the case for any side in any hostility. As a certain American general once famously observed and argued, “War is hell.” But there are worse hells than a flawed defense of the liberal democratic union of liberty and security.
Pacifism—the “principled” refusal to prosecute a worthwhile cause—is a beast from the pit, and its advocacy is a false prophecy inscribed with malice or idle nihilism in the blood of innocents seen and unseen. In the first place, it reifies concepts like “justice”, “freedom”, and “peace”, while denuding the moral universe of the resources to maintain such lofty ideals. In the second place, appeasement—or idly negligent “humanitarianism”—is the apotheosis of the Last Man, breeding contempt for the resolve to reckon with a dark and vicious world that will never care either for intentions or proportions.
This is not a game. A constitutional republic of the Free World is at war with a terrorist regime abetted by a den of Islamists on the one hand and clerical autocrats on the other. Every drop of blood spilt in eliminating senseless violence is upon the hands from which that evil came.
My sympathy is with the Palestinians. I hope their leaders will think of them, too.