The present war in Gaza

Some commenters have asked me to express a position on the war in Gaza.

My position is this: if there’s an archetype of a “just war”, this is damn close to it. The Israelis are responding to a clear, present, and lethal danger to the mass of their citizenry – rockets fired indiscriminately at their civilian population. Hamas’s statements and behavior (including more firing of rockets at civilians during humanitarian truces) give Israel every reason to believe that no means short of a war to destroy Hamas can end the threat. Israel’s tactics are appropriate to the objective of the war – there is no pattern of intentional killing of civilians.

The behavior of Hamas has been as vile as we might expect, hiding command bunkers under hospitals and siting mortars in residences and schools. Under the Geneva Convention and the customary laws of war, civilian casualties from Israeli fire missions to neutralize these sites are war crimes, all right, but they are war crimes by Hamas and not by Israel. Indeed, under the customary law of war the Israelis have behaved with commendable restraint.

The behavior of the international press has also been as vile as we might expect, in general uncritically retailing the Hamas propaganda line. The U.N. has, unusually, failed to descend to quite as wretched a depth, probably because Israel has the tacit backing of most of the Arab countries and Fatah.

I wish the Israelis all good fortune in smashing Hamas utterly. The world will be improved by it, both because the destruction of any violent Islamic fundamentalist group is a service to peace and for the message it will send to fundamentalists less violent. The lesson Islam needs in order to learn moderation is simple: to wage jihad against the West is to be defeated and to die. Let us hope it is learned before they get nuclear weapons and the stakes become genocidal.

371 thoughts on “The present war in Gaza

  1. In another thread there was a bit of discussion about how strongly should ethics be based on abstract theory as opposed to custom, habit and moral instincts. I’m mainly for habits and instincts, for the reason that’s what we do in most situations in life anyway, but I can accept that there can be some rare, fringe cases when one must theorize about ethics, and has to override his instincts with it even when the results are totally counter-intuitive.

    These fringe cases are generally 1) when there is a lot at stake i.e. many lives 2) it’s not about some decision made in a fraction of a second but there is plenty of time to think about it.

    Now. Our moral insticts – well, at least mine – urge me to be outraged about what Israel does, bombing in heavily populated areas, causing many civilian casualties, the news say there are something like 450 _children_ dead, and so on. This the case when the moral instincts say nay, this should not be done, it’s too repulsive, disgusting, too heavy-handed, too brutal, and generally unacceptable.

    However, if I stop to theorize about the ethics of the situation I have to admit that what Israel is doing is actually the lesser evil.

    What do you do when someone is hiding behind a hostage, and shooting at a third, innocent person? Answer: shoot him, even when it means you might hit the hostage. Even when it means you probably end up with many more innocent dead than otherwise, as is the case here. Why? Well, because one thing you cannot allow to happen is to let this behaviour evolve into a successful strategy, because then you’ll get much more of it. In the longer run, the absolutely worst outcome is when this behaviour gets widespread. Showing that the hiding behind civilians strategy does not work is in the long-term best interest of anybody involved (except for Hamas, of course), including Palestinian civilians.

    Israel is treating Palestinian civilians as second-rate citizens. Hamas is treating them as not human beings at all, just as some walking, bleeding shields plus lambs to be sacrificed on the altar of the media. Which again points at that it’s probably not the best interest of Palestinian civilians to leave Hamas alone.

    Still. This is a very hard pill to swallow. I don’t like it at all.

  2. >Still. This is a very hard pill to swallow. I don’t like it at all.

    Well and clearly stated, Shenpen. I am in complete agreement with both your misgivings and your analysis.

  3. As an Israeli citizen (and soldier) I must say that hearing (well, reading) these words from a sharp and intelligent person that is not Israeli is very pleasing.

    Thank you!

  4. Maybe it’s weird , but the most of Iranian people supported Israel during that war, In contrast to their religious and dictator government…

  5. >Maybe it’s weird , but the most of Iranian people supported Israel during that war, In contrast to their religious and dictator government…

    I’m not as surprised to hear this as I might be. I’ve known Iranians, and I’ve known Arabs, and I’d say the strong belief Iranians have in their cultural superiority over Arabs is correct — when you guys get shut of Islam, you’ll actually be ready to join rejoin civilization.

  6. Eric, I have to take issue with that last statement. They aren’t joining civilization, they are re-joining it after long absence.

    Also, I note in common media coverage, as well as even pro-israel blog coverage, that most still misunderstand the goals of Hamas in this action.

    They aren’t trying to win; they are trying to get the media to rhetorically rape Israel. In this they have succeeded.

    The so called Palestinian conflict has never been about winning; it’s about scapegoating Israel and America for all the problems of the regimes of corrupt dictators around the middle east.

    I wrote about it in much greater depth here:

    http://anarchangel.blogspot.com/2005/04/isreal-palestineterrorism-and-politics.html

    I wrote that piece about four years ago; but it’s as true today as it was in 1970.

  7. > habits and instincts, for the reason that’s what we do in most situations in life anyway
    You’re right. But isn’t it worth trying to optimize those heuristics?

  8. >They aren’t joining civilization, they are re-joining it after long absence.

    Aha! A man who knows his history. Correction accepted, and my previous comment edited accordingly.

  9. > probably because Israel has the tacit backing of most of the Arab countries

    Is this just because only a few Arab countries are Islamofascist-dominated?
    or else because they fear taking up the side of Hamas?

  10. Hi Guys,
    I’m so surprised to see that you know the difference between Iranian and Arabs !!
    In fact, Persians (Iranians) have been one of the closest friends of the Jewish people over history.
    Unfortunately, we were the first people that tasted Arabs wildness .
    Just imagine the people who have more than 4000 years civilization, when they face with black naked aggressors.
    And I can strongly say YES , most of Iranians support Israel; though no one like to see the death of civilians …

  11. Sorry for my extreme ignorance regarding the Middle East, I’m an isolationist so I haven’t looked into it too too much.

  12. …”retailing” or “retelling” the Hamas propaganda line…

    Don’t know if that’s a spell check induced typo or not. However it came about, I like the phrase as written. It inspires other such phrases, like “peddling the propaganda.” What else is a sinking legacy media outlet to do?

  13. Thomas, while the leaders of most of the nations in the region profess islamic observance, and piety (to varying degrees); most in fact do not observe it very well.

    It is this very fact which makes them profess such great support for the “palestinian” cause. This allows them to pretend to be great supporters of islam, while they debauch themselves, and strip their countries bare of cash and resources.

    So long as their populace are riled about America and Israel, they aren’t busy stringing up their leaders.

  14. While I’m not morally opposed to Israel’s war in Gaza, what I don’t understand is the huge flow of sentiment toward Israel. They are more or less living with the consequences of their own actions. Also, moralising about conduct in war is a propaganda game of convenience that has taken on a life of its own. It would be better in numerous ways for somebody to simply carpet-bomb either side until the war is over, but nobody will do it because that method of killing is supposedly morally inferior to protracted warfare.

  15. I wish the Israelis all good fortune in smashing Hamas utterly. The world will be improved by it [...]

    That fantasy seems to be common among American war hawks. The impression I get about Israeli attitudes toward the present campaign in Gaza (any Israelis reading this should please set me straight) is that while most of the population agrees that the campaign is justified and necessitated by Hamas’ actions, far fewer people would assert that anything will be improved, and only the religious fringe could believe that it will “smash Hamas utterly.”

  16. syskill, it is contradictory to “believe the campaign is justified” and at the same time “assert that [nothing] will be improved”. The campaign is only justified if it causes violence against Israeli civilians to be lessened, preferably eliminated. A human might also hope that the Palestinian lot might also be improved by removing Hamas from power, but in realpolitik, as long as the violence ceases, then the nation says the campaign is justified, and the ceasing of the violence is the justification.

  17. Oh and I should note, the regional support of the “palestinian” cause, is as much about pan arabism, as it is about islam; which should give you pause when you consider the motives of Iran in supporting Hezbollah.

  18. >or else because they fear taking up the side of Hamas?

    Mainly the latter, I think. Hamas is a bunch of crazed barbaric shitheads even by Arabs’ dismal standards for such things.

  19. Here’s a video of Israeli spokesman Merk Regev agreeing that Hamas did not fire rockets during the cease fire that ended on the 4th of November. There were a small number of rockets (compared to the preceding months) fired during the cease fire. I take it that the reporter and Mr. Regev agree that Hamas leaders were not in control of whoever fired them (which you may take as further evidence of the nature of Hamas).

    http://www.newsvideoclip.tv/online-video-news-latest-english-news-where-can-i-watch-video-news-news-of-the-world-online-breaking-news-bbc-news/

    (I can’t find a more specific-looking link. That one seems to work, for now at least. The title of the video is “Israel: No Hamas rockets fired during ceasefire”.)

    It seems to me that before November 4th, things were looking quite a bit better than in a long while, and that there very likely could have been a lot less violent way out of this. No doubt Hamas deserves to be put out of business. The fact that Israel began its operation immediately after the US election results were known and seems to have stopped just in time for the inauguration of Obama, and the fact that this is also a period of campaigning for Israel’s own elections, make me seriously question the motives of the Israeli government.

  20. As an Israeli reading this blog, I found Marshal’s passive-aggressive criticism of Israel’s handling of the war a very interesting read.

    >While I’m not morally opposed to Israel’s war in Gaza, what I don’t understand is the huge flow of sentiment toward Israel.

    “Not morally opposed” is a funny way of suspending judgement on whether the war is just or not. What exactly does “huge flow of sentiment” mean? Do you mean that the UN wasn’t quite vile against Israel as it was in the previous wars? Or do you mean that you’re surprised by the number of Americans who find it strange that the Hamas, an elected government, has siphoned off almost all of its money to ammunition instead of bettering the state of the Palestinians they govern?

    > They are more or less living with the consequences of their own actions.

    Which actions specifically are you referring to? Do these actions include funding Hamas in the 80s against the PLO in a failed attempt to defend itself, putting a defensive wall around Gaza before they had 30 km rockets, or preventing entry to Israel to Gazan civilians for fear of suicide bombers? Or are you referring to 1948 or 1967? Specifics would be nice.

    > Also, moralising about conduct in war is a propaganda game of convenience that has taken on a life of its own.

    This is pure nonsense. Any war can only be deemed morally successful in the aftermath to the extent that a) it was warranted to begin with and b.) the conduct of the soldiers in the war was moral. Israel holds itself to high standards (and when it fails to meet them, it faces a lot of criticism from within). The Hamas mocks them.

    > It would be better in numerous ways for somebody to simply carpet-bomb either side until the war is over, but nobody will do it because that method of killing is supposedly morally inferior to protracted warfare.

    Let’s start with the subtle way in which you claimed (incorrectly) that Israel is out to kill the Palestinians in Gaza as much as the Hamas is out to kill us. Uh, do you really believe Israel’s army of advanced warplanes and tanks to be so completely incompetent? Does it strike you as odd that Israel outlawed the only political Jewish party that ever put killing Palestinians on its ticket (hint: it shouldn’t)?

    And then there’s the “Supposedly?” It’s fortunate Israel does not agree with your horrid relativistic morality. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but you just justified genocide on the grounds that it’s the least of all evils so long as you (the guy on the side) don’t really care which people gets wiped out.

  21. I wish the Israelis all good fortune in smashing Hamas utterly. The world will be improved by it, both because the destruction of any violent Islamic fundamentalist group is a service to peace and for the message it will send to fundamentalists less violent.

    The attempt to “smash” and “destroy” fundamentalism in order to send a “message” only breeds violence.

  22. Wow.

    A string of intelligent comments which leaves nothing remaining to be said.

    I’m impressed.

    @ the Author, Shenpen, Jeremy, and noam’s rebuttal.

    A

  23. “Not morally opposed” is a funny way of suspending judgement on whether the war is just or not. What exactly does “huge flow of sentiment” mean? Do you mean that the UN wasn’t quite vile against Israel as it was in the previous wars? Or do you mean that you’re surprised by the number of Americans who find it strange that the Hamas, an elected government, has siphoned off almost all of its money to ammunition instead of bettering the state of the Palestinians they govern?

    You are doing a whole lot of guesswork about what I “mean”, none of which is accurate. What I “mean” is there is a lot of sentiment for Israel in America and elsewhere in the Western world. Why should anyone be surprised about one tribe wanting war with another?

    Which actions specifically are you referring to? Do these actions include funding Hamas in the 80s against the PLO in a failed attempt to defend itself, putting a defensive wall around Gaza before they had 30 km rockets, or preventing entry to Israel to Gazan civilians for fear of suicide bombers? Or are you referring to 1948 or 1967? Specifics would be nice.

    I am talking about the partitioning of Palestinian land. The outcome of protracted conflict is hardly rocket science here.

    This is pure nonsense. Any war can only be deemed morally successful in the aftermath to the extent that a) it was warranted to begin with and b.) the conduct of the soldiers in the war was moral. Israel holds itself to high standards (and when it fails to meet them, it faces a lot of criticism from within). The Hamas mocks them.

    War is inherently amoral, in spite of various peoples’ self-serving attempts to imbue it with a sense of morality; there is no such thing as an immoral war. Most moralising about war is meant to artificially appeal to male intuitions and instincts in order to get people to participate. I didn’t say that Israel didn’t hold itself to high standards, in fact I directly contradicted that idea, so I have no idea where you go that from. I was implying that Israel should simply end the war by wiping out the other side.

    Let’s start with the subtle way in which you claimed (incorrectly) that Israel is out to kill the Palestinians in Gaza as much as the Hamas is out to kill us. Uh, do you really believe Israel’s army of advanced warplanes and tanks to be so completely incompetent? Does it strike you as odd that Israel outlawed the only political Jewish party that ever put killing Palestinians on its ticket (hint: it shouldn’t)?

    You can either quote me actually saying this, or implicitly retract the statement. I have no doubt that most Israelis and Arabs just want to get on with their lives, and do not possess a burning hatred for the other side. However, the Arabs are never not going to stop fighting any time soon, nor are they under any ‘moral’ obligation to do so just because Israel is able to fight with a conventional army. Terrorists have changed the rules of warfare, and all the Western nations can sit around and do is whine about how ‘immoral’ they are instead of killing them.

    And then there’s the “Supposedly?” It’s fortunate Israel does not agree with your horrid relativistic morality. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but you just justified genocide on the grounds that it’s the least of all evils so long as you (the guy on the side) don’t really care which people gets wiped out.

    There is nothing ‘relativistic’ about this. I have no idea where you got that. I am advocating amoralism in war.

  24. I really have a hard time understanding how anyone could do anything but side with Israel on this. If anything, they have waited too long and been too patient while rockets fall down on their cities. Anyone who make starts making excuses for Hamas I have to restrain myself from wanting to pop them in the jaw. These people are either evil or fools or both.

    Let’s face it, the peace process has failed, and “land for peace” has failed. (And by the way, since they did not get peace, why shouldn’t they take back the land?)

    It should be blindlingly obvious by now that Hamas does not want peace, they don’t want land, at root they want Israel destroyed and the jews dead.

    The example I like to use with people is, what if Mexico was lobbing rockets into San Diego while Europe and the UN kept badgering us not to hit back, to make a deal with Mexico, to give peace a chance? Perhaps, if we give back the Gadsden purchase, then they will like us?

    How long would we put up with that?

  25. I am advocating amoralism in war.

    Do you really think American public opinion is braced for the even larger number of photos of dead Palestinian children (even if deliberately placed in harm’s way by their criminal parents) that would entail?

    If Israel gave up even trying to hold onto the moral high ground I don’t think they could live with themselves. Well, most of them, I’m sure there’s a few who could.

  26. >If Israel gave up even trying to hold onto the moral high ground I don’t think they could live with themselves.

    The Israelis are civilized. Their opponents are barbarians. You have just described an essential component of the difference.

  27. The so called Palestinian conflict has never been about winning; it’s about scapegoating Israel and America for all the problems of the regimes of corrupt dictators around the middle east.

    Er…you do know that the American government has been supporting quite a few of those dictators for some time? Particularly Saudi and Egypt?

    As Golda Meir said, there will be peace with the Arabs, when they love their children more than they hate the Jews.

    I think they probably look at the opportunities their children are going to have compared to those of Israeli children, and from then on it’s just return-on-investment. People without hope are liable to turn feral and nasty, news at 11.

  28. It looks like Israel’s already committed to a complete pull-out in Gaza. Seems these two will be cutting each others throats well into the next generation.

  29. Adrian Smith:
    > Do you really think American public opinion is braced for the even larger number of photos of dead Palestinian children (even if deliberately placed in harm’s way by their criminal parents) that would entail?

    Yes, I do think public opinion is ready.

    But the very idea that Israels survival should play second fiddle to fickle public opinion is insane.

    Also, there has been a bad track record of these photos being faked, with the AP being the willing dupes of Hamas.

  30. >What do you do when someone is hiding behind a hostage, and shooting at a third, innocent person? Answer: shoot him, even when it means you might hit the hostage.

    Well done, you’ve saved one innocent life at the cost of only one innocent life, for a net gain of zero. This is better than the IDF, which has managed to save negative four innocent lives at a cost of hundreds of innocent lives.

    What do you do when someone is hiding behind a hostage, is shooting at a third innocent person, and you have a reasonable of talking the hostage taker down and saving both lives? The answer is not: shoot the hostage so that you look tough for the upcoming election.

  31. I really have a hard time understanding how anyone could do anything but side with Israel on this.

    That is nothing more than rank bias. The frank truth is that Arabs were displaced by Israel a long time ago, and their culture is highly militant. If Israel has issue with this they are within their rights to fight back with whatever means they see. However, please spare us the transparent portrayal of Israel as the innocent victim.

    If anything, they have waited too long and been too patient while rockets fall down on their cities. Anyone who make starts making excuses for Hamas I have to restrain myself from wanting to pop them in the jaw. These people are either evil or fools or both.

    If a snake eats a poor, innocent mouse, is the snake evil? No, it is simply doing what comes naturally. Humans can naturally be provoked into fighting by various means, and the Arab states are not part of the same society as us. Why would they follow our rules? If all your society can do is whine that its enemies aren’t “playing fair”, you might as well roll over and surrender.

  32. syskill, it is contradictory to “believe the campaign is justified” and at the same time “assert that [nothing] will be improved”.

    Unless inaction would cause the overall situation to deteriorate.

  33. The Israelis are civilized. Their opponents are barbarians. You have just described an essential component of the difference.

    One hopes that Israel and Western civilisation in general would be willing to go to the lengths that the Arabs have in order to keep fighting if they were losing that badly. If not, well, no civilisation lasts forever.

  34. Marshal:
    > That is nothing more than rank bias. The frank truth is that Arabs were displaced by Israel a long time ago, and their culture is highly militant. If Israel has issue with this they are within their rights to fight back with whatever means they see. However, please spare us the transparent portrayal of Israel as the innocent victim.

    This is not rank bias, Marshal, rather it is the result of paying attention to what actually goes on in that part of the world. The Arabs living in Israel are more free and have more opportunities than elsewhere in the Arab world. Israel has bent over backwards to make a deal with these people, to no avail. Please quit making excuses for these people. Whatever beef they have, it simply does not justify their tactics.

    > If a snake eats a poor, innocent mouse, is the snake evil? No, it is simply doing what comes naturally. Humans can naturally be provoked into fighting by various means, and the Arab states are not part of the same society as us. Why would they follow our rules? If all your society can do is whine that its enemies aren’t “playing fair”, you might as well roll over and surrender.

    Well, Marshal, I agree that Hamas is little more than a bunch of snakes. However, Israel is not an innocent little mouse as they are displaying once again. What are you arguing here? That we have no right to expect civilized behavior from Arabs? This seems like a racist argument in some sense: the soft bigotry of low expectations. If they choose not to “follow our rules”, i.e. act in a civilized manner, than they are going to be annihilated. And rightly so.

  35. This is not rank bias, Marshal, rather it is the result of paying attention to what actually goes on in that part of the world. The Arabs living in Israel are more free and have more opportunities than elsewhere in the Arab world. Israel has bent over backwards to make a deal with these people, to no avail. Please quit making excuses for these people. Whatever beef they have, it simply does not justify their tactics.

    What makes you think they need to justify anything? Or that I am making ‘excuses’? I am pointing out that your impotent rage is arbitrary and ultimately stems from the fact that Israel is on your side culturally.

    Well, Marshal, I agree that Hamas is little more than a bunch of snakes. However, Israel is not an innocent little mouse as they are displaying once again. What are you arguing here? That we have no right to expect civilized behavior from Arabs? This seems like a racist argument in some sense: the soft bigotry of low expectations. If they choose not to “follow our rules”, i.e. act in a civilized manner, than they are going to be annihilated. And rightly so.

    Good job not bothering to even read my post and assuming I am some kind of pro-Hamas/pro-Israel mouthbreather. I am pro-nobody as far as this argument goes. My point is that Israel is not ‘morally superior’ here; they just happen to be on our side. All this moral superiority silliness is merely propaganda intended for the proles, and I am amused that you have been sucked in by it.

  36. So why is it that liberals/the MSM support Hamas? I’m not sure that suicidalism really applies here, since I don’t know if those people consider Israel one of “us”. I’ve asked liberals whether they think Israel is part of the West and most say no.

  37. Because our society is comfortable and safe enough that people can afford not to take their own side.

  38. On the contrary, Marshal, Israel is morally superior here. They are defending themselves after making a lot of good faith efforts for peace. Ehud Barak offered them a deal giving them everything they said they wanted; but still it was of no use. And I did read your post, I read it several times. Nor do I think you are some mouthbreather; your arguments are too articulate for that.

    What makes me think they need to justify anything? So they need not justify launching rockets from atop schools, and willingly putting kids and civilians in harms way so as to make the Israelis look bad? I’m beginning to suspect that maybe you are anti-semitic, but too sophisticated to come right out and say so. So instead you cloak you arguments in moral equivalence, where Israel is not morally superior, they are just on our side. In your view, both sides are equally to blame. This is just not so. But I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt and assume you are notthat way, rather your thinking is morally muddled. You give yourself away by saying ‘proles’, that is a marxist term. We are not proles, rather we are free citizens living in a republic. (At least I am.)

    Leftists see the world in terms of strong and weak, so Hamas must be in the right, somehow, because they are weak and Israel is strong.

    Israel’s fight is our fight, and we don’t do anyone a favor by playing the everything-is-a-shade-of-gray card. And it is not amusing, rather it is sad, naive, and a little dangerous.

  39. On the contrary, Marshal, Israel is morally superior here. They are defending themselves after making a lot of good faith efforts for peace. Ehud Barak offered them a deal giving them everything they said they wanted; but still it was of no use. And I did read your post, I read it several times. Nor do I think you are some mouthbreather; your arguments are too articulate for that.

    You are forgetting that they are on land that was taken from Arabs. At the point that was done they invited conflicted, conflict came to them, and now they are simply living out the consequences. None of this has anything to do with moral superiority on anyone’s part.

    I’m beginning to suspect that maybe you are anti-semitic,

    Every time you accuse me of racism you make yourself look just a little less objective.

    Leftists see the world in terms of strong and weak, so Hamas must be in the right, somehow, because they are weak and Israel is strong.

    Thanks again for trying to put words into my mouth. I don’t think Hamas is in the right or wrong, and the same goes for the Israelis.

    Israel’s fight is our fight, and we don’t do anyone a favor by playing the everything-is-a-shade-of-gray card. And it is not amusing, rather it is sad, naive, and a little dangerous.

    No, what’s sad, naive and dangerous is an adult who thinks that the world works like a movie. There are few black-and-white moral truths, because a society’s behaviour is a complex emergent behaviour. If Israel nuked the Palestinians it wouldn’t bother me; however the game of moral superiority is simply a convention fiction.

  40. The Israelis are civilized. Their opponents are barbarians. You have just described an essential component of the difference.

    The Palestinians in Gaza are certainly brutalised, and the efforts of some Americans to exonerate the Israelis from having played any part in that (despite the fact that they’ve always had a vastly greater range of options than Hamas) are kind of…interesting.

    I think it’s basically a tribal thing myself. Unsophisticated types (not here, obviously) look at the Israelis and Palestinians and see…cowboys and Indians, hardy pioneers wresting land from feckless indigenous types and rendering it economically productive. The resonance inspires a visceral sense of identification with Israeli ends which will probably take more than a whole bunch of faked photos of allegedly dead Palestinian kids to shift.

  41. Marshal, g-d bless you, you just don’t get it. And good job not reading my post, I extended you the benefit of the doubt on the antisemitism. And the jews have been on that land since biblical times, longer than the arabs.

    Ok, so maybe I’m not objective, I admit it, but neither are you. Quit acting like CBS news. I know the difference between right and wrong when I see it. Look, I know nobody in this world is 100% morally clean and pure; but if you have been paying attention you can’t help but notice that Hamas uses the most evil obnoxious terrorist tactics that they can, while Israel and the IDF exercise an almost superhuman level of restraint, doing what they can to limit the deaths of innocents, while Hamas deliberately put civilians in harms way to score a public relations coup. And the media over there often helps them, Joe the Plumber recently called them out on this.

    And you, sir, are the one who seems to think the world works like a movie, but its the crappy movies Hollywood has been putting out since the Iraq war started, movies where nobody is right, nobody is wrong, and moral equivalence and “Why don’t they like us?” being the order of the day. I’m speaking of weak cynical films like Rendition, Redacted, and In the Valley of Elah. (If you haven’t heard of these films, it is not surprising, they all bombed.)

    And if Israel dropped a nuke over there, it wouldn’t bother you? Really? It would bother me, because it is not necessary, at least at this point. They can do the job with conventional means. This is what’s wrong with moral relatavism, the next thing you know you’re dropping nukes when it isn’t needed.

    If Hamas put down their guns, there would be peace for everyone. If Israel put down their guns, there would be no more Israel.

  42. You give yourself away by saying ‘proles’, that is a marxist term.

    Orwell was a Marxist?

  43. >> You give yourself away by saying ‘proles’, that is a marxist term.

    > Orwell was a Marxist?

    ‘Prole’ is etymologically derived from ‘proletariat’, which is a Marxist term. Orwell was not a Marxist, but he was indeed a socialist. I think it’s a bit of a stretch, though, to suggest that the use of the word implies socialist leanings, given that ESR uses it.

  44. Ok, so maybe I’m not objective, I admit it, but neither are you. Quit acting like CBS news. I know the difference between right and wrong when I see it. Look, I know nobody in this world is 100% morally clean and pure; but if you have been paying attention you can’t help but notice that Hamas uses the most evil obnoxious terrorist tactics that they can, while Israel and the IDF exercise an almost superhuman level of restraint, doing what they can to limit the deaths of innocents, while Hamas deliberately put civilians in harms way to score a public relations coup. And the media over there often helps them, Joe the Plumber recently called them out on this.

    Well if Joe the Plumber says so, it must be right.

    And you, sir, are the one who seems to think the world works like a movie, but its the crappy movies Hollywood has been putting out since the Iraq war started, movies where nobody is right, nobody is wrong, and moral equivalence and “Why don’t they like us?” being the order of the day. I’m speaking of weak cynical films like Rendition, Redacted, and In the Valley of Elah. (If you haven’t heard of these films, it is not surprising, they all bombed.)

    What? I am as sick as anyone of seeing lame, Hollywood politics in my movies. I am also sick of seeing the opposite side of the coin, which is what you are advocating. I don’t know of any MSM or liberal commentator who would say it’s okay for Israel to nuke Palestine, so just give up trying to paint me as a Hollywood liberal already.

    And if Israel dropped a nuke over there, it wouldn’t bother you? Really? It would bother me, because it is not necessary, at least at this point. They can do the job with conventional means. This is what’s wrong with moral relatavism, the next thing you know you’re dropping nukes when it isn’t needed.

    They can do the job? Where have you been for the last few decades? You think Israel is winning? I will ignore your spurious remark about “relativism”, since I have espoused nothing of the sort. I am espousing that we avoid polluting warfare with any notion of morality. That necessarily precludes the idea of ‘relativism’.

    If Hamas put down their guns, there would be peace for everyone. If Israel put down their guns, there would be no more Israel.

    If Hamas had put their guns down earlier, there would have been further encroachment of (what they see as) their territory. The fact that Israel has realised that it is starting to lose over the long term and is offering concessions after years of conflict does not mark them as “superior”. They offer concessions because they have the option of doing so.

  45. ‘Prole’ is etymologically derived from ‘proletariat’, which is a Marxist term. Orwell was not a Marxist, but he was indeed a socialist. I think it’s a bit of a stretch, though, to suggest that the use of the word implies socialist leanings, given that ESR uses it.

    This guy has already implied that I am a racist, when I have clearly made no such remarks. He is just looking for any lame ad hominem that he can find.

  46. Again, Marshal, if you actually read my previous post, I don’t think you are racist. I am not looking for ad hominem attacks but rather having a spirited debate.

    And you don’t need to take Joe the Plumber’s word, you can use the google yourself. What he said needed to be said.

    And Israel is offering concessions because they really want peace. Israel is not losing anything, rather it is Hamas that is reduced to these desperate, ultimately losing tactics because they have nothing else.

    And I’m not talking about MSM commentators (in regards to nukes), you said you could care less if Israel dropped a nuke, not some unmentioned “commentators”. I doubt many share this insane view.

    And Hamas did not launch rocket attacks in reponse to any “encroachments”, rather they launched these rocket attacks in response to the Israeli withdrawal from gaza. Concesesions, not encroachments, are what provoke these assaults.

    We should not “pollute warfare with morality?” What does that even mean? Perhaps we should strive to be maniacally even handed when we have to blow people’s brains out? How is one to fight a just war without some kind of moral compass?

  47. And Israel is offering concessions because they really want peace. Israel is not losing anything, rather it is Hamas that is reduced to these desperate, ultimately losing tactics because they have nothing else.

    ‘Ultimately losing’? How do you make this evaluation? They have been doing this for years, and it has blunted Israel’s position over the years.

    And I’m not talking about MSM commentators (in regards to nukes), you said you could care less if Israel dropped a nuke, not some unmentioned “commentators”. I doubt many share this insane view.

    I only mentioned this because of your ludicrous claim that my world-view was in some way aligned with the MSM and Hollywood liberals. The ‘liberal’ POV is just as simple-minded and erroneously reductionist as yours.

    And Hamas did not launch rocket attacks in reponse to any “encroachments”, rather they launched these rocket attacks in response to the Israeli withdrawal from gaza. Concesesions, not encroachments, are what provoke these assaults.

    I didn’t say they did. The attacks are taking place as part of a conflict that has been going on for decades. Hamas wants the entirety of the partitioned land back. Since they were there at some point, their want of it back is not arbitrary or ‘evil’. It is mere self-interest.

    We should not “pollute warfare with morality?” What does that even mean? Perhaps we should strive to be maniacally even handed when we have to blow people’s brains out? How is one to fight a just war without some kind of moral compass?

    The concept of a just war is a myth that has been paraded around for centuries. All wars are waged in the name of self-interest, whether the propaganda says so or not.

  48. War is inherently amoral, in spite of various peoples’ self-serving attempts to imbue it with a sense of morality; there is no such thing as an immoral war.

    I would consider military action to stop the slaughter in Darfur a moral war. And I would consider military action meant to prolong that same slaughter to be immoral.

  49. For the record:

    1- I owe ESR a nice “thanks!” for providing us with his sane and defensible opinions [at the request of yours truly] on the current Gaza crisis. It’s one of his idiosyncrasies to assert what he thinks is right whether saying it is considered Politically Correct or not.

    2- I may surprise you by saying that I am a 20-something native Iranian boy, currently residing in my home country and have been there since birth. Here, the national media is doing it’s utmost to brainwash our minds by broadcasting bunches of dull 24/7 crap repeating their ill-natured false claims over and over. Lots of ridiculous government-manipulated botched demos are taking place.
    Please help me on this: Why on earth the Iranian Government [and a f*cking nuts like Ahmadinejad as a core spokesman] is providing Hamas and Islamic Jihad Of Palestine [two organizations regarded as terrorist by UN/US and the European Union and even Japan] with not only financial support and destructive equipment but also with rhetorical cover? Is it just another dumb justification of Islamic violence and fascism (namely Jihad) or drawing our attention from catastrophic current state of things [i.e human rights, economy, poverty etc.] within Persia? [Or is it just because they are plain stupid?]

    2- You probably can’t understand what I’m feeling right now when the TV is on: Sometimes I REALLY want to bring up. Sometimes it just becomes tiring and unbearable being overwhelmed with the huge mass of sick repetitive political rantings. So the first time I see a Palestinian Jihadi, I’m gonna kick him/her in those no-no places and yell at them: F*ck Off And Die!
    :-()

    3- As You might have noticed, I am using a fake name to avoid the immediate attention of the strict internet monitoring authorities here and consequent easy tracing of my IP and home address. So please don’t label me simply as a “wanker” , “troll” or something like that.
    [sorry to go too long]

  50. “most of Iranians support Israel”

    Hm, if that’s true, that can only mean two things: either the Hezbollah are getting their funding by selling cookies, or there is a long overdue ass-kicking to be delivered by the Iranian people, to the Iranian government.

  51. It’s one of his idiosyncrasies to assert what he thinks is right whether saying it is considered Politically Correct or not.

    I think if Eric found himself saying something Politically Correct types would agree with he’d probably have to examine his own thinking very, very carefully.

  52. Steven, that it is utterly awesome. If you ever have any concern that your anonymity arrangements are inadequate, I would be honored to offer you an OpenVPN tunnel to the free world. I have 200GB per month of bandwidth on my hosting plan; within reason, overages are on me.

  53. “So why is it that liberals/the MSM support Hamas?”

    I think it’s the usual lack of knack for understanding finer distinctions, and the usual “people are like clay” belief, that the actions of people are conditioned or programmed by their circumstances and there is no place for conscious and responsible decision-making.

    It’s one thing to sympathize with the sufferings of Palestinian civilians, which are and have always been many. It’s a very different thing to support Hamas.

    With a “people are like clay” view everything Hamas does is the direct consequence of that suffering and is therefore not to be judged hard. Of course, it can be easily demonstrated how absurd it is, as with the same logic one could say that everything Hitler (shut up, Godwin) did was the direct consequence of the harsh peace treaties after WWI.

  54. “Hamas is a bunch of crazed barbaric shitheads even by Arabs’ dismal standards for such things.”

    Well basically the point is that secular or semi-secular Arab governments are near to the top on the death list of Islamists, right after Israel and America. Anwas Sadat’s assasination was a clear warning signal for them.

  55. I would consider military action to stop the slaughter in Darfur a moral war. And I would consider military action meant to prolong that same slaughter to be immoral.

    Are you able-bodied? Why aren’t you over there shooting bad-guys? Because you don’t really care that much, and your sense of ‘morality’ about the conflict is merely designed to make you feel principled from the safety of foreign soil.

  56. With a “people are like clay” view everything Hamas does is the direct consequence of that suffering and is therefore not to be judged hard. Of course, it can be easily demonstrated how absurd it is, as with the same logic one could say that everything Hitler (shut up, Godwin) did was the direct consequence of the harsh peace treaties after WWI.

    While I don’t agree with the “people are like clay” idea, your judgments of Hamas are meaningless. They do not subscribe to the same set of moral principles that we do (clearly). Morality exists purely as an agreement amongst men that is made for the greater good. For example, countries with conventional armies often have arrangements relating to the treatment of civilians and POWs, because it is beneficial to both sides. Not everyone agrees on moral codes, and the morals that survive are the ones that are most successfully defended and propagated. Morals are fairly axiomatic for most people, being the result of social programming rather than explicit reasoning. So, there is no rational basis for comparison of moral systems. No such justification is needed, however, since any worthwhile society will attempt to spread its morals by one means or another. The Western states are simply indignant with (sadly impotent) fury that other groups are more aggressively spreading their moral codes.

  57. >It’s one thing to sympathize with the sufferings of Palestinian civilians, which are and have always been many. It’s a very different thing to support Hamas.

    What I hear most from liberals is condemnation of Israel for killing Palestinian civilians. Some of them end up conflating Hamas militants with Gazan civilians, but that mistake is made on both sides.

    Why do liberals spend more time criticising Israel than Hamas?

    1) Many more innocent people are being killed by Israel than by Hamas.
    2) “Israel” is the sort of entity that might act on such criticism.
    3) Hamas’ attacks on civilians are obviously wrong; pointing that out adds nothing to the situation.

  58. >3- As You might have noticed, I am using a fake name to avoid the immediate attention of the strict internet monitoring authorities here and >consequent easy tracing of my IP and home address. So please don’t label me simply as a “wanker” , “troll” or something like that.

    So Steven … I’m already a dead man :(

  59. > The Palestinians in Gaza are certainly brutalised, and the efforts of some Americans to exonerate the Israelis from having played any part in that (despite the fact that they’ve always had a vastly greater range of options than Hamas) are kind of…interesting.

    Yes, Palestinians have it bad, but how much of that is Israel’s fault in any meaningful sense?

    Israel “made the desert bloom”. What have Palestinians done? (Note that Israel didn’t have any help, so “Israel won’t help” isn’t an excuse.)

    There’s a reason why govts in the region keep political Palestinians under tight control, and it has nothing to do with Israel. (See Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt.)

  60. > 1) Many more innocent people are being killed by Israel than by Hamas.

    When “an innocent” living on an ammo dump gets killed by an attack, whose fault is it?

    > 2) “Israel” is the sort of entity that might act on such criticism.

    If Hamas is an entity that won’t act on moral criticism, why would one want it to survive, let alone prevail?

    > 3) Hamas’ attacks on civilians are obviously wrong; pointing that out adds nothing to the situation.

    If pointing out that Hamas’ attacks on civilians are obviously wrong “adds nothing”, why point out Israel’s attacks on civilians? Are they not “obviously wrong” or what?

  61. >When “an innocent” living on an ammo dump gets killed by an attack, whose fault is it?

    What’s with the scare quotes? Are there no innocent Palestinians? The only good X is a dead X?

    >If Hamas is an entity that won’t act on moral criticism, why would one want it to survive, let alone prevail?

    There you go, conflating Hamas with all Palestinians.

    >If pointing out that Hamas’ attacks on civilians are obviously wrong “adds nothing”, why point out Israel’s attacks on civilians? Are they not “obviously wrong” or what?

    It’s clearly not obvious to you.

  62. @Daniel Franke: You’re so nice a guy and it’s so generous of you to offer me the encrypted tunnel. Currently I don’t see the need to do this but if things get nasty I will contact you through your mail [if till then you'll be still on it!]. It’s XXXXXXXX right? I will mail you by a gmail account (steven.ray20@gmail.com) and my real name on it. Thanks again buster!
    @vahid: When I say “consequent easy tracing of my IP and Home address” it’s not because merely commenting here [and in your case using just a nickname] is equal to getting caught! It’s because revealing my complete real name makes it easy for them to find my info through other [probably Persian] websites that I frequent; and it also brings notoriety [Yes, esr is notorious here - he has written a series of anti-Islamic articles before] and causes further problems [i.e I am attending a public university in Tehran, and I may get kicked out] . Please correct me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK, in case of this website, ESR is the only one who can access to my IP (He is not a traitor/hypocrite I am sure). Generally, when searching for you, they can come down to the ISP you’re using, and they can’t trace further without contacting the ISP. Leaking your info from there depends on the particular ISP you are using [i.e whether it stores user infos or not]. If you’re using a password-free dial-up 909-types chances are high that it stores info and you’ll be in trouble. But relax man, they’re currently busy shooting their mouth off about innocent Jihadis.

    Daniel Franke’s address shrouded at owner’s request.

  63. Having researched the conflict quite extensively (from before WW1 through to the present), I must say I agree with Esr’s original post.
    I would also like to point out that the Jews have a traditional ownership claim to the area. Some thing that the “Palestinian” Arabs don’t.
    The Jews were there from approximately 1500 BC till 60 AD when the Roman army besieged Jerusalem. The Romans then renamed the area Palestine after a people group that had ceased to exist 1000 years before. In spite of that, there were still Jews that stayed, and their descendants are still there to this day. The Arab claim to the area is a modern thing.

  64. Yes, Palestinians have it bad, but how much of that is Israel’s fault in any meaningful sense?

    Well, clearly, if you’ve already decided that the Gazans are the sole authors of their own misfortune…none. But others may think the overwhelming preponderance of power the Israelis possess means they might have the wherewithal to initiate change, if they sincerely so desired.

    The settlers are at the root of it, of course. Widely disliked in Israel AFAICT for skiving off military service by claiming to be involved in yeshivas or yarmulkes or something.

    Israel “made the desert bloom”. What have Palestinians done?

    Cowboys and Indians. I wonder about the state of some of those aquifers.

    (Note that Israel didn’t have any help, so “Israel won’t help” isn’t an excuse.)

    Israel didn’t have any help from the Jewish diaspora?

    There’s a reason why govts in the region keep political Palestinians under tight control, and it has nothing to do with Israel. (See Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt.)

    And why are there political Palestinians in those countries in the first place?

  65. I would also like to point out that the Jews have a traditional ownership claim to the area.

    I would like to point out that as a legal document, the Old Testament leaves a bit to be desired.

  66. Spineless leaders are the root cause of the problem. Had Israel done the same as US did with the Indians the problem would have been solved ages ago. That is go in crush them militarily and confide them to well controlled areas. Well you might say they do have them kind of confined in Gaza strip.
    Yes but for one thing they are given complete freedom inside their area and Israel can not intervene inside there on an as needed base and on the other hand the military victory step has not been fulfilled. Do you think Indians would have been cooperative inside the reservation camps had the US not crushed them militarily?
    From a military point of view this is like a picknik for IDF, had the coward Ehud Barack accepted the political cost it would entail such an action that is accept some limited Isreali casualties. The course would be occupy, cleanse and confide. The bureaucrats of UN might have some opposition but Israel as a sovereign state would have every right to do that.
    In my view it is the only ultimately viable solutiion to the palaestinian problem.

  67. @steven: Yes, that’s my email address, and I plan to keep it for the forseeable future. My offer remains on the table until the Guardian Council hangs.

    @esr: Would you please spamblock my address in steven’s post?

  68. The big problem with both the Israelis and Palestinians is that they both subscribe to an outmoded view of nationhood as being tied to ethnicity. You can’t be a true Israeli unless you’re Jewish, and you can’t be a true Palestinian unless you’re an Arab. Unless both sides reject this idea, no meaningful progress can be made in the peace process.

  69. Jeremiah Shepherd’s evidence was historical, and in no way referred to the Old Testament as a legal document.

  70. @steven, also, at such time as you choose to contact me, there’s no need to include any identifying details. All I care to verify is that you’re actually Iranian (and not an American kid in his mother’s basement using my tunnel to download warez), and I can do that by geographical IP lookup.

  71. I’m doubting Steven’s story as well. His command of English simply seems too good for someone who’s learned it as a second language.

  72. David, I’m not doubting him; my statement was just in the spirit of “trust but verify”. His English is good for a non-native speaker, but his errors are nonetheless not those that a native speaker would make. Particularly this: “Sometimes I REALLY want to bring up”. Clearly he meant “throw up”, and the error is perfectly characteristic of looking a word up in a dictionary and getting the wrong idiom.

  73. I never reply to blog posts. But I’m making an exception here. ers, I don’t agree with you on a lot of things, but I completely agree with your post – with enough passion to reply.

  74. Adrian Smith,

    You said: The settlers are at the root of it, of course. Widely disliked in Israel AFAICT for skiving off military service by claiming to be involved in yeshivas or yarmulkes or something.

    You’ve confused a few issues here.

    Most of the settlers are “religious zionists” and do indeed serve in the army. While most settlers would probably agree with an expansionist policy (founding new settlements), only a few settlers consistently try to put up new settlements (often overnight) in areas forbidden by Israeli law. The Israeli army usually steps in to make sure that doesn’t happen. Note that most of the settlements are legal by international law as well.

    There are large groups of strictly observant Haredi and Hasidic Jews who shirk their military service and are generally disliked for this and other reasons by the rest of the Jewish population. Very few of them are settlers. They generally live in secluded neighborhoods and sometimes throw rocks on Sabbath at cars passing through.

  75. >>When “an innocent” living on an ammo dump gets killed by an attack, whose fault is it?
    >
    >What’s with the scare quotes? Are there no innocent Palestinians? The only good X is a dead X?

    I’m sure that there are innocent Palestinians. However, Palestinians who volunteer to be human shields for military installations are active participants.

    >>If Hamas is an entity that won’t act on moral criticism, why would one want it to survive, let alone prevail?
    >
    >There you go, conflating Hamas with all Palestinians.

    Hamas is the govt chosen by Palestinians. And, Fatah also seems to be a govt that won’t act on moral criticism. The vast majority of Palestinians support one or the other (or to some extent, both).

    >>If pointing out that Hamas’ attacks on civilians are obviously wrong “adds nothing”, why point out Israel’s attacks on civilians? Are they not “obviously wrong” or what?
    >
    >It’s clearly not obvious to you.

    I’m not the one who thinks that Israel and Hamas should be held to different standards when it comes to violence.

  76. >>Yes, Palestinians have it bad, but how much of that is Israel’s fault in any meaningful sense?
    >
    >Well, clearly, if you’ve already decided that the Gazans are the sole authors of their own misfortune…none. But others may think the overwhelming preponderance of power the Israelis possess means they might have the wherewithal to initiate change, if they sincerely so desired.

    The brutal conditions are Israel’s fault because Israel isn’t providing better?

    Why don’t the Palestinians have any responsibility? They’d be the main beneficiaries.

    I forgot – living in squalor is in their political interest.

    >>(Note that Israel didn’t have any help, so “Israel won’t help” isn’t an excuse.)

    > Israel didn’t have any help from the Jewish diaspora?

    And no money comes from the UN, from other Islamic nations, and so on.

    >> There’s a reason why govts in the region keep political Palestinians under tight control, and it has nothing to do with Israel. (See Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt.)

    >And why are there political Palestinians in those countries in the first place?

    They seem to like taking over. Do you really want to argue that they wouldn’t do so if they achieved their charter goals wrt Israel?

  77. > The big problem with both the Israelis and Palestinians is that they both subscribe to an outmoded view of nationhood as being tied to ethnicity. You can’t be a true Israeli unless you’re Jewish, and you can’t be a true Palestinian unless you’re an Arab. Unless both sides reject this idea, no meaningful progress can be made in the peace process.

    If only it were so!

    Ethnicity is not the only possible basis for nationhood, but it is certainly the most common and easiest to understand. Even today nations are being formed on that very basis. It’s easy to look on one side of the coin and say that this is the root cause of so many evils being perpetrated world-wide. But the flip-side is equally important: Quite often, the drive for nationhood is ignited by ethnic strife. This is true for so many ethnicities today and throughout history. And if you stretch “ethnicity” just a bit, you can add the US to the list.

    One of the main reasons Israel was founded to begin with was that the Jews awoke to the brutal reality that it was not enough to be a people or a religion. A nation, quite simply, is better able to defend itself and present itself as a united entity to the world community.

    The central point is this. The Hamas declares its intent to *utterly destroy Israel* and acts on it constantly. Israel declares its intent to *defend* the Jews of Israel and the world against the very real threat of the annihilation of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

    David’s argument hides the difference between an Arab citizen of Israel who has full legal recourse, several Arab and anti-Israel political parties to vote for and very little to fear when walking down most Israeli streets, and the utter certainty Israelis have that they will meet an unhappy end venturing into Palestinian territory, unless they’ve got the Israeli army at their back.

    Marshal et al choose to ignore this vital difference too with the extreme relativistic postmodern argument that social narratives from different societies and cultures are innately incommunicable. This position provides a very clever excuse to not even try to understand other cultures (or the opponent, in this case).

    But worse than that, it denies us (all of us) one of the most fundamental human facilities: judgement. If we cannot judge the Hamas’ intent to be “barbarian” or evil, if we cannot stake our humanity on our morality in war as in everything else, if we cannot choose the *survival* of the Jewish people over the unfortunate killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, if we prefer to indiscriminately “carpet-bomb” each other with tens of thousands of dead over a 20 year war with 5000 dead to get it over with, if we are indifferent to the “Samson” option, we become less human.

    The Palestinians and the Israelis do not need to reject ethnicity as a basis for nationhood. The Palestinians need to reject the genocide of the Jewish people in order for peace to be possible.

  78. The concept of a just war is a myth that has been paraded around for centuries. All wars are waged in the name of self-interest, whether the propaganda says so or not. … War is inherently amoral, in spite of various peoples’ self-serving attempts to imbue it with a sense of morality; there is no such thing as an immoral war.

    I would consider military action to stop the slaughter in Darfur a moral war. And I would consider military action meant to prolong that same slaughter to be immoral.

    Are you able-bodied? Why aren’t you over there shooting bad-guys? Because you don’t really care that much, and your sense of ‘morality’ about the conflict is merely designed to make you feel principled from the safety of foreign soil.

    This is a strange argument to make:

    War is amoral!

    Wait, here is an example of a war that would be morally-justified; and here is another example of a war that is immoral.

    Instead of showing that the first hypothetical war would be amoral or that the second would not really be immoral, I will point out that you are not currently fighting the hypothetical war. Therefore war is amoral.

    Sorry, but it’s a non-sequitur.

  79. The question of who owned the land first and whether that should be a basis for the legitimacy of the State of Israel are two very different issues. No two people here will agree on them.

    But I would suggest that the real issue here is that while Israel has accepted (since 1948 in fact) the Arab claim, the Arabs (and other Muslim fanatics) have never accepted Israel’s claim (Jordan and Egypt are arguable exceptions).

    Saddam Hussein funded the PLO and other militant organizations for all kinds of attacks (including suicide bomber children!) and sent (thankfully non-nuclear) missiles (nevertheless painted with international biological warfare markings) to Israel. What possible claim could Saddam Hussein, whose Iraq shares no border with Israel, have to the land?

    Hamas shares Hussein’s fanatical ambition to destroy Israel as a blight, not as a legal adversary.

  80. So there is no such thing as a just war? Really?

    What about our own civil war? Where was the self-interest in freeing the slaves? The self-interested thing to do would have been to forget all about it and go back to business as usual.

    Do people really see no difference between fighting to free slaves and fighting to keep slaves?

    Or perhaps the whole thing was a cynical ploy by President Lincoln to enrich his defense contractor buddies.

    If that sounds absurd, it is; but its where you wind up going when you substitute cheap cynicism for real thought.

  81. The brutal conditions are Israel’s fault because Israel isn’t providing better?

    Er…I’d say they were a consequence of living under siege.

    Why don’t the Palestinians have any responsibility? They’d be the main beneficiaries.

    I forgot – living in squalor is in their political interest.

    It’s mainly in the interest of the Arab governments, which like to maintain them as a “running sore”. Did we mention that most of them are American clients? It always fascinates me when claims are made that the people with all the power have none of the responsibility.

    And no money comes from the UN, from other Islamic nations, and so on.

    I didn’t say the Palestinians hadn’t had any help. You said Israel hadn’t had any.

    Do you really want to argue that they wouldn’t do so if they achieved their charter goals wrt Israel?

    It would make more sense for them to go home to what would then be Palestine. They’re officially refugees, after all.

  82. Had Israel done the same as US did with the Indians the problem would have been solved ages ago.

    I’m talking about folk narratives as viewed from a US perspective, not military details. It’s clear that the difference between the two situations is that the Indians’ spirit was broken, but that the Palestinians’ hasn’t been.

    The question is whether Israel can really afford the political consequences of doing what it would take to break it.

    From a military point of view this is like a picknik for IDF, had the coward Ehud Barack accepted the political cost it would entail such an action that is accept some limited Isreali casualties. The course would be occupy, cleanse and confide. The bureaucrats of UN might have some opposition but Israel as a sovereign state would have every right to do that.

    I’m assuming you mean “confine”, but I’m not sure what you mean by “cleanse”, it sounds nasty.

    In my view it is the only ultimately viable solutiion to the palaestinian problem.

    Do you think it would be a final one, though?

  83. > It would make more sense for them to go home to what would then be Palestine. They’re officially refugees, after all.

    The Palestinian refugees are the only refugee group in the world to still be considered refugees after the second (or third) generation in refuge. They are also the only refugee group for which the UN has created a separate organization. That is, there are two UN refugee organizations: one for the Palestinian refugees and one for all the rest. And in other news, the majority of Jordan is Palestinian Arabs (not counting the refugees).

    It may be worthy of note that the the Palestinians have refused every single agreement in which refugees were not restored to *Israel*. That is, even in agreements that would have created two states, the Palestinians demanded that their refugees be repatriated to Israel, not to the new Palestinian state.

  84. Most of the settlers are “religious zionists” and do indeed serve in the army.

    Ooo. I shall take that up with my informant (a non-resident citizen) when I see him next. Thanks.

  85. >I’m sure that there are innocent Palestinians. However, Palestinians who volunteer to be human shields for military installations are active participants.

    This is argument by non-sequitur. It’s okay to kill innocent Palestinians because other Palestinians aren’t completely innocent?

    >Hamas is the govt chosen by Palestinians. And, Fatah also seems to be a govt that won’t act on moral criticism. The vast majority of Palestinians support one or the other (or to some extent, both).

    This is the exact argument used by Hamas to justify targeting civilians. I don’t accept it coming from either side.

    >I’m not the one who thinks that Israel and Hamas should be held to different standards when it comes to violence.

    Now you’re mixing argument by non-sequitur with vague insinuations about my morality. Of course I have different standards for actions that kill four civilians and actions that kill four hundred.

  86. >> You are forgetting that they are on land that was taken from Arabs. At the point that was done they invited conflicted, conflict came to them, and now they are simply living out the consequences. None of this has anything to do with moral superiority on anyone’s part.

    This is from a post made by by Marshal.
    Note the use of passive language: they invited conflict, and conflict came to them. As if “conflict” had a mind of its own.

    The use of passive language like this is the sure sign of a scoundrel.

  87. >One would think you’d have “gone off” (non-linear) on Obama and his position(s) on gun-control today.

    I’m finding that Obama Derangement Syndrome is just as amusing as Bush Derangement Syndrome.

  88. @Daniel Franke:

    1- So illiterate and careless of me not to use ordinary “mailto” HTML codes to plot my email address and just a reference to yours by saying “the one that is on your website”. Sorry for screwing up!
    2- >>Clearly he meant “throw up”
    You are right buddy. I used the word “bring up” as in “Bringing up the whole damn dinner ” .
    3- I mailed you a couple hours ago just to let you do the IP lookup.

    @David Delony:

    1- I uttered the first comment just to thank the author and to give a relatively realistic view about what is actually going on here. I am not an attention whore or a weak twit seeking kindness of others to achieve something. Note that I didn’t ask Daniel to help me with anonymous surfing. He offered that because [I think] he’s just that cool. I thankfully accepted the offer but in real life I will perhaps never use it. There are probably plenty of other free open source or proprietary software out there for this purpose.

    2- >>I’m doubting Steven’s story as well.
    You have the right to doubt me, but but what can I do? Sending you my pictures of “hand-in-hand with Ahmadinejad” to change your idea? :-)
    You don’t believe me because you thought my English is such hot stuff. Interestingly enough, the previous semester, I applied to some Faculty within our university to change one of my majors from Mathematics to English Literature. I was rejected because the bitch who interviewed me thought I was “below average” by their academic standards[CS was my other major].

    3- I fear this might seem as pompous and an attempt to deride the thread, but just to make it crystal clear and remove further misunderstandings:
    As I said before, I am 21-year-old Iranian boy. I am a so-called “Tabatabaie Syyed” which means I am a direct descendant of The Prophet Of Islam: Muhammad. My ancestors occupied The Kingdom Persia almost 1200 years ago and some of them barbaric dickheads settled there and continuously rushed out bullshit like volcano to spread violence, dirt and ignorance and to bastardize next generations of the Persian peoples. That’s it. That’s all. Don’t you believe? That’s O.K.
    Indeed, if any of you guys comes to Iran as a tourist, he/she is my guest.

  89. Steven, don’t trouble yourself over the email address. I already get spammed about 500 times a day; the few hours that my address was visible here isn’t going to make a dent :-).

    Emailing me didn’t let me see your IP since GMail doesn’t expose that. All it shows is some IANA private ranges used within Google. I’ll verify your IP from my server logs when and if you take make up on the offer.

  90. There are millions of Arabs and Muslims who supported the open source movement. If you see how they fanatically defended you and open source.
    I know they will be very disappointed when they know you carry such hatred and ignorance in your heart.

  91. This is from a post made by by Marshal.
    Note the use of passive language: they invited conflict, and conflict came to them. As if “conflict” had a mind of its own.

    The use of passive language like this is the sure sign of a scoundrel.

    A marxist and a scoundrel, oh my. You sure are good at making wildly unsupported inferences. In any case, perhaps I wasn’t clear: only a biased commentator would fail to acknowledge that the Arabs brought the conflict. However, your implication that the appropriation of Arab land played no part in provoking conflict is equally biased, and can only be explained by a powerful desire to heap all of the “blame” onto one side.

  92. “From a military point of view this is like a picknik for IDF”

    Counter-insurgency warfare in a very heavily populated area, where technological and strategical superiority doesn’t count much, and where it boils down to shooting in out on squad level in very short ranges against opponents who know (and prepared) the terrain and don’t give a damn about dying?…

  93. “The big problem with both the Israelis and Palestinians is that they both subscribe to an outmoded view of nationhood as being tied to ethnicity.”

    Israel and Fatah/PLO may. Hamas folks are a wholly different bunch, having very little to do with the Palestinian nation as such, and much more to do with the global nation of Islam.

    “I’m doubting Steven’s story as well. His command of English simply seems too good for someone who’s learned it as a second language.”

    Bullshit. It’s second for me as well, and he has the additional advantage of having an Indo-European language for native language. Good job, but far from being exceptional enough to be suspicious. See, it’s a wholly different thing for most (younger) people in the world to learn English than for an American to learn f.e. French. Most (fairly) young people in most of the world grew up listening to MC Hammer on the MTV and playing text-heavy computer games in English and stuff like that. Growing up being immersed in English-language global pop culture is a totally different (way easier) language learning experience than f.e. if you live in Pennsylvania and try to learn f.e. French.

  94. >>The brutal conditions are Israel’s fault because Israel isn’t providing better?
    >
    >Er…I’d say they were a consequence of living under siege.

    They’re not under siege except when Israel responds to attacks.

    > It’s mainly in the interest of the Arab governments, which like to maintain them as a “running sore”.

    That’s a curious response to the claim that you can’t blame others for Palestinian living conditions.

    > Did we mention that most of them are American clients?

    The US pays Egypt to not wage war against Israel. The US pays oil producing contries for oil. That doesn’t make those countries “American clients”. (Do you really want to argue that Iran is an “American client”?)

    >>And no money comes from the UN, from other Islamic nations, and so on.

    >I didn’t say the Palestinians hadn’t had any help. You said Israel hadn’t had any.

    Israel got support from expatriats and the like. They made the desert bloom while the nations around them were actively trying to destroy them. Palestinians get more support, for longer, and have gone nowhere.

    > It would make more sense for them to go home to what would then be Palestine. They’re officially refugees, after all.

    I’m referring to the charter goals to kill Jews and eliminate the state of Israel.

    The Palestinians say that they’re unwilling to accept anything less than a country where Israel is now. What have they done that convinces you that they’re not telling the truth?

  95. >>I’m sure that there are innocent Palestinians. However, Palestinians who volunteer to be human shields for military installations are active participants.
    >
    >This is argument by non-sequitur. It’s okay to kill innocent Palestinians because other Palestinians aren’t completely innocent?

    Since the vast majority of said “innocent Palestinians” killed are human shields, it’s quite relevant.

    >>I’m not the one who thinks that Israel and Hamas should be held to different standards when it comes to violence.
    >
    >Now you’re mixing argument by non-sequitur with vague insinuations about my morality. Of course I have different standards for actions that kill four civilians and actions that kill four hundred.

    Actually, you have different standards for groups that target military installations than you do for groups that target civilian centers. You object to the former and the latter doesn’t even rate a comment.

    Of course, you’re going to get pissy about that. So, feel free to explain how Israel can target Hamas’ military facilities given the fact that Hamas embeds said facilities in populated areas. Is that embedding also Israel’s fault?

  96. For the record, I know plenty of nonnative English speakers who are much better than most Americans at speaking the language — more correct and precise grammar, broader and more expressive vocabulary, etc.

  97. Hamas has something of a policy to rely on human shields by placing military targets in civilian areas such as schools, apartment complexes and hospitals. The only way to stop this practice is to demonstrate to Hamas that human shields are ineffective and in fact come at a large cost (reduced foreign aid, for instance).

    When Americans and Europeans wring their hands over the deaths of human shields Hamas gets a very different message: namely that human shields are effective.

    When Israel punishes squad leaders for using Palestinians as human shields many Americans and Europeans can’t stop talking about how bad Israel is ( http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/11/world/main2674604.shtml for instance ). When Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields those same Americans and Europeans can’t stop talking about how bad Israel is. The current debate comes pretty close to an outright endorsement of the tactic because, after all, the Palestinians are desperate. Why they’re desperate is never mentioned (shoot rockets at Israel->when Israel attacks claim to be “desperate”).

    After the attack that damaged the UN’s school Israel lodged a complaint with the UN about Hamas’ use of human shields (and about the local UN officials’ strange flexibility when it comes to Hamas). It’s been hilarious to see the UN try to handle that complaint. Maybe a little more public shaming of the various NGOs in the area will lead to some interesting changes. But I’m not holding my breath.

  98. They’re not under siege except when Israel responds to attacks.

    You’re right, they should just lie down and gratefully accept the Israeli boot on their necks. It’s what Americans would do, after all.

    I think their real threat to Israel is something like “Unless you negotiate with us we will force you to become what you despise”.

    > It’s mainly in the interest of the Arab governments, which like to maintain
    them as a “running sore”.

    That’s a curious response to the claim that you can’t blame others for Palestinian living conditions.

    Well, that was your claim, this is mine. Attempting to absorb and assimilate the Palestinians would take the pressure off Israel to come to a settlement, or something. I personally don’t think the Palestinians are actively making individual decisions to continue living in squalor just to make Israel look bad. Perhaps that seems naive to you, I don’t know.

    > Did we mention that most of them are American clients?

    The US pays Egypt to not wage war against Israel. The US pays oil producing contries for oil. That doesn’t make those countries “American clients”. (Do you really want to argue that Iran is an “American client”?)

    I would have thought America was likely going out of its way not to buy anything directly from them, not that it makes much difference in an open commodity market. But if you think the US-Saudi relationship is a model of open rectitude and purity, you must be pretty…selective in your reading.

    >>And no money comes from the UN, from other Islamic nations, and so on.

    >I didn’t say the Palestinians hadn’t had any help. You said Israel hadn’t had any.

    Israel got support from expatriats and the like. They made the desert bloom while the nations around them were actively trying to destroy them. Palestinians get more support, for longer, and have gone nowhere.

    To me, starting differences in social capital make a difference to what people can be expected to accomplish. The Israelis came in with huge advantages. Whether they should necessarily be able to lock them in forever is another matter.

    Also, that desert ain’t going to bloom forever on that water budget.

    > It would make more sense for them to go home to what would then be
    Palestine. They’re officially refugees, after all.

    I’m referring to the charter goals to kill Jews and eliminate the state of Israel.

    The Palestinians say that they’re unwilling to accept anything less than a country where Israel is now. What have they done that convinces you that they’re not telling the truth?

    Well, to *me*, it’s an extreme negotiating position – you always start out asking for more than you can get, that’s an Arab thing AFAIK. But it’s convenient for the Israelis because they can say they’ve got no “partner for peace” or whatever, when what they actually want is total submission.

  99. Adrian Smith:
    >>They’re not under siege except when Israel responds to attacks.

    You’re right, they should just lie down and gratefully accept the Israeli boot on their necks. It’s what Americans would do, after all.

    Adrian, there is no ‘boot on their necks.’ Arabs living in Israel are more free than they are anywhere else in the Middle East. Arabs serve in the Knesset. How many Arab countries allow Jews to serve in important government posts? Israel is the only country over there that could be called free. If they would quit firing rockets into Israeli cities, everyone could live in peace. Arabs have boots on their necks in places like Iran and Saddam’s Iraq.

    And Israel wants total submission? Then why do they make so many concessions? Why did they pull out of Gaza? They have even made some noises about vacating the Golan heights. Hamas wants Israel gone, and that’s one thing the Jews really can’t give them.

    And to Marshal:
    For a guy who claims he doesn’t really care which side wins, you really are very insistent.
    When someone feels the need to shout their indifference from the rooftops, it makes one suspect that something else is going on.

  100. Adrian, there is no ‘boot on their necks.’ Arabs living in Israel are more free than they are anywhere else in the Middle East.

    Specifically talking about Hamas/Gaza here.

  101. Adrian, the Israelis left. They withdrew. The boot was off the neck.

    All Hamas had to do was not behave batshit insanely, as in “firing rockets at the civilian population of a neighboring country that can kick your ass”, and they could have built their own Palestinian state, been a trading partner to the Egyptians and Israelis, and be living in peace and (for the region, relative) prosperity.

    But noooo. They’d rather scream “Death to the Jews!” and pick a fight they can’t win. Idiot Palestinians – they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  102. >Adrian, the Israelis left. They withdrew. The boot was off the neck.

    It’s pretty clear you haven’t been following this issue; Gaza’s been under a blockade for a while now.

    Just as the American embargo of Cuba ended up strengthening Castro, Israel’s blockade of Gaza strengthens Hamas.

    A stronger Hamas means a stronger hawkish wing in Israeli politics: it’s a nasty positive feedback loop of escalating tit-for-tat. Israeli is stronger, safer, wealthier, and more democratic than Gaza; this means they’re in a better position to step out of the feedback loop. In chess terms they have “initiative”.

  103. “Adrian, the Israelis left. They withdrew. The boot was off the neck.

    All Hamas had to do was not behave batshit insanely, as in “firing rockets at the civilian population of a neighboring country that can kick your ass”, and they could have built their own Palestinian state, been a trading partner to the Egyptians and Israelis, and be living in peace and (for the region, relative) prosperity.

    But noooo. They’d rather scream “Death to the Jews!” and pick a fight they can’t win. Idiot Palestinians – they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

    esr, that was by far the most ignorant, inflammatory and racist thing I’ve heard anyone say in a long time – if you were in front of me I would have spat in your face and walked away. Your integrity just went to shit. It implied Palestinian = Hamas. I’m willing to bet my life that the majority of the Palestinians are just like most of us, they want to live their lives, go to work, have kids, enjoy their hobbies. Also you showed an alarming ignorance to just how the Palestinians live from day to day. They are utterly at the mercy of Israel. If Israel says this doesn’t go in – then it doesn’t. The exceptions are through illegal tunnels for illegal means, I doubt that there’s too much salted fish going through Hamas’s weapons tunnels.

    Oh, and one of the main reasons they can’t win is because we sell Israel all these wonderful weapons.

    It’s the people like you and Hamas – the ones that can’t see anything other than black and white that continue violence and animosity. You have a hatred of proprietary software and large companies like Microsoft because they made you feel really, really bad decades ago. They didn’t treat you very well, and so now they must go away. Hamas at least can say that Israel has killed innocent people as to why they hate Israel.

    Now, that said, Hamas is a brutal organization that shouldn’t exist. However, Israel won’t get anywhere by killing hundreds or thousands of Palestinians. That will just breed more hatred towards Israel (and us… the US does supply Israel with billions, and then turns around and sells them the weapons.) I feel compassion for the Palestinian PEOPLE, not their current leadership. However, when Israel and the US (just to name a few) come out and state that they refuse to recognize a (UN verified) democratic election because they don’t like the outcome, not only is it hypocritical, but it also doesn’t give Palestinians as a people much hope for a solution. If they

    And Israel doesn’t do itself any favors by aiding in the squalor Palestinians live in. They withhold money that belongs to the government, they prevent goods to pass, moving from town to town or heaven forbid going into Israel for anything, can be an all day trip – just to go one way. They demand that peace be kept, but the police are grossly underfunded (see Israel withholding monies) and underequiped.

    Oh and don’t forget, that they have very limited places to go – what are you going to do when armed men come and say you will keep these weapons here or die, not just you but your entire extended family. Then Israel is kind enough to drop fliers saying flee we will be killing people here soon… where exactly are they supposed to flee to? Even UN schools that were acting as refugee camps inside a refugee camp, places that are definitely clear of Hamas weapons caches are bombed… is that just an oops?

  104. I know plenty of nonnative English speakers who are much better than most Americans at speaking the language

    What’s it to do with this wanker?! Do you really believe the guy?

  105. Adrian, the Israelis left. They withdrew. The boot was off the neck.

    Oh, they lost the taste for direct occupation sure enough, there was no pleasure in that. But they’re still headed down the bantustan route. Can you see Gaza as a sustainable state? It’s just a convenient excuse not to bother with the rest of the Oslo accords. Status of Jerusalem? F*** that, we’ve got all these people in this enormous open prison and they just will not behave themselves!

    I have (admittedly faint) hopes Obama might try something groundbreaking despite all that AIPAC hinie he had to kiss, and that Emanuel guy. You probably do yourself, though they’d be fears in your case.

  106. All Hamas had to do was not behave batshit insanely, as in “firing rockets at the civilian population of a neighboring country that can kick your ass”, and they could have built their own Palestinian state, been a trading partner to the Egyptians and Israelis, and be living in peace and (for the region, relative) prosperity.

    I laugh at the prospect of Americans or Israelis accepting this kind of surrender to a hypothetically stronger South America, ceding half of its territory in the process. Maybe I’m wrong, and Western culture has really grown so weak.

  107. And to Marshal:
    For a guy who claims he doesn’t really care which side wins, you really are very insistent.
    When someone feels the need to shout their indifference from the rooftops, it makes one suspect that something else is going on.

    I’m indifferent to a particular side, not the situation or the political perception of it. This is just another wild inference with no basis.

  108. To me, starting differences in social capital make a difference to what people can be expected to accomplish. The Israelis came in with huge advantages. Whether they should necessarily be able to lock them in forever is another matter.

    This is just the opposite side of the presumptuously judgmental coin of this debate. Your touchy-feely notion of international responsibility is a modern invention. Reinstate the British Empire, I say.

  109. This is just the opposite side of the presumptuously judgmental coin of this debate.

    Sounds like more or less what I was going for, at least. You think I should be doing the plague-on-both-your-houses shtick?

  110. > It’s pretty clear you haven’t been following this issue; Gaza’s been under a blockade for a while now.

    Gaza shares a border with Egypt….

  111. > Well, that was your claim, this is mine. Attempting to absorb and assimilate the Palestinians would take the pressure off Israel to come to a settlement, or something.

    Feel free to describe an acceptable-to-you attempt with enough detail to distinguish it from both surrender and what the Israelis have actually done. Note that pointing out that Israeli efforts have failed is not distinguishing it.

    > I personally don’t think the Palestinians are actively making individual decisions to continue living in squalor just to make Israel look bad.

    Since the decisions that they’re making have that effect, either that’s their goal or they don’t understand the consequences of their decisions.

    I don’t think that “make Israel look bad” is a major goal. However, their continued actions show that living in squalor (by Western standards) doesn’t bother them. If it doesn’t bother them, why should it bother other people?

    Of course, you’re free to argue that they’re incompetent.

    > To me, starting differences in social capital make a difference to what people can be expected to accomplish. The Israelis came in with huge advantages. Whether they should necessarily be able to lock them in forever is another matter.

    The point is that Israel did far more in less time. Maybe the Palestinians will start to do better, but there’s no evidence of change.

    As to “lock in the differences”, no one is stopping the Palestinians from development. Yes, there are differences, and they’re likely to continue, but that’s due to Palestinian choices.

    >>The Palestinians say that they’re unwilling to accept anything less than a country where Israel is now. What have they done that convinces you that they’re not telling the truth?
    >
    > Well, to *me*, it’s an extreme negotiating position – you always start out asking for more than you can get, that’s an Arab thing AFAIK.

    In other words, you think that they’re lying, but admit that you have no evidence.

    Why should the Israeli’s take the risk that the Palestinians aren’t lying?

    Note that “because doing so might end the conflict” isn’t an acceptable answer because if Israel assumes that they’re lying about “kill all the Jews” and is wrong, the result is “all dead Jews”.

    To change the subject slightly, suppose that the only two possible outcomes are Israel wiped out or a significant wipe out of Palestinians. (Either party can reduce the range of outcomes to those two, even if the party that does said reduction doesn’t have the ability to get the specific outcome that it would like.) Which one would you prefer?

    Note – you don’t get to answer “live together in peace” – that requires that all of the parties in question be willing to do so and this question assumes that at least one party is unwilling.

  112. But noooo. They’d rather scream “Death to the Jews!” and pick a fight they can’t win. Idiot Palestinians – they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    According to former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami, the camp david proposals were unfair to the Palestinians – if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David. I know that left leaning articles are generally disdained on this blog but the debate does help to balance the “miss an opportunity…” quote that’s thrown around quite a bit. Dr. Ben Ami was in office during the Taba discussions (and was one of the diplomats involved in the actual negotiations then as well). His comments on that accord are nice as well.

  113. Feel free to describe an acceptable-to-you attempt with enough detail to distinguish it from both surrender and what the Israelis have actually done. Note that pointing out that Israeli efforts have failed is not distinguishing it.

    We seem to be at cross purposes here. I meant for the *Arab countries* (mainly Jordan, I think) hosting Palestinian refugee populations to attempt to assimilate them would take the pressure off Israel. This was about why they (the Arab countries) haven’t done nearly as much for the Palestinians as they could have. I wasn’t talking about either surrender or what the Israelis have done at all.

    Since the decisions that they’re making have that effect, either that’s their goal or they don’t understand the consequences of their decisions.

    Must be something to be able to mindread entire populations and reduce all their thought processes to binary like that.

    The point is that Israel did far more in less time. Maybe the Palestinians will start to do better, but there’s no evidence of change.

    Once they’ve surrendered and consented to exist at Israel’s pleasure, never making any attacks for some undefined period of time, until the Israelis feel safe enough to let their guard down and start treating them as…well, not *equals* exactly, maybe as Mexicans…but like I said, the Israelis have to break their spirit for that to happen. And I think (to their credit) many of them would find the idea of doing that morally corrosive, even if people like you were cheering them on from the sidelines and telling them not to be such nancies.

    As to “lock in the differences”, no one is stopping the Palestinians from development.

    Israeli control of land and water resources might be a slight hindrance, unless you think that’s just Palestinian propaganda as well. But I’m certainly mystified about why they haven’t spontaneously pulled a world-beating software industry out of their butts like Israel has. Paul Graham’s essays are right there on the interwebs, after all. I feel guilty for not setting up a startup myself, apart from the fact that my code sucks.

    In other words, you think that they’re lying, but admit that you have no evidence.

    Negotiating positions are “lying”?

    What a splendidly black-and-white moral universe you inhabit.

    Why should the Israeli’s take the risk that the Palestinians aren’t lying?

    Hell of a risk, negotiation. You might end up having to make a deal. No, far better to wait until the other side “recognises Israel’s right to exist”.

    Note that “because doing so might end the conflict” isn’t an acceptable answer because if Israel assumes that they’re lying about “kill all the Jews” and is wrong, the result is “all dead Jews”.

    Well, in a real-world situation, one might want to look at the *capacity* to kill all of the other side. In Israel’s case there are apparently some 200 SLCMs, maybe not enough for *all* the Arabs as they’d have to take into account prevailing wind conditions, don’t want that stuff blowing back across the border when you’re making the desert bloom, it’d totally bugger your avocado sales. In the case of Hamas we have…the Qassam rocket, made in a shed from old tin cans, with a rifle bullet, a nail and a spring for a detonator. And fertiliser for the warhead. So the “all dead Jews” thing is looking a *little* unlikely for the time being.

    To change the subject slightly, suppose that the only two possible outcomes are Israel wiped out or a significant wipe out of Palestinians.

    I need a scenario, that’s just bizarre on the face of it. You love this black and white/binary stuff. Do you want what’s in the box, or what’s behind the curtain? Er…neither, I want the assistant with the short skirt, a big plastic sheet and several litres of baby oil.

  114. To me, starting differences in social capital make a difference to what people can be expected to accomplish. The Israelis came in with huge advantages. Whether they should necessarily be able to lock them in forever is another matter.

    Muslims and Jews lived peacefully in what is now Israel for centuries largely because they were all poor shepherds together. A sudden migration of Jewish Europeans starting in the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century brought in people with what amounted to state of the art business sense. These new immigrants purchased their land from poor shepherds and created a modern economy.

    The poor shepherds that sold the land started thinking they had been taken advantage of. Of course had they kept the land those shepherds weren’t about to start some modern business. They weren’t about to start raising sheep with any techniques more advanced than what Europe had in the Dark Ages for that matter. But the fact that somebody else bought the land and turned a profit somehow caused a lot of resentment.

    Please explain how this justifies launching wars against Israel or shooting rockets into Israel. Make sure to consider the fact that the Jewish immigrants who first purchased the land, and the Arabs who sold the land are long dead.

    If you look at “the shrinking map of Palestine” you might get the impressions that (1) that “Palestine” had once been a recognized country (first map), or (2) Israel took land from Arabs when it became an officially-recognized country (third map). Both impressions are false. The first map is nothing more than somebody deciding to color an arbitrary portion of the map green (or, put another way, I seriously doubt that Palestinians — however defined — lived in such a neat little region with such well-defined borders). And when Israel became a country, any Muslims owning land inside the new country continued to own that land. Quite frankly there were too many Palestinians to try forcibly taking their land.

    The first forcible seizure of land came when Israel preemptively took the Sinai Peninsula when an attack by Egypt became imminent.

  115. Adrian,

    I’m glad you’re back, I’m enjoying your dry wit. However, I don’t agree with you.

    1. The Pals are not equally pissed off. Some would stop fighting after a reasonable compromise is reached, some would still want to take some sweet revenge first before calming down and minding their own business, and some would not stop fighting as long as Israel exists. This is obvious – there is always a scale of radicalism in every such situation, from “moderately angry” to “totally mad”.

    2. The better Israel would treat them, the more Pals would calm down. So it’s like basic economics, really: some Pals would be willing to sell peace for X amount of appeasement, some would for 2X, some would for 3X, for some, the price is all of Israel packing up and moving to somewhere else. Obviously, the more they offer, the more willing sellers they would find.

    And the problem is the current lack of central authority among the Pals would say OK I’ll sell you peace for 2X and then bloody well force everybody else to accept it. I think this is the core problem. So no matter how much they pay for peace, there will be some who will refuse to sell and the others cannot force them to sell it.

    Up to this point it’s a no-brainer, just basic economics, almost everything works this way, it’s a free market as the Pals unfortunately have a free market for violence, lacking central power. In their case there are always vendors of violence who gladly increase their supply if some of their competitors are bribed out of business. (Obviously, if free competition in the production of goods is good, then it cannot be good in the production of bads.) It’s a very clear situation and easy to recognize.

    3. However. This is where it gets interesting. The cost of appeasement for Israel is not just money or land or a bunch of angry settlers. It’s security. Almost every kind of significant compromise or appeasement would make them vulnerable to terrorism.

    4. So basically it’s like this: there isn’t a level of appeasement open for Israel that would reduce the total level of terrorism inflicted on them: every appeasement reduces the number of terrorists but makes the remaining ones more efficient. There does not seem to be a point on the appeasement scale that would make things overally better for them.

    It’s like four unarmed people attacking you with guns and you offer a compromise: I’ll take off my bulletproof vest if you leave me alone. Three agree and the last one says no, thanks and happily shoots you. Not a very good deal.

    And this is basically the only kind of offer they could make.

    OK they could make small appeasements that would not threaten their security – water, food, medicine, doctors – but that would not buy them much peace.

    One possible solution is that if they kick the ass of Hamas, if it’s possible, then the PLO/Fatah guys are willing to sell them peace for a reasonable price and force every Pal to agree to it. Not that there is a very big chance of it – I’m afraid they are making more Hamas members than they are killing.

  116. Adrian Smith,

    You’re right about one thing. There really are two different questions here:

    1. Does the Hamas want to annihilate Israel and kill its Jews?
    2. Can the Hamas kill all the Jews?

    I’ll start with the second. Your answer is that the Hamas are a tiny organization throwing a few rockets over the fence. For some reason, you see no connection at all (or maybe a little one) between these rockets and the Hamas’ stated goal of killing the Jews.

    Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that most of those rockets were not built in Gaza (were any, actually?). Israel (thankfully) doesn’t consider upwards of 10000 armed men with a single shared purpose, a command structure, training, bag loads of money (your taxes at work, by the way) backed by a few hundred million Arabs, Muslims and ignorant Europeans a threat to be taken lightly.

    And since when has anything deemed impossible been enough to stop anyone with enough determination? Israel believes, for the most part, that if not hampered in its actions, the Hamas (and its ilk) will do everything in their power to eradicate us.

    But your answer to the first question is really interesting. You seem to think (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Hamas’ genocidal answer is a negotiating position. I’m not sure you’re aware of quite how absurd that really sounds.

    I don’t know how you do business, but when I negotiate for something, I generally start out with a position that represents what I want the most. I wouldn’t ask for something I don’t want as a “negotiating position”. I wouldn’t ask for something I know the other side is incapable of supplying. So even if what you say has any merit whatsoever, you can’t possibly ignore the fact that what they say, black on white and in a media outlet near you, is that they want to kill all the Jews in Israel (and elsewhere if possible). And what does a compromise on such a position even look like? Would even the Jews leaving Israel be a suitable compromise (at least they’d be alive)?

    Are you aware, by the way, that the Palestinians have a history of hatred against the Jews, that predates the establishment of the state? There are quite a few examples, but the most eloquent is given by Arafat’s uncle al-Husseini in 1944 when he said on Berlin Radio: “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.”

    As I see it, your position is very difficult one. You’re stuck between deciding if they really want to kill the Jews or really really want to kill the Jews.

  117. kwood: “It implied Palestinian = Hamas. …. However, when Israel and the US (just to name a few) come out and state that they refuse to recognize a (UN verified) democratic election because they don’t like the outcome,”

    Due to that democratic election, imperfect though it may have been, “[Gaza] Palestinian” *does* equal “Hamas”, at least when it comes to foreign affairs like war against a neighboring state.

    I’m sorry, the Gazans elected these barbarians to be their government, to act in their name. It’s a damn shame that they as civilians have to pay so much of the price in terms of (propaganda-inflated but still non-zero) casualties and property damage, but if they didn’t want war coming to their neighborhood they should have voted for Fatah.

    And I don’t recall reading about the rest of the world bitching that the Allies weren’t allowing humanitarian supplies into Germany in 1944-45, either.

    kwood: “I’m willing to bet my life that the majority of the Palestinians are just like most of us, they want to live their lives, go to work, have kids, enjoy their hobbies.”

    …And elect terrorists who cry “death to the Jews”. Because it’s a majority of the Palestinians in Gaza who did that.

    kwood: “Also you showed an alarming ignorance to just how the Palestinians live from day to day. They are utterly at the mercy of Israel. If Israel says this doesn’t go in – then it doesn’t. The exceptions are through illegal tunnels for illegal means, I doubt that there’s too much salted fish going through Hamas’s weapons tunnels.”

    I’d be willing to bet that Israel would be happy to stop blockading Gaza (which still leaves their Egyptian border) if the rockets stopped flying their direction.

    Personally, as an American, I’d like to see Israel adopt an unconditional surrender policy against Hamas, and continue to wage kinetic war in Gaza (i.e. kill anyone pointing a weapon at anybody, blow up anything that looks remotely threatening) until the peace-loving fraction of Palestinians rise up and hang every Hamas member from the nearest lamppost and tender their submission to Israel’s good graces. It worked for the U.S. against the Indians, it worked against the Confederacy, it worked against the Germans and Japanese; it’s probably the only thing that will work in Gaza. Too bad the Israelis don’t appear to have the stomach for it.

  118. These new immigrants purchased their land from poor shepherds and created a modern economy.

    I read most of the land was purchased from absentee landlords. But whatever. Can you tell me if the “right of return” applies to the descendants of those shepherds? I presumed it would apply to descendants of the Palestinians who *didn’t* sell. And this is the sort of thing which would be covered by negotiation, if people weren’t busy finding reasons not to have to negotiate ever.

    The first forcible seizure of land came when Israel preemptively took the Sinai Peninsula when an attack by Egypt became imminent.

    There are Jews who regard Deir Yassin and what was going on during 1948 as ethnic cleansing, you know. But maybe they’re the “self-hating” variety.

  119. Shenpen – I think your analysis is a little simplistic. I reckon what needs to happen is for ordinary Palestinians to get a sense of hope that their children’s future can be better. Then they will have an incentive to suppress the diehards themselves. But as long as they feel they have nothing to lose, it’s not very promising.

  120. Can you tell me if the “right of return” applies to the descendants of those shepherds?

    Looks like I was wrong. While researching this question, I have determined that when Israel declared independence from Britain in 1948 it did in fact allow Arabs to keep their land in the new country. However, the surrounding Arab nations invaded Israel, so the first forcible seizure of land took place in 1948 while defending against that invasion. There was a “Civil War in Palestine, but as far as I can tell that did not involve taking territory.

  121. > 4. So basically it’s like this: there isn’t a level of appeasement open for Israel that would reduce the total level of terrorism inflicted on them: every appeasement reduces the number of terrorists but makes the remaining ones more efficient. There does not seem to be a point on the appeasement scale that would make things overally better for them.

    I like this style of analysis, but I think you’re empirically wrong here: the number of civilians killed by rocket attacks increased when Israel started bombing Gaza.

    If Israel were to give aid to Gaza, conditional on the number of rocket attacks, there would be incentive for Gaza Palestinians to stop Hamas militants firing rockets.

  122. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that most of those rockets were not built in Gaza (were any, actually?). Israel (thankfully) doesn’t consider upwards of 10000 armed men with a single shared purpose, a command structure, training, bag loads of money (your taxes at work, by the way)

    I will never cease to be amazed at what the Japanese government will squander money on, believe me.

    backed by a few hundred million Arabs, Muslims and ignorant Europeans a threat to be taken lightly.

    Killing all the Jews is a fantasy, like the Ghost Dance of the Plains Indians. Give enough of them hope for a better life, and they’ll come round.

    Or break their spirit, and live with the consequences. Or carry on as you’re doing now, if you think it’s getting you somewhere.

    You seem to think (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Hamas’ genocidal answer is a negotiating position.

    Let’s say I think it’s very convenient for those on the Israeli side who really don’t want to negotiate.

    Are you aware, by the way, that the Palestinians have a history of hatred against the Jews, that predates the establishment of the state?

    As large-scale immigration was well underway by then, it doesn’t surprise me. The Palestinians were starting to feel displaced, if not yet violently. A similar example, in Britain (where I’m from) back in the 80s people from England started to buy cottages in much poorer Wales as second homes, which pushed the price up out of the reach of the locals, who started occasionally burning the cottages in protest. Same kind of sentiment, just at a much milder level.

  123. Steven:
    Good luck. It will be interesting to have a Middle Eastern voice on this forum. Too much discourse about the region in the West comes from people who want to establish an American empire there. (Although I suspect the lack of Arab voices in the media may be partially attributable to a language barrier.)

  124. As far as the land goes, the Jews bought it from the natives, and in many cases they paid exorbitant prices for it.

    And by the way noam: Are you Noam Chomsky by any chance?

  125. >> Since the decisions that they’re making have that effect, either that’s their goal or they don’t understand the consequences of their decisions.
    >
    >Must be something to be able to mindread entire populations and reduce all their thought processes to binary like that.

    What mind reading?

    They are making decisions that have the effect of keeping them in squalor (according to Western standards). Some of them may prefer it while others may not realize that it’s a consequence of their decisions, but the fact remains that their decisions have consequences.

  126. They are making decisions that have the effect of keeping them in squalor (according to Western standards).

    What decisions? Not voting for Fatah when elections come round? They may think Fatah are a dodgy bunch of guys with a history of self-enrichment. Perhaps they’re not very far along the learning curve of how democracy is supposed to work, they haven’t had it for that long. One of those social capital things you appear not to place much store by.

  127. “Israel’s tactics are appropriate to the objective of the war – there is no pattern of intentional killing of civilians.”

    Raw numbers speak for themselves; your interpretation is not needed, thank you very much.
    Hamas may very well be a terrorist organization, but Israel is a terrorist (and probably racist) state.

    Their claim on a peace of land is based on old religious believings. What is this?

    They have displaced a population after having been granted land by a third party. Why is this accepted?
    Would you accept a group of people occupying your territory, and kicking you out?

    “Let us hope it is learned before they get nuclear weapons and the stakes become genocidal.”

    I would like to remind you that the only party having ever used nuclear weapons in a conflict is the USA.

  128. Now that the kid’s asleep and I have some time for a write-up, let me give my understanding of Israeli history and you can let me know of any disagreements.

    Several of the Jewish immigrants had immigrated specifically to create a Jewish nation in the same area as ancient Israel. These immigrants were not necessarily well-organized, and different groups used different tactics to achieve their goal. Some petitioned the British directly. Others engaged in terrorism; famously killing two British soldiers and booby-trapping the bodies. Eventually the UN passed a resolution allowing Britain to wash its hands of the whole affair and dividing Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

    This resolution was widely supported among the Jews and widely opposed by the Arabs. Fighting broke out, and I will leave it to you to guess which side likely started it. Although this is referred to as the Civil War in Palestine (1947-1948) it doesn’t appear to have involved well-organized militias, nor were there real attempts to capture territory like in a standard war. But — like most conflicts — it created refugees; especially Arab refugees. Of course later wars (the 1948 War, the Yom Kippur War, Six Day War, etc.) created more refugees. And of course the “right of return” involves these refugees.

    I can imagine a hypothetical war in, say, the Sudan where refugees live in camps and tent cities for several years until the fighting finally stops. It seems reasonable to me that those refugees should regain their land. On the other hand, when the fighting lasts long enough that the refugee camps resemble normal cities more than tent cities — with supermarkets, law offices, permanent schools, etc. — it seems strange to me that those refugees would expect their land back 60 years later. I don’t recall East Germans or West Germans getting a right of return when the Berlin Wall fell. Nor do I expect South Koreans and North Koreans to have a right of return when those two countries finally reunite.

    I’m not Solomonic enough to know the best solution for these refugees or their descendants. Personally I would prefer monetary reparations. I can say that I don’t think the situation warrants repeated terrorist attacks from the “refugees” (the quotes are there because I’m sure many of Hamas’ and Fatah’s members aren’t even related to the original refugees from 60 years ago).

  129. Fighting broke out, and I will leave it to you to guess which side likely started it.

    The one which saw itself being dispossessed? An astonishing thing.

    I can say that I don’t think the situation warrants repeated terrorist attacks from the “refugees” (the quotes are there because I’m sure many of Hamas’ and Fatah’s members aren’t even related to the original refugees from 60 years ago).

    You think there are people desperate enough to *immigrate* into those areas from somewhere?

  130. I can imagine a hypothetical war in, say, the Sudan where refugees live in camps and tent cities for several years until the fighting finally stops. It seems reasonable to me that those refugees should regain their land. On the other hand, when the fighting lasts long enough that the refugee camps resemble normal cities more than tent cities — with supermarkets, law offices, permanent schools, etc. — it seems strange to me that those refugees would expect their land back 60 years later. I don’t recall East Germans or West Germans getting a right of return when the Berlin Wall fell. Nor do I expect South Koreans and North Koreans to have a right of return when those two countries finally reunite.

    I don’t think this is in question by anyone sensible. You can’t sensibly undo decades of nation-building to make reparations for past conflict or seized land. However, it’s also pretty rich to proclaim a morally superior position when the original occupants want exactly that, and end up going beyond what you consider to be reasonable measures to achieve it. Of course, there would be moral problems with letting them overrun you as well. The reality is that while people may be motivated by what they see as morals, there is no one side who is objectively ‘morally superior’. This applies doubly so between cultures who clearly have differing moral codes.

  131. The concept of a just war is a myth that has been paraded around for centuries. All wars are waged in the name of self-interest, whether the propaganda says so or not.

    I said “I am going to kick the Palestinian Jihadi in the ass” not because he/she doesn’t have the right to defend his values, it’s just because he’s playing the role of a “good guy” and tries to kill the Jew in the name of Allah and Jihad. It’s [as we Iranians say] the so-called religious hat he wears that is disgusting. It’s all about prejudice and self-interest as you put it right. From a logical point of view, saying that one side of a war is evil, doesn’t mean the other side are angels. Unfortunately in real life it infers so.

    They are more or less living with the consequences of their own actions. Also, moralising about conduct in war is a propaganda game of convenience that has taken on a life of its own.

    I am surprised that this standpoint got a lot of opposition. If applying this to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not 100% accurate, it has [at least] some elements of truth with it.
    I am not so young not to know the “Butcher Of Beirut” and the massacre of 3500 Palestinians by Lebanese Phalanges. Indeed, I’m sure that killing some innocent football player in the Olympics Game in the name of God and freedom is one of the extreme forms of mental paralysis. And also, something should be taken into account: all discontent Palestinians are not Jihadis. Have you ever heard the name of “Mahmoud Darwish”? He was a Palestinian poet [He played in Jean-Luc Godard's Film called New Age]. He visualized a so-called free Palestine and wrote plenty of poems accordingly. Never involved in any form of combat and stayed civil until his last days.To make the long story short, as Joel Spolsky pointed out in his evaluation of “The Art Of Unix Programming”, different cultures, different morals and purposes. From my perspective, There’s nothing in the Jewish community living in Iran that makes them superior to say an Arab minority [that I am a part of]. The conflict is one hell of a deep-rooted issue. I am not going that far to suggest that, crude and oversimplified statements of the sort “The Israelis are civilized. Their opponents are barbarians” are in the same mood and manner as statements like “Open source is good. Software hoarding is bad.”, but they surely share some common roots and spirit. I’m not trying to make fun of Eric Raymond here; he says what he thinks is right and I respect it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m in agreement with it.

    > [Yes, esr is notorious here - he has written a series of anti-Islamic articles before]

    I’d bet he diggs that.

    I would guess there are just a handful of people who actually know ESR in Iran. I know him because I am a computer enthusiast. I can say for sure, even a recluse like Alan Cox or Ward Christensen [the founder of the first BBS] are better known here. But the one(s) who is in charge of monitoring and reporting the crimes is probably one heck of a hacker/cracker himself, recruited by the authorities to act as a “grass”. I know one of the guys who is a computer nerd and lives a low-life by doing that kind of stuff.

    P.S : It really amazes me that a former prominent Linguist like Noam Chomsky who himself is a Jew and is described in the Wikipedia entry as a libertarian, sides with Palestinians and condemns Israel’s military actions. Is he a ‘tard? [Go check Richard Stallman's Website. He shares approximately the same views as him]

  132. Adrian,

    “I reckon what needs to happen is for ordinary Palestinians to get a sense of hope that their children’s future can be better. Then they will have an incentive to suppress the diehards themselves.”

    But that’s exactly the problem: this is the OBVIOUS answer for everybody who knows a bit of history and heard about the phrase “divide et impera” – or just remembers what happened to the IRA.

    So ask yourself: why does a country that’s anything but stupid miss such an obvious answer, given that they are mostly the descendants of traders who know all about haggling? Isn’t it likely that in this case the obvious answer for some reason doesn’t look feasible?

    My hypothesis is that there is no way to provide a better future for Pals without relaxing security.

  133. > Noam Chomsky who himself is a Jew and is described in the Wikipedia entry as a libertarian

    I really resent it when the likes of Chomsky call themselves libertarians. The semantic battle for our use of the word “liberal” has long since been a lost cause, but I’m not conceding “libertarian”.

  134. So ask yourself: why does a country that’s anything but stupid miss such an obvious answer,

    The idea of a country being stupid or intelligent (some kind of a vector sum of the intelligences of all its citizens?) is really suspect. Countries are prisoners of their own history in many ways, previous decisions constrain future ones, the sunk costs effect is almost impossible to avoid (and the sunk costs of the settlement program are enormous). Countries don’t calmly and rationally consider all the possibilities before arriving at a decision, even if individuals can (under favourable circumstances).

    given that they are mostly the descendants of traders who know all about haggling?

    This is also a dodgy stereotype. Market-style haggling knowledge isn’t automatically handed down to your descendants with the silverware and the odd gene for Tay-Sachs syndrome, you have it if you’re actively involved in that sort of business.

    People in lots of Muslim cultures seem to take great pleasure in haggling for some reason, it’s almost like a sport.

    Isn’t it likely that in this case the obvious answer for some reason doesn’t look feasible?

    Of course it doesn’t *look* feasible to many Israelis. But whether that’s a cold, realistic assessment or just a failure of imagination depends on where you decide to stand. When have they tried to actually foster a sustained rise in Palestinian living conditions? I’d be interested to hear if they have, but I suspect it’s going to be hard to find any examples. Stopping shelling them occasionally doesn’t count.

  135. > What decisions? Not voting for Fatah when elections come round?

    Very few of the decisions that leave one in squalor are made in the polling booth. They’re made every day, in what they choose to do with their time.

    > They may think Fatah are a dodgy bunch of guys with a history of self-enrichment.

    While Hamas and Fatah may be the only options that are likely to get a majority from Palestinians today, Hamas and Fatah are not the only possibilities, they’re merely the only options that large numbers of Palestinians are willing to consider. That’s a choice that Palestinians have made.

    I’ve argued that the Palestinians are responsible for a lot of their situation. However, various folks have objected to every instance that I’ve mentioned.

    I’d like to ask a favor of those folks. Could they list some of the things for which Palestinians are responsible?

  136. Jim Thompson,

    Re: Scott McNealy. Germans make cars; Americans sell cars. Scotty is in the business of selling open source software (with Sun’s branding); not of building it. If Barry wants to make good on his inauguration day promise to throw the special-interest bums out, he’d do well to understand the distinction and he may have an uphill battle against an entire culture on his hands.

  137. > Well, to *me*, it’s an extreme negotiating position – you always start out asking for more than you can get, that’s an Arab thing AFAIK.

    “Asking for more than you can get” is not particularly Arab.

    However, it’s “more than you can get” in a way that has some relationship to a desired outcome. For example, “I want $10k for this plastic bracelet” when I’m willing to accept $10.

    The Palestinian demand is “Death to all Jews”. Are the Israelis supposed to compromise to “Death to 100 Jews”?

  138. Moral is %95 of a fight, this was shown in both of the world wars.
    In WW2 the Japanese believed that the emperor was a god, and therefore they could not lose. It took the two A bombs to brake that moral.
    The Palestinians believe that Alla is on their side therefor they can not lose.
    For the Jews to win the have to either eliminate everyone, or break their moral. the UN prevents the first, and the second from happening.
    I expect the fight to last for a few generations longer than it already has.

    Both groups want the larger percent of the land, so they will fight.

  139. Very few of the decisions that leave one in squalor are made in the polling booth. They’re made every day, in what they choose to do with their time.

    Deciding to do what? Have large numbers of unemployable children? Let Hamas folks with guns store IEDs in the attic? Not spend the evenings learning AJAX?

    We should come up with a three-week Muslim apostasy Self-Improvement Program as a public service.

    7am Get up, get dressed, shun the keffiyeh. Breakfast – bacon! Do not face Mecca.
    7.30 Exercise – run around the living room 50 times (too dangerous to go outside).
    8am Knuth Vol.1 – finish all problems by end of week.
    Etc.

    While Hamas and Fatah may be the only options that are likely to get a majority from Palestinians today, Hamas and Fatah are not the only possibilities, they’re merely the only options that large numbers of Palestinians are willing to consider. That’s a choice that Palestinians have made.

    I’ve met quite a few Americans who are pretty frustrated with the range of options available on the Democrat-Republican spectrum, but I don’t tend to *blame* them for it. Product of history.

  140. The Palestinian demand is “Death to all Jews”. Are the Israelis supposed to compromise to “Death to 100 Jews”?

    Surely that’s an exaggeration. I understand that they just want to live there. It’s in the interests of the Israelis to portray them as unreasonable and stubborn driven by a visceral need to exterminate Jews and dance on their remains. They don’t really want to do that (atleast as far as I can tell). They want a viable state where they can live and not an empty offer which is made now and then. Ismael Hanniyeh is the Prime Minister of Palestine. Here is an interview with him in which he addresses your point. He wants Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders and stop the colonisation completely. He is quite bitter though.

    Israeli recognition of Palestine has always been flaky at best. Here‘s a clip from an old debate in which some of the ‘recognition’ Israel offered Palestine is discussed.

  141. Darrencardinal,

    No. I am not Noam Chomsky. Noam is a very common Israeli name. And Noam Chomsky is widely considered to be an anti-Zionist (though he has lived on a kibbutz or two a few decades ago). I don’t know if he really is an anti-Zionist, but he certainly wouldn’t agree with my views.

  142. Adrian Smith,

    > Killing all the Jews is a fantasy, like the Ghost Dance of the Plains Indians.

    If it’s a fantasy, it’s not the Jews’ fantasy. We didn’t write the PLO’s and the Hamas’ charters. We didn’t send suicide bombers and call them shahids. We don’t intentionally target civilian Palestinians.

    > Give enough of them hope for a better life, and they’ll come round. Or break their spirit, and live with the consequences.

    Israel does not want to break the Palestinians’ spirit. On the contrary, it recognizes the Palestinian claim to sovereignty.

    The only time in their history that the Palestinians showed a natural growth in their economy and quality of life (not wholly based on foreign aid), was just before Arafat started the second Intifida. The Intifada simply destroyed these opportunities and drove the Palestinians into more debt and national squalor.

    > Or carry on as you’re doing now, if you think it’s getting you somewhere.

    Israel is the only one in this conflict that is actually trying to find creative solutions to the problem. Every single offer for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been put forth by Israel. The Palestinians have not drafted a single agreement or offer, not under Arafat and not since. I would love someone to show me I’m wrong.

    Or are you referring to the hundreds of millions of NIS sent to the Palestinians by Israel(!) every month that materialize into rockets, tunnels and bomb vests? Or the power stations under Hamas rocket fire that power the Gazan grid?

    > Let’s say I think it’s very convenient for those on the Israeli side who really don’t want to negotiate.

    I agree. When your negotiating partner actually comes out and *tells you* he wants you dead as a *starting position* and doesn’t offer you alternatives or back down from that position when you make some offers of your own, it does provide a “convenient” excuse not to want to negotiate with him. But Israel has been trying again and again anyway over the past 15-20 years.

    >> Are you aware, by the way, that the Palestinians have a history of hatred against the Jews, that predates the establishment of the state?
    > As large-scale immigration was well underway by then, it doesn’t surprise me. The Palestinians were starting to feel displaced, if not yet violently.

    I think you missed the point. Your argument was that the Hamas doesn’t really want to kill the Jews today. I tried to demonstrate that there is significant evidence that the Hamas actually means what it says and that the roots of this anti-Semitic hatred predate the current conflict.

  143. Marhsal,

    > it’s also pretty rich to proclaim a morally superior position when the original occupants want exactly that

    The question of who were the original occupants is a very good one. Some Israelis indeed rely on a specific answer as the basis for a moral highground. But they are few and far between who see this as the only or central argument for moral superiority in this conflict.

    Rather, most of us think we have the “morally superior position” because we’re trying to follow the laws of war and they’re trying to abuse them, because they’re targeting our civilian population intentionally and indiscriminately and we’re doing our utmost to prevent harm to their civilian population, because we restrained ourselves for 8 years while they fired rockets on an almost daily basis at us, because we pulled out of Gaza.

    In short, our moral superiority stems from our intent and actions. We our defending ourselves against their aggression. We are within our right to do so.

  144. Adrian Smith,

    > Of course it doesn’t *look* feasible to many Israelis. But whether that’s a cold, realistic assessment or just a failure of imagination depends on where you decide to stand.

    This is one of the main differences between the Israeli Left and Right. The Right sides with “realistic assessment” and the Left with “failure of imagination”. Between the two of them, Israelis are deeply divided, but even most of the Left today have moved a little to the Right following the Palestinian election of the Hamas government.

    > When have they tried to actually foster a sustained rise in Palestinian living conditions? I’d be interested to hear if they have, but I suspect it’s going to be hard to find any examples.

    Isn’t this a significant part of Oslo? As a soldier, I served for a time in some of the DCOs that granted LOTS of visas to Palestinians to work in Israel up until the second Intifada. While their leaders were surreptitiously arming themselves, the population was trying to improve their living conditions. Their economy was even showing signs of growth.

    > Stopping shelling them occasionally doesn’t count.

    You’re intentionally confounding sending humanitarian aid during the actual war with economic incentives and partnerships during periods of quiet.

  145. > Germans make cars; Americans sell cars. Scotty is in the business of selling open source software (with Sun’s branding); not of building it.

    A salesman is what’s called for here. We’re counting on McNealy to persuade Obama to adopt open source, not to make new and better OSS.

  146. A salesman is what’s called for here. We’re counting on McNealy to persuade Obama to adopt open source, not to make new and better OSS.

    The best exegeses for why open source is important have always come from builders, not sellers. Eric would have been an ideal candidate for such a position, but his characterization of the President as resembling a Manchurian candidate may have been a CLM.

  147. > The best exegeses for why open source is important have always come from builders, not sellers.

    That’s true from our perspective. It’s less clear to me that business types agree or care. ESR’s ability to wear both hats makes him unusual. Others like RMS have at least equal mindshare among hackers, but have no appeal to anyone else.

  148. >The best exegeses for why open source is important have always come from builders, not sellers.

    It was Firefox that made the case for open source for me over RMS’s screeds. (In fact, when I was a more doctrinaire libertarian, his rhetoric was a major turn-off!) But I’m not a zealot, since I primarily use Mac OS X (a good chunk of which is open source). I wonder if my lack of zealotry is a bug rather than a feature.

  149. @David Delony:

    >The best exegeses for why open source is important have always come from builders, not sellers.

    It was Firefox that made the case for open source for me over RMS’s screeds.

    I agree with you that RMS’s rhetoric sucks and it’s been as ESR says “one 15-year consecutive disaster”, but nonetheless I just don’t completely get it why Firefox is an enlightenment. AFAIK, Firefox is a free web-based software which produces a revenue of about US$66.9 million for Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation. But approximately 95 percent of that sum is derived from search engine royalties and mainly the contract with Google. It means they’re badly vulnerable. If Google does renew the contract they are successful, if it doesn’t they are not. [This was the case for Looksmart. ]
    Indeed, usually when the software is a free one, the builder doesn’t give a flying sh*t whether it’s open source or not, simply because it’s not going to get the money from vendors, but by say advertising and such things. I would expect you to name “Redhat” to be a source of inspiration.
    [Please just correct me if I'm talking pure nonsense]

  150. Steven Ray: yes, there are some idiots who call themselves libertarian socialists (there’s even a wikipedia page describing them). That makes as much sense as calling ones’ self a Republican Democrat, a carnivore vegetarian, or a warmonger pacifist.

  151. Rather, most of us think we have the “morally superior position” because we’re trying to follow the laws of war and they’re trying to abuse them, because they’re targeting our civilian population intentionally and indiscriminately and we’re doing our utmost to prevent harm to their civilian population, because we restrained ourselves for 8 years while they fired rockets on an almost daily basis at us, because we pulled out of Gaza.

    I think they’ve mainly targeted your civilian population because your military population is pretty inaccessible suicide-bomber-wise, and because they haven’t got much in the way of effective guidance systems, no that there would be much point fitting them to Qassams if they did. You seem to be missing the point of asymmetric warfare. What would “Following the laws of war” mean in these circumstances? Hamas trooping out into the Negev with their AKs and rpgs to face everything the IDF has to offer in the shortest battle ever known to man? They’re working with what they’ve got, which ain’t much.

  152. Israel does not want to break the Palestinians’ spirit. On the contrary, it recognizes the Palestinian claim to sovereignty.

    Eh, but sovereignty over what? Gaza and some scraps of land the settlers don’t want, with barely any water? Bantustans, I’m afraid.

    The only time in their history that the Palestinians showed a natural growth in their economy and quality of life (not wholly based on foreign aid), was just before Arafat started the second Intifida. The Intifada simply destroyed these opportunities and drove the Palestinians into more debt and national squalor.

    Y’see, *I* read (on wikipedlo, I’d be happy to have more reliable sources if you have them) that Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount on 28-9-00 was what really triggered that, though Arafat didn’t exactly try his best to calm matters down.

    Israel is the only one in this conflict that is actually trying to find creative solutions to the problem.

    Like that wall?

    Every single offer for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been put forth by Israel. The Palestinians have not drafted a single agreement or offer, not under Arafat and not since. I would love someone to show me I’m wrong.

    You’re the ones with far more options. They’ve pretty much got a choice between fighting and not fighting, where not fighting can easily look like surrender.

    I agree. When your negotiating partner actually comes out and *tells you* he wants you dead as a *starting position* and doesn’t offer you alternatives or back down from that position when you make some offers of your own, it does provide a “convenient” excuse not to want to negotiate with him. But Israel has been trying again and again anyway over the past 15-20 years.

    I thought you didn’t talk to Hamas at all. Terrorists, or something.

    I think you missed the point. Your argument was that the Hamas doesn’t really want to kill the Jews today.

    Oh, they probably do, but it’s totally impractical, just a question of getting them to admit it and finding some way to incentivise more useful behavior. Let’s see if the new American lot can manage something, as long as they don’t get distracted by all their banks subsiding into the toilet. It’s a faint hope, but I can’t let myself believe they’ll be quite as uselessly biased as Bush was, Rahm Emanuel notwithstanding.

    I tried to demonstrate that there is significant evidence that the Hamas actually means what it says and that the roots of this anti-Semitic hatred predate the current conflict.

    The roots of this “anti-Semitic” hatred are the original dispossession – and my point was that if one group is much wealthier than the other, purchase can still seem like dispossession. As we are often reminded, Jews were living in Palestine ever since the Romans kicked most of them out, keeping the claim warm for their exiled brethren who would one day return. I do not recall hearing about anti-Semitism until the number of immigrants started going up, though I’m sure you’ll fill me in if there was any.

  153. > Deciding to do what? Have large numbers of unemployable children? Let Hamas folks with guns store IEDs in the attic? Not spend the evenings learning AJAX?

    Sure. Those things and others. (I’d rank “not building biz” ahead of “not having children they can’t afford”, but either one is an improvement.)

    > While Hamas and Fatah may be the only options that are likely to get a majority from Palestinians today, Hamas and Fatah are not the only possibilities, they’re merely the only options that large numbers of Palestinians are willing to consider. That’s a choice that Palestinians have made.

    I’ve met quite a few Americans who are pretty frustrated with the range of options available on the Democrat-Republican spectrum, but I don’t tend to *blame* them for it.

    I’m not blaming the small minority of Palestinians for the dominance of Hamas and Fatah, but I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to blame the majority of Palestinians for the dominance of Hamas and Fatah. After all, they’re the ones who make Hamas and Fatah dominant.

    Surely it’s fair to blame/credit the folks who push for something for its consequences. If not them, then who?

    And, if the Palestinians are to be accomodated despite their choices, why isn’t the same courtesty extended to the Israelis?

    >Product of history.

    It’s the history that they’re writing, every day, with their choices.

  154. > Eh, but sovereignty over what? Gaza and some scraps of land the settlers don’t want, with barely any water?

    If Gaza is so useless, then surely there’s no objection to giving it back to Israel.

    Note that the places without water won’t have water regardless of who has the places with water.

    > Y’see, *I* read (on wikipedlo, I’d be happy to have more reliable sources if you have them) that Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount on 28-9-00 was what really triggered that, though Arafat didn’t exactly try his best to calm matters down.

    Speaking of “bat shit crazy”, the visit didn’t change anything real. Folks who go crazy over someone visiting a religious site, even if he’d pissed on the floor and started screaming “mine, mine”, aren’t sane and really shouldn’t be accomodated.

    Or, if they should be, why don’t Christian fundamentalists deserve comparable accomodation, say a separate country somewhere in fly-over. Why not a country for crazy Jews? What’s special about the Palestinians?

    > Like that wall?

    The wall only stops interaction with Israel. Why can’t the Palestinians find their own goose?

    >>I agree. When your negotiating partner actually comes out and *tells you* he wants you dead as a *starting position* and doesn’t offer you alternatives or back down from that position when you make some offers of your own, it does provide a “convenient” excuse not to want to negotiate with him. But Israel has been trying again and again anyway over the past 15-20 years.

    >I thought you didn’t talk to Hamas at all. Terrorists, or something.

    You don’t have to talk with someone to hear what they’re screaming.

    Hamas says “death to all Jews”. Should the Israelis compromise with “death to 10k”?

  155. > I think they’ve mainly targeted your civilian population because your military population is pretty inaccessible

    Well, that may be one of the reasons, but it’s not the reason they claim. They claim that because we’re a democracy, every one of our civilians is just as responsible for the Palestinian plight as the government and the soldiers, and that therefore they are justified in attacking civilians. And further, because we have a draft, our young “future soldiers” are equally justified targets.

    > What would “Following the laws of war” mean in these circumstances?

    It would mean a lot of things: attacking soldiers and not civilians; firing rockets at military bases instead of towns; allowing the Red Cross access to their POWs (our soldiers); not firing weapons from inside schools, mosques and hospitals.

    > You seem to be missing the point of asymmetric warfare.

    Nonsense. Israel makes every effort to ensure that any armed conflict in which it participates is asymmetric. But being on the weaker side does not justify every means. The Hamas can make legal use of many guerilla warfare tactics against Israel, but chooses to employ specifically illegal tactics. It does this intentionally. For example, it often sets up cameras near mosques and schools just before firing rockets out of them, knowing that if Israel retaliates against them, they can show the world an “Israeli war crime”. This is a cynical use of international law against YOUR moral sense.

    For Israel, this war is not about asymmetry. It is about creating a new status quo in which rockets are not fired at civilian populations. Israel does not need to “even the odds” by using less force to be justified or morally superior in defending its population.

  156. > Gaza and some scraps of land the settlers don’t want, with barely any water? Bantustans, I’m afraid.

    Now you’re reaching. You’re also wrong. The Israeli settlers very much want that land. Don’t you recall Israel pulling out of Gaza just a couple years ago? Israel pulled settlements out of Gaza and this caused a major rift in Israeli society. Ariel Sharon himself is widely credited as the guy that created those settlements, and he was the one that had the courage to take them apart as Israel’s Prime Minister!

    And what does water have anything to do with this? How much of Israel does have water? How is Gaza different than Beer Sheba or the neighboring Israeli towns? Israel has always supplied the Palestinians with water. There are also alternatives, like establishing a water filtration plant on the beach. But they’d have to divert some of that armament cash in order to do that.

    > Eh, but sovereignty over what?

    Ah! Here we have it! How much is enough? If you ask the Hamas, they’ll tell you they want nothing short of everything and that they’ll wage Jihad war until they have it all.

  157. > Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount on 28-9-00 was what really triggered that, though Arafat didn’t exactly try his best to calm matters down.

    So Sharon visits the Temple Mount and this justifies Arafat in going to war?

  158. >> Every single offer for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been put forth by Israel. The Palestinians have not drafted a single agreement or offer, not under Arafat and not since.

    > You’re the ones with far more options.

    How is that relevant? A negotiation is where both sides say: “I want this” or “I want that” and then a discussion ensues and a possible agreement on compromise.

    > They’ve pretty much got a choice between fighting and not fighting, where not fighting can easily look like surrender.

    Says who? And to whom does it look this way? To the Arab world? What are you talking about?

    This is the main fallacy in your argument. Not fighting can ONLY look like surrender if the real goal is destroying Israel.

    > I thought you didn’t talk to Hamas at all. Terrorists, or something.

    Don’t be ridiculous. This is Israel, not the US. Israel has been negotiating with terrorists for more than 3 decades. What Israel doesn’t do is capitulate in negotiations when threatened with armed conflict.

  159. Nonsense. Israel makes every effort to ensure that any armed conflict in which it participates is asymmetric. But being on the weaker side does not justify every means. The Hamas can make legal use of many guerilla warfare tactics against Israel, but chooses to employ specifically illegal tactics. It does this intentionally. For example, it often sets up cameras near mosques and schools just before firing rockets out of them, knowing that if Israel retaliates against them, they can show the world an “Israeli war crime”. This is a cynical use of international law against YOUR moral sense.

    You do not know what ‘asymmetric warfare’ means.

  160. None of these arguments are relevant. The core reality of this conflict is simple: There are two nations fighting to have a homeland.

    The Palestinians have been abused by every single other people in the Middle East. Syria and Jordan have murdered more of them than Israel. The Jews might look strong this time around, but they don’t feel it. Except for Israel, the Eastern Hemisphere of this planet has largely been cleansed of its Jews within the lifetime of Israeli grandparents. The more the world criticizes what Israelis view as self-defense, the less Israelis trust them. The Gaza operation had 94% approval – rare in a democratic country.

    You want to talk about this conflict seriously? Stop talking about land and water. That’s the details. Talk about whether each accepts the other’s needs and authentic identity. That’s what keeps blowing this thing up. Israel and Palestine can coexist and each be viable states, but only if they have a shared market and a shared security. Something like the US and Canada. But neither is viable over the long term if they are fighting and demonizing the other’s right to that small strip of land.

    This is the tragedy, folks. It’s all about recognition. That’s what’s missing from all the political attention, the endless diplomacy, the billions of dollars poured into the problem that disappeared in violence and corruption.

    For me, the balance of justice tilts slightly – slightly – in favor of Israel only because after a generation-long culture war within the Jewish community about this issue – and even the assassination of a prime minister over it – most Israelis now accept the need for and justice of a Palestinian state, even if it must be founded on “ancestral Jewish land.” When a majority of Palestinians can accept a legitimate Jewish state on “historic Palestine,” because the Jews really have no other home, maybe there will be balance and some chance at compromise.

    No side is inherently evil here, even if some of the battle tactics have been evil. From my perspective, it’s all about recognizing that the other side, too, has justice on its side.

  161. > You do not know what ‘asymmetric warfare’ means.

    Wrong. I reject the idea that because Israel has a superior force, the Hamas is justified in targeting noncombatants or bringing its own noncombatants under intentional fire as a tactic of unconventional war.

  162. Wrong. I reject the idea that because Israel has a superior force, the Hamas is justified in targeting noncombatants or bringing its own noncombatants under intentional fire as a tactic of unconventional war.

    What relevance does your opinion have to the situation on the ground? These tactics are widely deployed on the field today, and the only recourse available is to beat the people making use of them. FYI the idea of civilians not being fair game in war is a recent novelty, much like democracy.

  163. Well, Marshal, what relevance do any of our opinions have?

    Why even discuss it at all?

    At least noam is Israeli, he has to live with this stuff. We are more like spectators.

    And as far as Hamas goes, whatever ends they have in mind do not justify their means.
    The idea of citizens not being fair game in war is in fact an ancient idea. Killing everyone alike is a new and horrible idea of the 20th century.

  164. >FYI the idea of civilians not being fair game in war is a recent novelty, much like democracy.
    And, of course, that means we should all abandon it whenever we feel like it. Just like we should amend the Constitution to allow Obama to become dictator. Yeah.

  165. > What relevance does your opinion have to the situation on the ground?

    On what grounds would *you* decide to go to war? At what point do you *judge* yourself justified in opening fire on an opponent? Do *you* consider a civilian on the other side an opponent?

    > These tactics are widely deployed on the field today, and the only recourse available is to beat the people making use of them.

    True. But the question is how to beat them.

    Your apathetic and “amoral” answer goes something like “nuke ‘em for all I care”. Israel’s answer – to attack the perpetrators and not the bystanders – is morally superior to yours. Period.

  166. > We are more like spectators.

    Maybe as individuals. And maybe not directly in the war in Gaza. But the US is thankfully not a spectator in the bigger war against fascist Islamic fanaticism.

  167. > What relevance does your opinion have to the situation on the ground? These tactics are widely deployed on the field today, and

    If Hamas is free to use whatever tactics it chooses, then what’s the objection to Israel doing likewise?

    > the only recourse available is to beat the people making use of them.

    In the end, that is the only recourse. Of course, it’s fair to ask why Israel isn’t allowed to avail itself of that recourse….

  168. > fascist Islamic fanaticism

    I’ve heard that the new term is “Islamic supremacy”. That’s supposed to evoke associations with “white supremacy” but it’s unclear that those associations are going to provoke the desired “we can’t be like that” among the Islamic supremacists. (Arguing that some Islamic terror organization lacked “moral authority” because it paid black Arabs less than others didn’t seem to have caused them to disband in shame.)

  169. If Hamas is free to use whatever tactics it chooses, then what’s the objection to Israel doing likewise?

    I don’t have any problem with Israel using suicide bombers or shooting up civilians. My contention is that none of these disputes are grounded in morality. Obviously, it’s better for people to have honoured agreements that govern who can and cannot be attacked, but that is not the case here.

  170. On what grounds would *you* decide to go to war? At what point do you *judge* yourself justified in opening fire on an opponent? Do *you* consider a civilian on the other side an opponent?

    That’s not a decision I have to make, since I’m not a head of state. The only ‘natural law’ is that of survival. There’s nothing unnatural about robbing and killing other tribes. Such prohibitions are the invention of societies, which are arbitrary social constructs designed to benefit the participants. Hamas is pretty far outside Western society, so crying foul over their conduct is meaningless, and so is crying foul over their treatment of the hands of Israel.

    True. But the question is how to beat them.

    Your apathetic and “amoral” answer goes something like “nuke ‘em for all I care”. Israel’s answer – to attack the perpetrators and not the bystanders – is morally superior to yours. Period.

    I don’t advocate nuclear weapons in this instance, because their use would have negative ramifications within our own society. Russia, China and the US are part of a large super-society, since they have a large number of agreements that are honoured to varying degrees. This is, in part, due to the advent of nuclear weapons. Do you recoil at the ‘moral horror’ of nuclear weapons? The Israelis will have to decide what amount of force is necessary to defend their society. Prolonging the conflict is simply irresponsible.

  171. so is crying foul over their treatment of the hands of Israel.

    treatment at the hands, rather.

  172. Marshal, the modern laws of war are a response to the brutality of modern war. It was, as the Israelis say, “written in blood.” Don’t be so quick to throw it overboard because it’s a modern invention. It is, incidentally, a Biblical invention, and a good one.

    As for prolonging the conflict, it’s worth noting that the entire Arab-Israeli conflict, over six decades with as many wars, cost perhaps 70,000 lives. It is one of the smallest battlegrounds of the 20th century. That due, in part, to the Israelis’ moral discomfort with blood-letting.

    The problem Israelis face with the Palestinians is that they have used their suffering as their primary weapon, knowing the Israelis are susceptible to it. They have sacrificed a flourishing economy, education system and civil society (before the second intifada they led the Arab world on all these fronts) on the altar of destroying Israel. That makes them an almost unstoppable aggressor whose very weakness ties Israel’s hands.

    That is, until Israel figured out a tactical framework of “low-intensity conflict” that has put the military advantage back on Israel’s side. This is done through thousands of pinprick raids, arrests and intense intelligence-gathering over a long period of time. It is the reason the West Bank is quiet. It is sustainable. And it removes the need for overwhelming deadly force to stop Palestinian attacks – the preferred strategy of Hamas and Arafat before them.

    In other words, there is no need, as yet, for Israelis to abandon their morality. If in a decade Hamas gets its hands on a suitcase nuclear device, that might change.

  173. Israel makes every effort to ensure that any armed conflict in which it participates is asymmetric.

    You do not know what ‘asymmetric warfare’ means.

    Asymmetric means unbalanced. Israel does try to tip circumstances in its favor in every war it’s involved in.

    Additionally, until recent wars with just terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel fought wars against multiple countries at a time, and each country would have a larger population than Israel. That’s the other side of asymmetric.

    Yes, some people use the term as a smart-sounding synonym for guerrilla, but that’s not completely accurate.

    I reject the idea that because Israel has a superior force, the Hamas is justified in targeting noncombatants or bringing its own noncombatants under intentional fire as a tactic of unconventional war.

    These tactics are widely deployed on the field today. … FYI the idea of civilians not being fair game in war is a recent novelty, much like democracy.

    If by recent you mean “a couple of centuries old,” then yes. Even so, Hamas’s failure to enter the Nineteenth Century, let alone the Twentieth or Twenty-First does put a damper on future Israeli-Palestinian relations.

    I have to agree with noam: those who wring their hands over Palestinian casualties caused largely as a conscious Hamas/Fatah/Hezbollah strategy (and apparently Marshal is not wringing his hands) are in effect endorsing that strategy. At the very least they are making that strategy somewhat effective. For those following at home, some of the larger organizations wringing their hands over this (and thus making the Hamas/Fatah/Hezbollah strategy effective) include the UN, Human Rights Watch, and governments of countries like France, Germany and Italy. Not surprisingly, these same organizations are routinely among the first to criticize Israel for any military action. And these organizations are the last to suggest workable solutions.

    If you don’t agree, read up on UNIFIL for an eye-opening story.

  174. @ESR:

    The Israelis are civilized. Their opponents are barbarians.

    I think the notion of “Palestinians being uncultured and brutish” is somehow internalized in English language. In Arabic, the word “Palestine” is pronounced as “felestin” and you guys have a word which I am 99% sure etymologically the same as that: Philistine, which means a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture.
    It’s equivalent Hebrew word is pelistî.
    I know that you were just pointing to Jihadi forces, but after all maybe even a generalization is correct. Dunno, but maybe that’s a brutal truth.

  175. I know that you were just pointing to Jihadi forces, but after all maybe even a generalization is correct. Dunno, but maybe that’s a brutal truth.

    If thinking the other side are inherently inferior makes you feel better about killing them, then good for you. Note, however, that this puts you in the same category as the many people who have blamed Jews for their own failures throughout history.

  176. > Obviously, it’s better for people to have honoured agreements that govern who can and cannot be attacked, but that is not the case here.

    Why is it *better*? On what grounds?

  177. >> On what grounds would *you* decide to go to war? At what point do you *judge* yourself justified in opening fire on an opponent? Do *you* consider a civilian on the other side an opponent?

    > That’s not a decision I have to make, since I’m not a head of state.

    Don’t give me that nonsense. I wasn’t asking you as a head of state. I was asking you as an individual about the conditions under which *you* personally believe you are justified in actually opening fire on someone.

    Do you morally distinguish between murder and killing through self-defense?

    You can hypothesize nuking and suicide-bombing the Palestinians, but you can’t hypothesize a situation in which you might be called upon to decide whether you are within your rights to *personally* use the arms you bear?

  178. > The only ‘natural law’ is that of survival.

    As far as I can tell, nobody talked about natural law except for you. Or is “natural law” in this case a synonym for a moral imperative to survive?

    The problem I have here is this. You’re making lots of moral judgements (which is good). You’re just afraid to call them that (which is not good).

    > There’s nothing unnatural about robbing and killing other tribes.

    So the Hamas killing the Jewish “tribe” is “natural”?

  179. @ Marshal:

    If thinking the other side are inherently inferior makes you feel better about killing them, then good for you. Note, however, that this puts you in the same category as the many people who have blamed Jews for their own failures throughout history.

    Marshal, it’s such a shame you didn’t even bother to read my posts before replying to them. I made clear my position on your first comment earlier. Search for the string “Butcher Of Beirut” in this page and read that comment, please.
    I noticed that there is this word Philistine and hypothesized the following: The notion that “Palestinians are inferior and barbarian” is internalized in English language. I proceeded to suggest that the fact that many people regard Jihadi Forces as “dickheads” it’s because deep in their heart they think “All Palestinians are dickheads” and that is perhaps a shocking and brutal truth. Anyhow, if my kind of ambiguous language caused the misunderstanding I apologize.

  180. Well, that may be one of the reasons, but it’s not the reason they claim. They claim that because we’re a democracy, every one of our civilians is just as responsible for the Palestinian plight as the government and the soldiers, and that therefore they are justified in attacking civilians. And further, because we have a draft, our young “future soldiers” are equally justified targets.

    You pay too much attention to rhetoric.

    Nonsense. Israel makes every effort to ensure that any armed conflict in which it participates is asymmetric.

    I think, as Marshal says, we’re using different definitions here. By asymmetric I mean regular forces versus irregular ones. 1967 and 1973 were wars between regular forces, however many advantages the Israelis had. Since then it’s been asymmetric pretty much all the way. There’s an old interview with Martin van Creveld here where he talks about some of the morale (as opposed to moral) problems with it. Seems more cheerful these days, though, so perhaps he was just going through a bad patch.

    Now you’re reaching. You’re also wrong. The Israeli settlers very much want that land. Don’t you recall Israel pulling out of Gaza just a couple years ago?

    Well, if I’m wrong, this would be the place to find out about it, but by “Gaza and some scraps of land the settlers don’t want” I meant “Gaza” and “some scraps of land the settlers don’t want”. I meant what you’ve left them of the West Bank, cut up by settler-only roads and stuff. Doesn’t look like the nucleus of a viable country to me. And after Gaza there have to be serious doubts about whether you could even consider returning the whole West Bank to Palestinian control, you’d have a civil war on your hands.

    There are also alternatives, like establishing a water filtration plant on the beach. But they’d have to divert some of that armament cash in order to do that.

    Don’t imagine they could afford desalination, it uses a hell of lot of energy. And they probably think it’d just be too tempting a target for your lot.

    So Sharon visits the Temple Mount and this justifies Arafat in going to war?

    The Second Intifada looked more like sustained rioting than full-on war to me. Are you suggesting wandering up there with a bunch of armed guys wasn’t intended as a deliberate provocation?

    How is that relevant? A negotiation is where both sides say: “I want this” or “I want that” and then a discussion ensues and a possible agreement on compromise.

    I’d expect the side with more options to be in a better position to put forward suggestions.

    Says who? And to whom does it look this way? To the Arab world? What are you talking about?

    This is the main fallacy in your argument. Not fighting can ONLY look like surrender if the real goal is destroying Israel.

    No, you’ve lost me there, sorry.

    Don’t be ridiculous. This is Israel, not the US. Israel has been negotiating with terrorists for more than 3 decades.

    So, what have Hamas been offered, then?

  181. > They’ve pretty much got a choice between fighting and not fighting, where not fighting can easily look like surrender.

    And the problem with “surrender” is what?

    > Are you suggesting wandering [To Temple Mount] with a bunch of armed guys wasn’t intended as a deliberate provocation?

    So what if it was? How did their response make things better for themselves? How was it something other than “bat shit crazy”?

    > When [has Israel] tried to actually foster a sustained rise in Palestinian living conditions?

    We’ve seen a couple of folks argue that better living conditions would reduce Palestinian discontent. The problem with that argument is that Palestinians as a whole don’t behave as if they care all that much about better living conditions. They’d much rather fight with Israel.

  182. > You pay too much attention to rhetoric.

    Let me get this straight. If they say they want to obliterate Israel or kill the Jews, it’s a negotiating position. If they make an explicit claim that they are justified in attacking civilians because Israel is a democracy, it’s just rhetoric.

    Do you take anything they say at face value?

  183. > I think, as Marshal says, we’re using different definitions here. By asymmetric I mean regular forces versus irregular ones.

    You don’t seem to realize it, but you and Marshal are on opposite sides of the fence here.

    Marshal’s argument is that in war, the ends always justify the means, so the Hamas is justified in violating laws of war it cynically uses against the West to gain support. Though he denies it virulently, this is a moral judgement that Israel decries in theory as well as practice. He would feel as little compunction if Israel would indiscriminately carpet-bomb the whole Gaza strip killing a million innocents as if the Hamas succeeded in destroying Israel. I hope you agree with me when I say that this is a frighteningly dangerous stance.

    Your argument is that because Israel is strong and the Hamas is weak, Israel should capitulate. You also question Israel’s legitimacy, basically suggesting that whatever Israel does, it’s in inherently in the wrong, and should therefore capitulate. You see Israel as the perpetual aggressor. You offer no criticism of Hamas and refuse to take their claims at face value. Is the Hamas capable of any wrong?

  184. Does anyone here remember that when Israel pulled out of Hamas, they left behind some valuable greenhouses. These greenhouses were supplying something like 25% of the worlds cut flowers (according to Michael Medved.) Israel left these behind with the idea that the Arabs could take them over and have a profitable business for themselves.

    But of course, we are dealing with Palestinians here. They trashed the greenhouses because they had Jewish cooties. You cannot negotiate with these irrational nihilistic people. At least the Israelis act like they have some sense.

    When party A wants to annihilate party B, that is not the sort of difference that can be hashed out around a conference table.

  185. Do you morally distinguish between murder and killing through self-defense?

    You can hypothesize nuking and suicide-bombing the Palestinians, but you can’t hypothesize a situation in which you might be called upon to decide whether you are within your rights to *personally* use the arms you bear?

    I don’t bare arms, because the chance of me being attacked and being in a position to pull any kind of weapon is remote. Unless you’re including limbs. There is a strong distinction between self-defense and murder within a society that has such rules. Extending this distinction to the level of the state is another recent development. No doubt, the world is better when people tend to only engage in defensive war. However, this tendency will eventually be exploited by some party, as it has been by terrorists. Applying moral standards from civilised society to war only serves to weaken your position, which in the end jeopardises the survival of your supposedly superior morals.

    If an American citizen shoots another citizen on American soil, then he would be rightly shunned as immoral. That is because he is within our society, and all the participants have ‘bought in’ and are expected to mostly follow the rules. OTOH, if a terrorist blows up a tower with thousands of people in it on American soil, they are committing an act of war/terrorism. Arguing about morals in such a context is meaningless, since they have exited society. It’s just meaningless prattle to make people feel better. Terrorists don’t hate ‘freedom’, they just don’t like the way we live and the things we do. So kill them.

  186. As far as I can tell, nobody talked about natural law except for you. Or is “natural law” in this case a synonym for a moral imperative to survive?

    The problem I have here is this. You’re making lots of moral judgements (which is good). You’re just afraid to call them that (which is not good).

    It’s not a ‘moral imperative’, it is a natural pattern of behaviour that you can either like or dislike. The right to attempt survival is the only one that has existed since the beginning of life, and that cannot be taken away. All other morals are modern conveniences invented by societies that themselves want to survive. When people start to forget this, a society grows weak and unwilling to defend itself.

    So the Hamas killing the Jewish “tribe” is “natural”?

    Most definitely, and visa versa too. You know those last few uncontacted tribes that have survived without being molested by society? You know what often happens when the encroachment of society pushes them into contact? Massacres.

  187. I proceeded to suggest that the fact that many people regard Jihadi Forces as “dickheads” it’s because deep in their heart they think “All Palestinians are dickheads” and that is perhaps a shocking and brutal truth. Anyhow, if my kind of ambiguous language caused the misunderstanding I apologize.

    If that’s what you meant then I apologise for my overzealous response.

  188. You don’t seem to realize it, but you and Marshal are on opposite sides of the fence here.

    I realise it perfectly well, as I take the trouble to read his posts. I was talking *specifically* about the definition of asymmetric warfare.

    Your argument is that because Israel is strong and the Hamas is weak, Israel should capitulate.

    *Deal*, not capitulate. Offer them enough to make a viable state, as opposed to a load of bantustans from which if they’re lucky they can go to work as labourers in Israel.

    But perhaps you regard that as surrender, I dunno.

  189. >*Deal*, not capitulate. Offer them enough to make a viable state, as opposed to a load of bantustans from which if they’re lucky they can go to work as labourers in Israel.

    I tend to think that Hamas will not be satisfied even by that. And if Israel gives up enough land to allow a viable Palestinian state, then Hamas will be able to launch its attacks much more efficiently. Assuming here that Hamas means what it says when it says that it wants nothing less than Israel completely gone, then Israel ceding any more land to them is simply giving them platforms to launch more attacks. Israel is showing admirable restraint in not simply taking over Gaza again–they certainly have sufficient provocation.

  190. I meant to say when Israel pulled out of Gaza, not Hamas.

    Freudian slip, innit.

  191. And if Israel gives up enough land to allow a viable Palestinian state, then Hamas will be able to launch its attacks much more efficiently.

    I think we’d be talking about a large UN presence (with a substantial US component, I know what you guys are going to say about the UN) before any such agreement was even considered.

    Let’s see what Barry’s got in mind.

  192. Calling Barack Obama on his childhood nickname (Barry) (Jeff Read, Adrian) is some sort of insider joke I don’t quite get? Is it a joke hinting at moving from left to centre i.e. “sellout” or something like that?

  193. Certainly not on my part, can’t speak for Jeff. It’s just an affectionate (for now) nickname.

    Apparently we’re not supposed to call him (or Thomas Sowell) “uncle Toms” either, not that we necessarily want to (yet), only brothers are allowed to do that.

  194. I admit I tend to call him “Barry” when I don’t feel like participating in the Great American O-Face — the relentless, obsequious fawning over Obama that’s taken over the media as of late.

    Obama’s heart is in the right place but there’s no getting around the fact that he’s a rookie politician. This can work for or against him (and us) as it means he’s relatively free of corrupting lobbyist influence (and mandated his Executive Branch remain the same), but as the U.S. President he’s going to have to make a lot of tough decisions. Lives and livelihoods will be on the line. We’ll see if he holds true to his values or if he falters. (Apparently he’s already sided with Shrub on the warrantless-wiretapping issue.)

  195. Eric thinks he is too wise at propaganda. :D

    Isreal will live in spite of its inhumanity and cruelty, until the day Imam Mehdi arrives and finishes the job that Hitler left unfinished.

  196. Yow.

    Okay, that was jarring. I’ve encountered my fair share of filth on the internet but I didn’t expect to see this level of scumbag posting on this blog. Eric, what country was that comment posted from?

  197. and Hamas was crucifying palestinians over Xmas for “weakening the spirit of the people”. and recommenced missile attacks on israel within an hour of them declaring ceasefire.

  198. > I think we’d be talking about a large UN presence (with a substantial US component, I know what you guys are going to say about the UN) before any such agreement was even considered.

    If the Palestinians think that the rest of the deal is good enough, no “security presence” is necessary. If they don’t, as the above assumes, what’s the point? They can be unhappy where they are now.

  199. > Eric, what country was that comment posted from?

    Pakistan, I think. I left it undeleted, despite being pure hate speech, because I think some of my more naive readers need a clear idea of what Israel is dealing with.

  200. I’m surprised at you, Eric, you’re normally admirably thick-skinned about name-calling and insults generally. But perhaps you’re right, and those delicate little Israeli flowers should throw up their hands in horror and resolve never to even think about the way their government’s actions might be helping to foster such unpleasant fantasies just because some dumbass in Pakistan mentioned Hitler.

  201. If the Palestinians think that the rest of the deal is good enough, no “security presence” is necessary. If they don’t, as the above assumes, what’s the point? They can be unhappy where they are now.

    I was kind of thinking the UN/US presence was going to be necessary to get the Israelis on board, not the Palestinians. Unless you see some reason to expect unanimity there are going to be diehards among the latter who need to be sat on by someone, and a third party with the sort of robust rules of engagement the Americans tend to demand is probably going to be your best bet.

  202. The fact that anyone thinks the UN should be involved at all shows how screwed up this situation really is.
    The UN does not need to be involved, Israel can handle this on their own. The UN will just muck things up.

    And Kawish, if you think the United States is just going to stand by and watch while Israel is wiped out, by Imam Mehdi or anyone else, well, just bring it on.

  203. And Kawish, if you think the United States is just going to stand by and watch while Israel is wiped out, by Imam Mehdi or anyone else, well, just bring it on.

    Dude, it’s the Twelfth Imam, the Shia Apocalypse, the only thing less credible than the Caliphate. Do you pay attention to the nuts who believe in the Rapture? ‘Cos you might as well if you’re going to take this guy seriously.

  204. The UN does not need to be involved, Israel can handle this on their own.

    I think if Israel was going to negotiate a peace with the Palestinians we might have noticed a bit more progress by now. I realise you probably shaved your head and got a vasectomy as soon as he was elected, but it’s quite likely that our Barry would like the kudos of achieving a lasting settlement over there, and is willing to be reasonably creative about it. And the US is perfectly capable of bossing the UN around in a situation with stakes like this.

    Not saying I’m not bracing myself for disappointment, mind.

  205. Adrian, Jesus tap dancing Christ, every president who comes into office wants to “achieve a lasting settlement” over there.

    Clinton tried it with Madelyn Albright, and we got the fabulous Oslo accords. Which solved nothing.

    Bush tried, with the results being more of the same.

    The US cannot solve this problem with diplomacy, or it would have by now. Again, it bears repeating: the Arabs want Israel gone and the Jews shoved in the ocean, and no agreement is going to deter them from that. They must be beaten, by Israel. That may be cruel, but there are no easy answers.

    And yes I knew he was talking about some Islamic Messiah figure who is not coming. I really just wanted to say screw him.

    Look at the record of the UN, they never seem to help with anything, unless you count bribery and sexual compulsion as “progress.”

  206. > I was kind of thinking the UN/US presence was going to be necessary to get the Israelis on board, not the Palestinians.

    No one suggested otherwise. The point is that said “necessary” tells us something important.

    > Unless you see some reason to expect unanimity there are going to be diehards among the latter who need to be sat on by someone, and a third party with the sort of robust rules of engagement the Americans tend to demand is probably going to be your best bet.

    Once again, Smith thinks that Palestinians should have no responsibility.

    If Palestinians don’t think that the deal is good enough for them to do the sitting, what is the point?

    Proposals like Smith’s show that no one actually thinks that Palestinians as a whole will be satisfied by anything less than “Death To Israel”. As long as that’s true, what’s the point of doing anything for them?

  207. both sides are just defending themselves against unprovoked retaliation.

    Adrian: it doesn’t matter how far you go back in recorded history, all the Levantine peoples (currently running from Tunisia/Egypt up to nearly Baghdad) have been doing this sort of thing to each other continuously. it’s a cultural preference. they’re ALL in the wrong. even as they’re ALL in the (self)right(eous).

  208. Saltation,

    an additional thing in consideration, it will be a bit cryptical, because it’s just a hunch: insight into solving the situation will we gained if we manage to define the difference between “both are right” and “both are wrong”. As they sound a bit similar, as we are used to framing conflicts as one being right and the other being wrong, but realizing that there is not only a relative level of rightness or wrongness to each other but also a more objective-ish view at right at wrong, and thus defining the difference between “both are right” and “both are wrong”, could lead to some important insights. Hm?

  209. Bush tried, with the results being more of the same.

    I don’t recall Bush trying very hard.

    The US cannot solve this problem with diplomacy, or it would have by now.

    A new administration at least offers the possibility of a fresh start. But believe me, I’m primed for disappointment here. Rahm Emanuel sounds like AIPAC gift-wrapped in a box.

    Again, it bears repeating: the Arabs want Israel gone and the Jews shoved in the ocean, and no agreement is going to deter them from that.

    *Some* Palestinians want that. The trick will be to marginalise them.

    They must be beaten, by Israel. That may be cruel, but there are no easy answers.

    But how hard do they need to be beaten? Do the Israelis need to go for actual population reduction? That might evoke difficult historical precedents, which they would probably be sensitive to even if you aren’t. Particularly when there are so many bodies the Palestinians have to start *stacking* them. I think the Israelis would go to considerable lengths to avoid getting to that point, myself.

    Look at the record of the UN, they never seem to help with anything, unless you count bribery and sexual compulsion as “progress.”

    You need the UN to get the Palestinians on board, like you need the US for Israel. But the UN people know how essential US participation would be, and they should have the sense to stay out of the way.

  210. Shenpen, i appreciate and empathise, but

    >insight into solving the situation

    my point was not just that it can’t be “solved”, but that there’s nothing to “solve” — this is a lifestyle choice by all involved.

    which sounds lunaticly harsh unless you’ve spent enough time with both sides for them to lower their guard slightly, and you can experience the “slightly”(!!) rawer reality once they let (one outer onion skin of) the theatricals drop.

  211. > You need the UN to get the Palestinians on board,

    While the plan may not be able to succeed if that doesn’t happen, that’s not evidence that it can happen. In fact, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that the UN can get Palestinians on board, so any plan that depends on that is doomed.

    Many problems don’t have solutions that meet certain constraints, no matter how nice it would be if they did.

    > But the UN people know how essential US participation would be, and they should have the sense to stay out of the way.

    “should” doesn’t imply “do”. The UN doesn’t have that sense and if the plan can’t succeed without that sense, that’s another reason why it will fail.

  212. Yeah, well, so I see a 60% chance of failure and you see 100%, it’s not that big a deal. The thing is that Obama’s crew are going to *try*. They might be able to sideline the UN if the Egyptians are fully on board, I’m sure they’d be just as good.

    We can rub each others’ noses in it in a year or two depending on how it turns out.

  213. >Yeah, well, so I see a 60% chance of failure and you see 100%,

    A diplomatic solution requires that the Palestinians be rational actors capable of forming objectives in reasonable correspondence with their ability to achieve them. History teaches us that this premise is false.

  214. > Yeah, well, so I see a 60% chance of failure and you see 100%

    Do you really see a 40% chance that the Palestinians will sit on their crazies? What evidence is there to support that hypothesis? (Your belief that they should or the fact that failure to do so dooms everything is not relevant.)

    That is the relevant question because success only happens if they do.

  215. The Israelis are not going to give back Palestine any more than the USA is going to give back North America to the remaining Indian nations. The invasion is over and the indigenous Semitic peoples have lost utterly. Palestinian rebels and Arab terrorists kill fewer people than car accidents, they kill fewer people than whiskey. I suspect they account for less global pain and suffering than the standard deviation of any accounting method you wish to name.

    There is no applicable moral argument here more functional or sophisticated than “Might Makes Right”; Israel is armed and dangerous, and the indigenous semitic refugees are militarily completely insignificant.

    Believe it or don’t, the result is the same.

  216. I can’t help but feel that the article, and the comments after it, represent extremism from both sides. We have the whole spectrum, from equating Palestinians to terrorists, right the way through to support for Hitler and extermination for the Jews. Both positions should be considered by right-thinking people to be odious, since they attempt to demonise one side so that their slaughter need not matter to “ordinary” people. Both positions support ethnic cleansing, which sadly appears to include the original article.

    I read this yesterday, and with a heavy heart debated whether I should respond. But in the spirit of widening the acceptable positions of debate, and to offer some desperately needed support for the Palestinians, I will post this. That I won’t get into a protracted debate is mainly a symbol that (a) some folks’ position on this issue is too polarised to expect debate or, even, their own compassion, to move them to a more moderate position, and (b) it would be a better use of my time to campaign on behalf of the Palestinians in more constructive ways, such as protesting the BBC decision to broadcast (in the UK) a humanitarian appeal on behalf of the people of Gaza.

    Firstly, whilst one can support one side or the other, harsh criticism is deserved on both sides, and that the original article did not criticise Israel for its many failings demonstrates how one-sided the author is. But on the Palestine side first: some Palestinians are rightly subject to criticism, partly for their extraordinary belief about an after-life for suicide bombers. Admittedly this is not a view shared by all members of Hamas, just as it is not shared by all Palestinians. But religious fundamentalism of this kind worsens the conflict. I am not a fan of religion in any case, as I feel that all states should be secular. Islam is much misused in the Middle East conflict, and its misuses are often violent.

    On the Israeli side, such is the zeal for “destroying Hamas”, there is zero compassion for the civilians who are maimed and killed, and as we have seen, recently they have been killed in their hundreds. By any standard, the use of white phosphorus, which has seen scores of non-combatants either (literally) melted in front of their family, or rushed into poorly equipped hospitals in the area with atrocious burn injuries. In the meantime, well dressed and well spoken Israeli spokespeople, trained in the evasive language of lawyers, obfuscate and prevaricate on whether their WP weapons have hit civilians. Meanwhile a fairly new kind of high explosive, which has a hugely damaging effect on human tissue over a small-range area, has been used. So-called DIME weapons (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) have not yet been classified under international law, thus technically exempting the Israeli government from war crimes accusations on this point despite the human lives they have claimed and the misery inflicted.

    It is worth pointing out that Israel is a military state as well as a democracy, which forms the views of its leaders, and its people, in a pretty nasty sort of feedback loop. This is not an Israeli phenomenon – arguably some conservative support for Iraq, despite the original lies (I won’t revisit them all here) came from much the same phenomenon in the US. That Israel receives 3bn USD every year, and is permitted to spend this on military hardware – as well as having reconfigured its economy post 9/11 to one based on military and surveillance technology – forms part of this loop. It is undeniable now that a durable peace is not in Israel’s economic interests: if peace were achieved, the military/tech industries would decline, and the economy would have to reconfigure despite a worldwide recession.

    It is difficult also not to discover, with the money flowing from American taxpayers to Israeli hawks, that the US would do very badly out of peace too. The most obvious reason for this is that the main suppliers of military equipment to Israel are American companies, which effectively means that the ordinary chap on Main Street is paying incredible amounts of money to the military-industrial complex in his own country via an intermediary. If peace were achieved, either (a) the funds would stop, in which case the Israeli government would not have the cash to spend in America, or (b) they would spend it on something locally, like health or education. This puts paid to the mistaken assertion of a commentator that “every president who comes into office wants to ‘achieve a lasting settlement’ over there”. The analysis in fact demonstrates that this is a fallacy. (The commentator in question mentions Secretary of State Madeline Albright as if she were a benign party – the same Madeline Albright who in a moment of accidental honesty admitted that the price of a million deaths, half of them children, in Iraq due to sanctions was “worth it”).

    Furthermore, I imagine three billion dollars would look like small-fry in comparison to the financial benefits achieved by the investment US foreign policy has made in continuing the conflict. For example, the US has a direct interest in maintaining a flow of oil to itself at a specific rate and at a reasonable price. Without coercion in regions that can ensure this happens, America (and the rest of the world, I should add) loses the security of supply, which in itself hurts the developed world economically. A drop in the supply of oil pushes up energy prices, damages the transport infrastructure upon which all our economies are based, and threatens the viability of ordinary industrial processes such as plastics manufacturing. However having a client state – Israel – available to threaten surrounding countries with violence, and to impress upon local regions the necessity of toeing the American line – somewhat keeps the energy cost/supply situation at bay (at least for now).

    All of this comes into direct conflict with one item in the original article: that “the behavior of the international press has also been as vile … in general uncritically retailing the Hamas propaganda line”. It is perhaps true that, in light of the shocking recent levels of Israeli sadism, even the mainstream press – long preferring the safety of supporting Israel – has had to give the Palestinian side more of a voice. But academic studies show that the mainstream media, on balance, prefers the Israeli story to the Palestinian one. There are many reasons why this is so. Partly it is the “flak” generated by the Israel lobby, which – as we all well know – is well-funded and well-organised, especially in the US. Also, there is no “Palestinian lobby” other than grassroots campaigns and charity organisations; thus, it is easier and cheaper to side with the Israeli “cause” than the Palestinians. Furthermore, as has been demonstrated by the BBC in the UK over “Iraqi weapons” (prior to the invasion of Iraq), taking sides against ones own government too aggressively is only permitted in a real democracy (in the case of the “45 minute” claim, the BBC apologised, but later admitted that they still believed the broad facts of the story to be true. Had they stood up to govt pressure, British support of the invasion may have been untenable). And this is the crux of Western journalistic support for Israel: to argue against the Israel/US, or to support freedom for the Palestinians, is to come into conflict with US-UK foreign policy aims. As many a writer has discovered, one has sometimes to choose between a high-flying journalistic career, or writing the truth.

    There are a couple of subsequent comments I’d like to challenge, if only to serve as points to readers still open to entreaty. Firstly, the suggestion that “the Israelis left. They withdrew. The boot was off the neck.” This is not true, and although I think it has already been challenged, I will add to that challenge. The land of Palestine has been occupied in varying degrees since 1948, and that situation has not changed, ever. Accordingly, the boot has been on the neck for 60 years, and the pressure may have sometimes loosened, but it has never been removed. Failing to understand this is a refusal to understand Palestinian and Arab anger about the occupation. Furthermore, over the last few years, the Palestinians have been under an appalling economic blockade, which has prevented medicines, generator fuel, food, necessities and humanitarian aid from getting through to people who desparately need it. Now, it *is* true that some settlers on Israeli-occupied land were removed by Israel, and there were some great TV pictures of this which “proved” that Israel was making a genuine offer. What the media did not focus on was the expansion of settlements elsewhere at exactly the same time. Since that time, the building of the separation wall started (another great benefit to the military-industrial complex) and was arguably a mechanism of annexation, and a hardwiring of the occupation, rather than specifically designed to contribute to Israeli security. In fact arguably it *reduces* net Israel security, since it increases the anger that Palestinians feel towards their oppressors. Is that what supporters of Israel really want?

    Adding to the sorry demonisation in the original article, examples of outright anti-Palestinian racism abound in the above discussion – two in particular: “A … solution requires that the Palestinians be rational actors … history teaches us that this premise is false”, and “but of course, we are dealing with Palestinians here”. Both impute a non-human quality to the Palestinian people as a bloc, and it is this mental trick that then allows the same people not to feel an ounce of compassion at the appalling injuries we have seen on TV, deliberately inflicted by individuals with similarly warped mindsets. The Palestinian people, many of them women and children, have fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, just as we do. Not to put too fine a point on it, they bleed, they can be injured, and they can die, just as we can. Why not feel some sympathy for their predicament?

    And one of the commentators here attempts an answer to that: “I’m sorry, the Gazans elected these barbarians to be their government, to act in their name”. This is morally equivalent to the suggestion that, because American civilians voted in their various governments prior to 9/11, and because those governments have killed civilians, supported terrorism when convenient, stamped on democracies around the globe, and supported dictatorships for short-term economic and strategic gain, that the same can be applied to the civilians who died in the Twin Towers. Who, after all, “elected these barbarians to be their government, to act in their name”. What an utterly disgusting position to take! For consistency, would the author assert condemn 9/11 victims too?

    It would be remiss of me also not to mention the various positions of support that Israel receives. This is not a criticism of Israel themselves – I have done plenty of that already. But it is sometimes worth recognising that if one takes a strong one-sided position on an issue, and that same opinion is shared by some fanatical people, that the view itself needs to be critically looked at (this further supports my thesis that any exclusively one-sided views in this predicament are suspect, since there are odious supporters on both sides). Israel perversely gets a lot of ideological support from fundamentalist Christians in America, many of whom openly call themselves Zionists. This is driven by their religious belief that a pre-condition for the Second Coming of Christ is that Israel gets its “promised” land, which when decoded means destroying and removing the Palestinian people entirely. Again, more support for ethnic cleaning that Israel supporters are unwilling to recognise. The strange thing is that the Christian Zionists seem to be giving a huge fillip to the Israeli cause whilst simultaneously believing that all Jews are going to Hell. If I were an Israeli Zionist, I’d be worried about that kind of support, even if it was giving me billions of free dollars every year.

    Lastly I will finish off with a couple of potential solutions, though frustratingly they would need to find American support. Firstly, the two-state solution, to 1967 borders, has regularly been indicated by Palestian representatives as acceptable – as has the concomitant recognition that Israel would have a right to exist. This is not widely reported in the media, as to do so would indicate how close we have come in the past to a solution, and how successive American administrations have, with some success, managed to quell this irksome possibility. But another solution is possible, though ideologically it has not yet entered mainstream discourse, and I mention it here to give it fresh exposure. With some justification, the situation the Palestinians find themselves in has parallels with South African Apartheid, and the obvious solution there was to give everyone a single vote. In the case of Israel/Palestine, this would require unification of their territories in a race-blind, “one-state solution”. It wouldn’t find support from Zionists who want to drive the Palestinians out, it wouldn’t find support from the Christian fundamentalists for their perverse literal belief in the End Times, and it wouldn’t find support amongst the US elite who would then lose a valuable client state to an Arab electoral majority. But, it could stand to solve the Jerusalem issue, and it could bring peace if moderate people of the world were to give it a chance.

    Peace to all here.

  217. jon:
    thanks for this carefully considered and well-written post

    several things i must take issue with though:

    • be careful of parrotting the “war for oil” line. it’s wildly specious. if oil/energysupply were paramount, the usa would be pandering to saudi (not periodically threatening them diplomatically), which is overwhelmingly the key axle and controller of opec supply, and they would have invaded nigeria not iraq. and frankly, emotive tho palestine and israel is for both sides, it’s quite simply NOT in the picture when it comes to the energy suppliers altering their behaviour. quite simply: that situation is ignored by the energy suppliers and has been continuously and consistently for all of modern history. you need to widen your news sources, include some of those which report arab politics.

    • “there is no “Palestinian lobby” other than grassroots campaigns and charity organisations”. umm. i think you seriously underestimate the palestinian meme in the west. i can assure you from the experiences of palestinian friends (and lebanese and syrian and egyptian and kurdish) in england and australia that it’s a hell of a lot more organised and centralised than you like to think. eg, central london has been brought to a standstill the last 2 weekends by mass demonstrations, all bearing mass-produced but good-quality and freely-supplied placards (not cheap…), all chanting slogans scripted for them.

    • “The land of Palestine has been occupied in varying degrees since 1948, and that situation has not changed, ever. Accordingly, the boot has been on the neck for 60 years”. true. but with the very greatest respect, take a big step back and look again more carefully. the history of these peoples’ conflict is closer to 4,000 years than 60. and only very recently has the arabian boot not been on the israeli neck. and these are cultures where individuals can be reduced to ranting rage by events of 800 years before.
    hell, even the western crusades were COUNTER-crusades, retaliating against the (then) unprovoked unilateral invasions, continuous for 100s of years.
    just because you don’t know who karl the hammer is (europe owes its nonarabianness to this man) does not mean that 100s of years of recorded history never happened.
    just because this is new to YOU, does not mean it is new to THEM.

    • you appear in your media notes to be unaware that palestine has a long and sickening history of creating footage for international media release that is purely theatre. scripted and calculated to engender maximum sympathy. some of it so bad that merely viewing it can demonstrate its fiction (“that shot and bleeding man physically could not have been reached by a bullet”). so while israel did definitely over-egg its relatively minor settler removals, you should be aware that most of what you regard as evidence of the palestinians’ experience, is pure fabrication.

    • “both impute a non-human quality to the Palestinian people as a bloc”. not palestinians. both sides.
    and not non-human. different-culture. PROFOUNDLY different culture.
    most westerners have literally no idea how little they understand middle-eastern cultures. nor how little the middle-eastern cultures can believe we behave the way we do. i draw your attention to some of the analyses written by soldiers attempting to communicate to washington what the REAL problem is. note they excoriate both sides for failing to understand the other side’s attitude to other people.

    the essence of what i’m saying is: you’re being one-eyed. look a little harder. there are very few genuine victims in this world. there ARE a lot of people working for sympathy by presenting themselves as victims. no one’s pretending the current israel-palestine geography is good. but painting one or the other side as uniquely bad when both are behaving the same is not rational.

  218. > We have the whole spectrum, from equating Palestinians to terrorists, right the way through to support for Hitler and extermination for the Jews. Both positions should be considered by right-thinking people to be odious, since they attempt to demonise one side so that their slaughter need not matter to “ordinary” people. Both positions support ethnic cleansing, which sadly appears to include the original article.

    Ah yes, it is “odious” to point out the actual positions of the parties involved.

    Unicorns and butterlies, that’s what I say!

    And no, pointing out that someone has a given position is not support of ethnic cleansing.

  219. > Firstly, the two-state solution, to 1967 borders, has regularly been indicated by Palestian representatives as acceptable

    Why the 67 borders?

    Why not the 48 borders? How about the 73 borders?

    As to “indicated … as acceptable”, there’s no reason to believe that they’d respect the 67 borders. And, as long as they insist on a “death to Israel” charter, it’s silly to think that an essentially private comment, which has been overstated, is at all meaningful.

    The Palestinian people reject political organizations that tell them “two state”.

  220. > some Palestinians are rightly subject to criticism, partly for their extraordinary belief about an after-life for suicide bombers. Admittedly this is not a view shared by all members of Hamas, just as it is not shared by all Palestinians. But religious fundamentalism of this kind worsens the conflict. I am not a fan of religion in any case, as I feel that all states should be secular.

    What a load of bollocks. Whether or not they believe that suicide bombers have an afterlife is completely irrelevant.

    I do like the “not all”, suggesting that there’s something other than a huge majority. But, it’s irrelevant.

    The problem with any sort of intent or motivation argument is that it’s extremely limited. We treat “didn’t intend” less seriously than “intend” in criminal cases because we think that folks who “don’t intend” a result are less likely to do things that lead to it. However, we also know that that’s not always true.

    Palestinians could all become unitarians and they’d still use suicide bombing because it’s an effective tool for them.

    > Islam is much misused in the Middle East conflict, and its misuses are often violent.

    Islam is misused? It looks like it’s being used exactly as intended by its adherents. Who are you to say that they’re wrong?

  221. >Both positions support ethnic cleansing, which sadly appears to include the original article.

    I do not support ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. I do think the world would be a better place if every member of Hamas were shot tomorrow. Shooting every member of Fatah would make a good followup.

    Once rid of these gangs of criminal psychopaths, perhaps the Palestinians would behave a bit more sanely.

  222. > On the Israeli side, such is the zeal for “destroying Hamas”, there is zero compassion for the civilians who are maimed and killed, and as we have seen, recently they have been killed in their hundreds.

    Why should there be any compassion?

    The vast majority of these “civilians” are living on military targets. In most cases, they volunteered. In all cases, the choice of locations was done by their representatives.

    I note that Palestinian organizations assert that all Israelis are targets because they haven’t taken out the Israeli govt. Since the targetting of Israelis who don’t live on military targets is acceptable ….

  223. > This puts paid to the mistaken assertion of a commentator that “every president who comes into office wants to ‘achieve a lasting settlement’ over there”. The analysis in fact demonstrates that this is a fallacy.

    “Puts paid” is yet more whinging. (I’ll bet that the wanker thinks the “heavy heart” stuff makes him sound compassionate and/or thoughtful.)

    Our “friend” thinks that if we just followed his advice, all would be well.

    How about we give him a chance to prove the superiority that he assumes?

    The world is full of problems. Surely there’s at least a couple that are within the capability of the UK, or even the EU. Perhaps the Sudan.

    Solve some. Show us how it’s done. Until then, as long as you continue to either duck problems or fail, ….

  224. > “I’m sorry, the Gazans elected these barbarians to be their government, to act in their name”. This is morally equivalent to the suggestion that, because American civilians voted in their various governments prior to 9/11, and because those governments have killed civilians, supported terrorism when convenient, stamped on democracies around the globe, and supported dictatorships for short-term economic and strategic gain, that the same can be applied to the civilians who died in the Twin Towers. Who, after all, “elected these barbarians to be their government, to act in their name”. What an utterly disgusting position to take! For consistency, would the author assert condemn 9/11 victims too?

    That’s rich.

    The only reason Euros had any sympathy immediately after 9/11 is that they were afraid of looking as petty as they knew themselves to be and they were afraid that “the sleeping giant” might awake.

    They’ve since gone back to “the US deserved it”.

    Is the US perfect? No. It’s just a lot better than the alternatives.

    And, pretty much everyone knows it. When something bad happens, their first response is “how do we get the Americans to help us?”

    It doesn’t bother me when someone says that the US “deserved” 9/11. Surely they won’t object when they get what they deserve….]

    Oh, who am I kidding. They’ll come crying for help. And, like saps, we’ll probably give it to them.

    That’s why they hate us.

  225. >The only reason Euros had any sympathy immediately after 9/11 is that they were afraid of looking as petty as they knew themselves to be and they were afraid that “the sleeping giant” might awake.
    They’ve since gone back to “the US deserved it”.

    eh?
    haven’t yet come across any euros who think this. and i live here and talk’n’email daily with people across the continent.

    exceptions: some of the mediterranean-rim/levantine people who now live in euroland but retain STRONG cultural connections. and even then, it’s a minority of them.

  226. haven’t yet come across any euros who think this.

    You’ll not easily shift Andy’s opinions about “What all Euros think” (or what all Palestinians think).

    Some people have a very heavy investment in their ideas (sunk costs again). Looks like ideology from outside, always looks like pure reality to them.

  227. Jon:
    I do not support ethnic cleansing, I never suggested such. You are the one who threw that into the thread. Straw man.

    When I said, “But, of course, we are dealing with Palestinians here…” I was not saying they are not human. I was using the example of the greenhouse to show that they are simply not rational. They are so full of antisemetic hate that trying to do any more deals with them is unlikely to bear anything but bitter fruit. It is they, and specially Hamas, who need to start seeing the Jews as fully human and acting as such.

    Saltation is right about the “blood for oil” line, it makes you sound like a hysterical liberal who merely feels emotions about these issues, but does not do much real thinking. Wake up. The US does wish to see peace over there(as do I), thats why Clinton sent Madelyn Albright. It would have been a huge feather in their cap if they could have pulled it off. Your assertion that we don’t really want peace so that we can continue to give Israel $3 Billion a year is ludicrous. This is not intelligent analysis, it is merely cheap cynicism, and wrong. Have you been reading Noam Chomsky?

    It is not “odious” to point out that Hamas would like to exterminate the Jews, it says so right there in the Hamas charter. And the Palestinians elected Hamas to be their leaders. The Jews, on the other hand, have behaved with admirable restraint, if they wished to ethnic cleanse the Arabs they certainly could have done so by now. Is is quite remarkable how often Israel pulls her punches. They are a free country, with the checks and balances that go with that, and have bent over backwards to be fair to the Arabs.

    Israel did withdraw, no not from all the land, but they did withdraw from Gaza. This is not even arguable. If you think not, I dare you to Google it.
    If you think the mainstream press “likes the safety of supporting Israel”, well, wrong again. It is a known fact that AP photographers have colluded in faked photos of Palestinian “victims.” The mainstream press does what it can to help the other side and seems not to like Israel, seeing them as the mini-me to our Dr. Evil. Hamas is well aware of the biases of these reporters and hopes to use them to beat Israel in a PR battle.

    I agree that it a horrible thing what has happened to the people there. But my sympathy falls away when I remember that they brought this on themselves. When Hamas puts rocket launchers on top of schools, and then Israel takes them out killing civilians as Hamas intended all along, I find it hard to feel sorry for them. If they acted as if they had decency and common sense none of this would be happening in the first place.

    And by the way, I know you haven’t been reading Noam Chomsky, because nobody reads Noam Chomsky.

  228. Do you really see a 40% chance that the Palestinians will sit on their crazies? What evidence is there to support that hypothesis? (Your belief that they should or the fact that failure to do so dooms everything is not relevant.)

    That is the relevant question because success only happens if they do.

    It’s a hope, based on the fact that this new administration looks serious about setting itself apart from the previous one and they’re starting in on it right away, admittedly with a couple of unfortunate distractions. I’m conceding that I’ll probably be disappointed. Dunno what you mean by “hypothesis”, this isn’t chemistry. You think you know Palestinian culture well enough to predict the outcome, I reckon otherwise.

    We’re both shooting the shit here, but I’m the only one who’s admitting it.

  229. The Jews, on the other hand, have behaved with admirable restraint, if they wished to ethnic cleanse the Arabs they certainly could have done so by now.

    The Israelis only really care about what the Americans think, and although sympathy for Israel’s aims is very strong, but there are scenarios which could interfere with it. But some of them have been talking about the need for “population transfer” (of Israeli Arabs, not Gazans) coming up at some point if they want to keep a majority-Jewish state.

  230. Adrian Smith:

    One can know Palestinian culture by simply observing what goes on over there for a while. They voted for Hamas, for God’s sake, there is simply nothing to suggest they will “sit on their crazies.”

    Hope springs eternal, I guess.

  231. “The only reason Euros had any sympathy immediately after 9/11 is that they were afraid of looking as petty as they knew themselves to be and they were afraid that “the sleeping giant” might awake.”

    A sweeping generalization of 50 countries and 731M people – and a very unfair one. Do you really think the voters of Vaclav Klaus, Donald Tusk, Silvio Berlusconi think this way? Or you are into the usual bullshit that Europe is nothing more than Paris and the newspapers edited in Paris?

  232. At any rate, I’m a bit pissed off that both left-wing and right-wing Americans often tend to consider Europe uniformly as a left-wing heaven, with the only difference that the left says it approvingly and the right says it disapprovingly.

    On the average it was true, but the variation is high and things have changed a bit since the seventies (look up what happened in Sweden in the nineties, clue: Moderate Party, another clue: Economic Freedom Index, or look up Poland’s significant contribution to the Iraq War), and some of us are working to change this average even further. Vaclav Klaus has several books published by Cato Institute. Care to mention any American politician of comparable power – governor or mayor in charge of 10+ millions of people – and currently in office, with similar accomplishments?

    Things are a-changin’, and sweeping generalizations that we are all lefties don’t help us one bit.

    Please do try to understand it – from my point of view the statement “Europeans are lefties” sounds pretty much the same as the statement “blacks are immoral criminals” would sound to Condie. Yes, I’m pissed off every time I hear it, and with good reason.

  233. >At any rate, I’m a bit pissed off that both left-wing and right-wing Americans often tend to consider Europe uniformly as a left-wing heaven, with the only difference that the left says it approvingly and the right says it disapprovingly.

    Bear in mind how Americans form their impressions of anywhere, and therefore blame your media. It’s even closer to being a left-wing monoculture than ours is, which is saying a lot.

  234. Is the honorable ESR familiar with the jan 08 border crossing event?

    What about the universal support of the ‘Arab street’ for the Palestinian ‘resistance’, reinforced daily by a constant stream of the dead and wounded (~300 children killed) during the Israeli operation.

  235. So many people seem to believe that wiping out Hamas will be the end of Israels problems however as proved so many times through out history removing an ideology is much more difficult. It’s like saying wiping out a leader will stop all guerrilla fighters for a cause.

    My other concern is that the belief I see largely from American’s driven by their media is that the rockets are being fired because Hamas are jerks as opposed to them having a just cause but no substantial means of regaining the occupied lands.

    So my view point is that returning the lands to the state in which the British left it is unreasonable so the next best thing is to implement the UN resolution 242 thus addressing the Hammas’s main objection. If that fails then the destruction of Hamas is to be considered but it really will just lead to Israel’s destruction from Islam and possibly all out war with the middle east where no one can win.

  236. > It’s a hope, based on the fact that this new administration looks serious about setting itself apart from the previous one and they’re starting in on it right away, admittedly with a couple of unfortunate distractions.

    That’s nice, but the question is whether Palestinians are going to behave differently.

    > I’m conceding that I’ll probably be disappointed. Dunno what you mean by “hypothesis”, this isn’t chemistry. You think you know Palestinian culture well enough to predict the outcome, I reckon otherwise.

    I’m not claiming anything about “Palestinian culture”. I’m pointing out Palestinian behavior. As Smith admits, peace can’t happen unless that behavior changes so whether it is likely to do so is an extremely important question.

    Surely there’s some reason to believe that the odds are 40% success instead of 10%.

    Or, is Smith claiming that any odds of success are sufficient reason to proceed?

  237. Eric:
    >Bear in mind how Americans form their impressions of anywhere, and therefore blame your media. It’s even closer to being a left-wing monoculture than ours is, which is saying a lot.

    actually, the opposite is true, which make me wonder what the usa is seeing of the eu media.

    just in the uk, The Sun (toxic-level right wing) outsells The Guardian (toxic-level left wing) by about 10 to 1.
    in fact, at 2008.2 (quick google), the political loony left {Guardian + Independent} sold (355+252) ~510,000 copies per day, while the political loony right {Sun + Express + Telegraph + Mail + Mirror} sold (3077+737+867+2295+1501) ~8,475,000 copies per day.
    510,000 vs 8,475,000. that’s over 16 times greater weight in the print media for actively politically right over left.

    the broadcast media is rather narrower, of course. and here things are skewed by the bbc. the bbc is a weirdly bivalent animal. the under-culture is far far loony loony left. but its required theatre (and, interestingly, ALL of its successful journalists, reporters, etc) is of impartiality. unless you get very close to it, it’s more notable for impartiality than leftism. note it’s in all sorts of PC trouble right now for NOT broadcasting an appeal to aid the palestinians.

    other eu countries follow similar patterns. except for france. but even then, the public theatre is typically wildly contradicted by periodic public mass-movements.

    i really am intrigued by the comments here, which suggest that the usa media is only showing wild-left aspects of the eu media.

    Dave T:
    >So many people seem to believe that wiping out Hamas will be the end of Israels problems

    maybe in the usa. noone in europe thinks this. hamas’s predecessors did not behave any different.

    >So my view point is that returning the lands to the state in which the British left it is unreasonable

    hell, try running even THAT idea past a palestinian (even by descent). you will get an hour’s earful about the CONSPIRACY that resulted in that THEFT of rightful lands.

    >however as proved so many times through out history removing an ideology is much more difficult

    EXACTLY. and THIS is the ur-problem with the usa’s approach to al quaeda etc. they think they’re fighting people. they’re not. they’re fighting a meme. and the guns and tanks etc only bolster the meme’s grip on the population they think they’re helping.

    eric, just as you guided OSS into mainstream success by treating it as a memewar, we need you in the US DoD guiding them into treating the current approach as a memewar instead of a setpiece ground battle.

  238. >noone in europe thinks this.

    that’s wildly overstated. sorry, i was caught up in the previous comments’ wider-perspective reminders. clearly a VERY vocal minority believes this. however, they are a tiny minority.

    nevertheless, they exist.

  239. >EXACTLY. and THIS is the ur-problem with the usa’s approach to al quaeda etc. they think they’re fighting people. they’re not. they’re fighting a meme. and the guns and tanks etc only bolster the meme’s grip on the population they think they’re helping.

    I don’t believe this. I think we need to be doing both things — killing terrorists wherever we can identify them and waging memetic warfare.

    The notion that you can’t defeat insurgents and terrorists by killing them is weak-minded nonsense falsified by (for example) the successful British suppression of the Malaysian insurgency in the 1950s. Memetic warfare – which the U.S. has been doing poorly, alas – is a way of cutting the terrorists and insurgents off from popular support, not a replacement for killing them but a complementary and reinforcing part of the overall strategy.

    If I thought the entire problem could be solved with memetic warfare, of course I would advocate a completely nonviolent, exclusively memetic-focused approach. In the real world. against the enemies we actually face…no.

  240. The notion that you can’t defeat insurgents and terrorists by killing them is weak-minded nonsense falsified by (for example) the successful British suppression of the Malaysian insurgency in the 1950s.

    You do know the advantage the Brits had there, I presume? Most of the insurgency was Chinese, there was much less support among the Malays. I think the American government is already trying most of the available divide-and-conquer strategies.

  241. >I think we need to be doing both things — killing terrorists wherever we can identify them and waging memetic warfare.

    i agree. but the wars in iraq and afghanistan are not killing terrorists, on average. they’re merely accelerating the extant cultural osmosis of average citizens to fanatical fighters vs X, where X in this case is america.

    >The notion that you can’t defeat insurgents and terrorists by killing them is weak-minded nonsense

    utterly dependent on local culture. has worked fine in india, china, malaysia, kenya, etc. has NEVER worked in the middle-eastern cultures. afghanistan is the corner-point extreme — every single attempt to suppress insurgency, ever, has failed.

    >we need to be doing both things

    so in this regard, i’d be suggesting: continue the existing efforts (ideally, targetting them a bit better), but adding a serious memewar effort. if you can calm down middle-class saudis, for example, you evaporate 75% of the world’s terrorism.

  242. >but the wars in iraq and afghanistan are not killing terrorists, on average. they’re merely accelerating the extant cultural osmosis of average citizens to fanatical fighters vs X, where X in this case is america.

    This is clearly not true in Iraq. If it were, the surge would have failed and violence against U.S. troops would have risen in the aftermath. It hasn’t. Instead, attacks have dropped to levels not seen since 2003, Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been reduced to irrelevance, and informed opinion is that the insurgency is basically dead.

    This isn’t to say that Iraq is a peaceful place – but the violence there is now a sort of small-scale intercommunal bloodletting in which neither U.S. troops nor the U.S. itself are particularly targets. The Iraqi government, while as corrupt and dysfunctional as is normal for the region, seems in no danger of toppling – indeed, following Maliki’s successful op against the Sadrists early last year it’s looking more solid than the regimes in a couple of its neighbors.

    This whole “fighting the bad guys just makes them stronger” meme is nonsense being retailed mainly by people who want the good guys (Western civilization, the U.S., capitalism) to lose.

  243. >This whole “fighting the bad guys just makes them stronger” meme is nonsense being retailed mainly by people who want the good guys (Western civilization, the U.S., capitalism) to lose.

    agreed

    >If it were, the surge would have failed and violence against U.S. troops would have risen in the aftermath. It hasn’t.

    agreed. ish.
    the surge corrected the remaining effect of rumsfeld’s spectacularly braindead “shock and awe” under-numbered blitzkrieg rubbish. (yes, blitzkrieg works great for initial impact; no, it’s useless for holding the ground you’ve stormed. hitler demonstrated both aspects pretty conclusively a while back).
    and yes, the previous urban hotspots are currently quelled and normal life is re-flourishing with people once more able to go back to work. the change intraperimeter post-surge has been spectacular and profound.
    yet: we may be just both seeing different media’s slants on it, but over here (uk) there’s all sorts of reports of enormous resurgence of taliban-esque ratbags screwing over the locals outside the surge’s perimeters. driven by individuals voluntarily switching sides in outrage at what they hear about the surge.
    that latter is the sort of thing i mean re memewar being an essential part of “winning” what’s been started. 2nd-order effects are at least as important here as 1st-order.

    >the violence there is now a sort of small-scale intercommunal bloodletting in which neither U.S. troops nor the U.S. itself are particularly targets

    interestingly, the primary targets have ALWAYS been intracommunal bloodlettings. the u.s. troops have only ever been a secondary target. far far more attacks on locals than on u.s. troops. but the “invading” troops have been the catalyst triggering rapid growth of the parasitic crew.

  244. Memetic warfare: there is one trick to it and it’s so simple that it’s strange that it wasn’t tried. People love myths, you can’t fight myths with secular propaganda, the trick is to construct counter-myths. Find quotes in the Qu’ran that emphasize peace, cooperation and work ethic. There must be a handful – it’s a very ugly book, but sure one could find 10 quotes and that’s enough. Another 10 from the Hadiths if possible. Take some of excellent Muslim scholars of the past, Al-Khowarizmi, Ibn Khaldun, et al. and construsct something sort of a myth of national greatness, that people are proud of them are the youngs one want to imitate them. I hear that one of the major problems of Arab Street is a deep inferiority complex, try to mitigate it by wrapping into this memetic package subtle messages like see guys, most of our scientific and technological superiority is based on your math so go now and make some more math, something like that. It doesn’t have to be true to work, only plausible. Really, it doesn’t look very hard to do.

    Europe & media: I think the very first problem is mistaking part of Europe for the whole. This drives which media will be recognized – mostly Der Spiegel and Le Monde. But I think Saltation is right – there is an unhealthy kind of cooperation going on between the European and American left-wing media both ways. One way is that when f.e. Michael Lind came up with this idea that Neocons as a whole (and not just IK) are Trotskysts (I laughed my ass off when the leader of the still-existing Trotskyst movement emerged and told him to STFU N00B) and it was almost instantly all over Der Spiegel & Le Monde & co. Then whatever bullshit is published in Der Spiegel or Le Monde is quickly presented to the American public as “the opinion of Europe” or even “the opinion of the world” or “international opinion” or something like that.

    Understand this is an ages-old tactic. If you think your opinion isn’t convincing enough if you present it as your opinion, represent it as someone else’s opinion – traditional ways are to call it god’s will, will of the people or will of the nation. The modern, left-wing version of it is international opinion or opinion of the world. Or the UN, or the international community. So, it works like this: if 1000 journalists at 10-20 countries largely agree in a bunch of things, they can all present in their own countries it as the world’s opinion by simply quoting each other. An easy tactic and works, too, but it’s good to learn to see through it. (BTW another good moment of ROTFL was when I saw in 2004 left-wing American bloggers seriously concerned what will the world think about the reelection of Dubya. Apparently, those 48 countries in the Iraq Coalition aren’t the world. The world is Le Monde & Der Spiegel. LOL. :) )

  245. People can be forgiven for thinking that Europe is a left wing monoculture. I have this impression myself, as do many others.

    If you ever watch BBC, you can’t but help get this impression. And there are many socialist parties in Europe.

    Here in the USA gun control is a lefty wet dream but in England they have actually pulled it off. And been rewarded with the predictable crime wave and chaos. I routinely read stories from Britain where people defending themselves from criminals who are burglarizing their home wind up themselves being brought up on charges (!) and/or sued by the criminal. This sure sounds like liberalism run amok. And why sensible Americans don’t want it here.

    All the European nations seem to have government run health care systems, another left wing utopian dream.

    And the entire EU project sounds like a giant bureaucratic nightmare.
    All these things make it seem very left wing. I am sure there are many common people over there who have conservative impulses, but they seem to have very little input or voice.

  246. The notion that you can’t defeat insurgents and terrorists by killing them is weak-minded nonsense falsified by (for example) the successful British suppression of the Malaysian insurgency in the 1950s.

    The difference is that the British were willing to counter the insurgents with tactics that the American public would not be willing to stomach. This was also before an era not filled with thousands of willing suicide bombers. America just pisses people off with its half-assed war, which whether you like it or not, benefits their supporters.

    This is clearly not true in Iraq. If it were, the surge would have failed and violence against U.S. troops would have risen in the aftermath. It hasn’t. Instead, attacks have dropped to levels not seen since 2003, Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been reduced to irrelevance, and informed opinion is that the insurgency is basically dead.

    There is a difference between local insurgency and international terrorists. Al-Qaeda can most likely still find enough people to, say, blow themselves up in American malls. Al-Qaeda has won big in this conflict, having established itself as an international brand. In any case, deaths of American troops were always in the minority, and are not a good indicator of success.

  247. God Marshal you just never stop.

    >> There is a difference between local insurgency and international terrorists. Al-Qaeda can most likely still find enough people to, say, blow themselves up in American malls. Al-Qaeda has won big in this conflict, having established itself as an international brand. In any case, deaths of American troops were always in the minority, and are not a good indicator of success.

    Then why haven’t we seen this yet? We’ve been in Iraq since 2003, and it’s been 8 years now since Sept. 11, 2001. We have not seen one suicide bombing at a mall. What are they waiting for?

    Marshal if you think Al-Qaeda has won big in this conflict you are seriously deluded. The truth is that they are seriously weakened, and have had most of their leaders killed. They have not won anything and have damn near been wiped out by our brave fighting men. If anyone has established themselves as an international brand, it is the US Marines. You really need to rethink this left wing narrative, because reality is just not cooperating. You are seeming more and more like a single minded fanatic, determined to see the situation in the worst possible light no matter what the facts may be.

    But sadly I suspect they are now going to get a breather because of who is now in the White House. I hope I’m wrong.

  248. We have not seen one suicide bombing at a mall. What are they waiting for?

    They’re not likely to bother with anything like that in the US. They’ve got to top the twin towers, it’s basically Second Album Syndrome.

  249. Here in the USA gun control is a lefty wet dream but in England they have actually pulled it off. And been rewarded with the predictable crime wave and chaos.

    It’s not *that* bad, though it’s certainly climbing. More handguns coming in from Europe and gangs getting hold of them. Kids, a lot of the time. Fewer home invasion burglaries than the NRA would like you to believe, though they do happen.

  250. They have not won anything and have damn near been wiped out by our brave fighting men. If anyone has established themselves as an international brand, it is the US Marines. You really need to rethink this left wing narrative

    As opposed to your right-wing narrative?

  251. Oops. Accidently pressed ENTER.

    In any case, I fail to see how there is anything ‘left-wing’ about my narrative. My narrative is that war should be fought as hard as is necessary. The British Empire knew how to put down an insurgency, and they were living in times where large explosives were difficult to come by. Guns and bombs are in surplus in the modern world. Terrorism is not unstoppable, there is just no single ‘source’ to go after, and all deluded attempts to do so will meet with failure. If the US marines have made a name for themselves, then terrorists will just put their resources into killing soft targets.

    And again, insurgency and terrorism are separate things. Crushing the insurgency in Iraq may well lead to a resurgence of terrorism elsewhere. If you think country XYZ is financing terrorism, then drop bombs on them until they stop, but your high-horsed mission of mercy is at best a waste of resources.

  252. > I routinely read stories from Britain where people defending themselves from criminals who are burglarizing their home wind up themselves being brought up on charges (!) and/or sued by the criminal.

    It’s probably not necessarily true that one can’t have gun control bans without also banning self-defense. That said, it sure seems common to start restricting self-defense after banning guns.

  253. > More handguns coming in from Europe and gangs getting hold of them.

    In the US, we know that drug smuggling volume is orders of magnitude larger than what would be required to supply our criminals with a new gun for each crime. I’d be surprised if the folks smuggling drugs would be adverse to smuggling guns, although they would insist on comparable profit.

    The point is that arguing “but for smuggling” seems to pretty much concede the point wrt gun control at least as far as controlling crime is concerned. (Unless you think that you can get all gun manufacture anywhere in the world under control.)

    Even if you could stop smuggling, it’s unclear how to stop domestic illegal manufacture. (My favorite case was the United Airlines mechanics who had a machine gun factory at the San Francisco repair facility. They also used the planes for distribution.)

    How many Brits still know how to work metal? Can they buy tools without arousing suspicion?

  254. Darrencardinal,

    the point is that things are slowly changing. The newly reformed Dutch healthcare system is a good step towards common sense and presumably will serve as a model for others: http://healthcare-economist.com/2007/09/07/wsj-on-the-dutch-health-care-system/

    The often-mentioned “Swedish Model” was significantly reformed in the Nineties and the second wave of reforms are being implemented currently, again a big step towards common sense:
    http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/10296/a/99193

    (Except for the AGW stuff.)

    The EU-project is slowly running out of steam, first the spectacular failure of the EU Constitution and then the rejection of the milder Lisbon Treaty by Irish voters. The bureacracy is slowly getting slimmed down, the complaints of many voters about insane shit like standardizing the size of cucumbers seem to have had some effect.

    The idea of multiculturalism is changing, f.e. in Germany people are now openly talking about Muslims not integrating well into society, which subject was inconceivable 10 years ago, now the debate is about why, because they weren’t helped enough to do so (left) or because they didn’t want to (right). The Danish Cartoons “controversy” started a lot of people thinking.

    So there are signs of change everywhere, even though slowly. Some of them may not be very visible, partly because the media, the intellectuals and the teachers are the most resistant to these kinds of changes.

    (What won’t change is guns. I’m not really sure it’s a left-right issue. People just don’t really seem to want them badly, because they see that as the special tools for specialized professionals, they don’t really want to run around carrying guns any more than carrying surgical instruments or jackhammers. There is some sort of a de-masculinized cultural softness somewhere behind this feeling, that’s for sure. However, if it will ever change, it’d better change by first spreading a culture of martial arts as carrying a gun without practicing martial arts is just empty faux-masculine posturing, IMHO.)

  255. There is some sort of a de-masculinized cultural softness somewhere behind this feeling, that’s for sure.

    Oh pish, Euros are grown up about guns, seeing them as tools (as you say) rather than symbols of freeeeeedom. Governments have got a lot more subtle ways to control people these days.

  256. The point is that arguing “but for smuggling” seems to pretty much concede the point wrt gun control at least as far as controlling crime is concerned.

    And had I been arguing that rather than simply describing where the flow of guns was currently (AFAIK) coming from, you might have a point.

    Whether we could reduce the (according to the NRA) huge number of home invasion burglaries we appear to be attempting to sweep under the carpet by arming the citizenry and encouraging free-fire zones in every suburban cul-de-sac is kind of moot. As Shenpen says, not many people seem to want that. Perhaps they’ve been brainwashed, or there’s oestrogen in the water supply or something, I dunno.

    How many Brits still know how to work metal?

    How long does it take to learn? I mean, OK, longarms, you need some precision. But handguns?

    Can they buy tools without arousing suspicion?

    Lathes? I think so, they’re pretty generic. Standard drug precursors they’re a lot more attentive about, but I think they’re pissing in the wind on that one.

  257. “Oh pish, Euros are grown up about guns, seeing them as tools (as you say) rather than symbols of freeeeeedom. Governments have got a lot more subtle ways to control people these days.”

    This isn’t what I had in mind. From a cultural point of view, I’m with you about that government-resisting militia stuff, it’s a bit outdated in the mil-tech realities of 2009, a nice, respectable, honourable, but in practice not very useful tradition.

    What I had in mind, again, from a cultural point of view is rather another kind of masculinity, the “Trespassers will be shot” kind of stuff. I’d very much like the growth of that kind of masculinity that people want to defend their women and themselves in case of a burglary or mugging or rape.

  258. >Here in the USA gun control is a lefty wet dream but in England they have actually pulled it off. And been rewarded with the predictable crime wave and chaos.

    actually, the gun control was pulled off in the 19th century, and the “predictable” crime wave and chaos has been entirely in the last 10-20 years. and the crime wave is almost entirely knives and random barehanded street assaults by teens. and seems entirely a consequence of the surreal cottonwooling of kids since WWII and the parasitic lashback (churchill got ejected in favour of a chap promising free everything). uk kids today are not just divorced from the idea of personal responsibility, but believe its exact opposite is their fundamental human right.

    >I routinely read stories from Britain where people defending themselves from criminals who are burglarizing their home wind up themselves being brought up on charges (!) and/or sued by the criminal. This sure sounds like liberalism run amok.

    :) actually you’re thinking of a handful of (horrific) major cases. and interestingly, they arose wholly from crap lawyers. essentially, there’s an old law saying that you can’t lay lethal traps for trespassers, even if they’ve been given notice of trespass and have deliberately ignored it. came from the classic “trip-gun” case, where a chap sick to the backteeth of a ruinous invasion of poachers laid wires through his property attached to guns that would swivel and fire down the wire when it was stepped on (all purely mechanical — rather ingenious but apparently commonly available back then as they were used by the military)
    this case rather than “self-defence against (even belief of) imminent serious assault” (explicitly protected in english law) was applied in the courts . yes, it’s insane. but it wasn’t applied by liberals; quite the opposite. rabid conservatives. it was just a bogglingly hideous misapplication of law.

    never underestimate the stupidity of lawyers. it’s a social game played by parasites bumping along with the bandwagon, not by geniuses or people seeking justice. one classic judge (Denning, LJ, “as he then was” (legal in-joke)) who profoundly altered english law by introducing Justice as an explicit consideration (“The Law of Equity”) is routinely vilified by law schools and the graduates come away with that preconception.

  259. Guns are a tool of freedom. The founding fathers put the second amendment in there for very strong reasons. Tyrants never want the common people having access to guns. It is not about hunting and sport shooting.

    When Hitler took control in Germany in ’33, gun control was one of the first things they did. After all, couldn’t allow the Jews to have any chance to defend themselves now could they?

    Euros view guns as a tool. I have not heard this before. Yet I’m willing to bet that screwdrivers and jackhammers are not banned over there.

    The Euro elites seem even more insulated from the wants and desires of the common people than our own elites are here. They institute all this stuff, and the common people seem to have little choice but to grumble and go along. Although unrest occasionally breaks out in, say, strikes over fuel prices.

    As far as Iraq goes, there are more important things than spin and PR and “narratives.” The facts on the ground matter much more, and the terrorists have just about been wiped out. No sane person thinks this is a victory for them in any way, but a crushing defeat.

    It turns out if you shoot enough of these a-holes, it doesn’t make them stronger. It just makes them dead, and starts hurting and not helping their recruiting efforts.

  260. >> never underestimate the stupidity of lawyers. it’s a social game played by parasites bumping along with the bandwagon, not by geniuses or people seeking justice. one classic judge (Denning, LJ, “as he then was” (legal in-joke)) who profoundly altered english law by introducing Justice as an explicit consideration (”The Law of Equity”) is routinely vilified by law schools and the graduates come away with that preconception.

    Good post Saltation. But I’m not sure these lawyers were stupid, rather they were just trying to win the case for their client. Once a “Law of Equity” is introduced it will become part of the legal framework. These attorneys (barristers) may not have been liberal idealogues, but they could still use this law in their case, and would be stupid not to.

    Once you blow up the dam, you can’t tell the water which way to go.

  261. >There is a difference between local insurgency and international terrorists.

    this is a key point i completely failed to mention above.

    there have been a total of approximately fuck-all iraqi terrorists or afghani terrorists (local insurgents may use some vaguely similar tactics, but are fundamentally (heh) and profoundly unrelated). they have all been citizens of unaffected countries (both before and after america’s invasion of iraq). 9/11 was saudi, london was british, madrid was spanish. all the proto-terrorists subsequently nipped in the bud by uk and aussie security services have been local citizens. and, importantly, overwhelmingly 2nd-generation, with no direct connection to or experience of anything they’re “retaliating” against.

    all inspired by the meme of virtuous/righteous self-defence against evil oppression of their “brothers”.

  262. >How many Brits still know how to work metal? Can they buy tools without arousing suspicion?

    actually, more than any country i’ve been in.

    there’s a surreal subculture here of “bugger factories, i’ll do it myself [two fingers up at Authority]“. i can casually get hand-built/hand-carved machine parts here in almost any town, built to a quality that is like a piss-take on old aussies’ reminiscences of “the good old days” when you didn’t have to rely on a factory in shanghai. christ, there’s a culture here of re-making/improving cars and bikes that gives you the willies. until you see how well they perform.

    quick example: i’m now the proud owner of a 51yo car. the columnshift gears are as sloppy as hell due to a worn (and unique) part. i’ve had 2 mechanics within 200m of my house take a quick look and say with a slightly irritated dismissiveness: “oh don’t worry about THAT. we’ll just lathe a new one up ourselves.”

    it’s made of brass…

  263. >spectacular failure of the EU Constitution and then the rejection of the milder Lisbon Treaty by Irish voters.

    enragingly, no. the Lisbon Treaty is in all material respects identical to the original EU Constitution. and it was not a spectacular failure, it was a close-run thing. and it is being put back to the Irish because they “made the wrong decision”

    >The bureacracy is slowly getting slimmed down

    again, enragingly: no. quite the opposite.

    and the majority are pissed off. but due to subtleties in the original EU laws, the majority no longer has a say.

  264. >The idea of multiculturalism is changing, f.e. in Germany

    and France, Sweden, Holland, UK, Italy, Poland, Austria, etc.

  265. All the European nations seem to have government run health care systems, another left wing utopian dream.

    Not just all the European nations — every developed nation on the planet save one: the US. And their systems tend to work much better than ours. Granted the UK NHS appears to be made of fail, but it’s not hard to find quality healthcare in Germany and it costs you nothing out-of-pocket. It’s extremely difficult in the U.S.

    Government-run programs in Germany tend to foster competition among service providers just like capitalist systems here. That’s why German schools are so good, too: a German auto mechanic is likely to have had the U.S. equivalent of a baccalaureate university education, and know as much about physics and materials science as many U.S. engineers.

  266. I was not aware that gun control had started in Europe in the late 19th century.

    Whatever happened to the doctrine of “every house a keep?”

    I remember reading somewhere that is WWII they got scared in 1940 because the people were mostly unarmed, and embarked on a crash program to arm the people. I remember reading, “By July, England was an armed nation.”

    Lucky for them they had the time.

  267. >> All the European nations seem to have government run health care systems, another left wing utopian dream.

    Not just all the European nations — every developed nation on the planet save one: the US. And their systems tend to work much better than ours. Granted the UK NHS appears to be made of fail, but it’s not hard to find quality healthcare in Germany and it costs you nothing out-of-pocket. It’s extremely difficult in the U.S.

    Jeff Read, are you aware that all these government health care systems rely on us to develop new medical technologies and life saving drugs? They simply do not have the incentive structure in place to do it on their own. They wait for us to do it and then copy it. If we go down that road, there will be no one left to copy.

    I’m sure you have heard the horror stories of these systems: long waiting lists and indifferent care. I read a story about how the NHS in England was telling old people with serious health problems that it would not pay to treat them, but it would pay to have them euthanized. Does that really sound better than our system? You see what happens when you give bureaucrats a reason, or should I say an incentive, to start offing people. It will help them balance the books.

    People in Canada with health problems come here for treatment because they are unwilling to wait to have their cancer or whatever treated. If as you say it is “extremely difficult here in the US”, why do they come. People get treatment here for their illnesses, even if they can’t pay. I realize sometimes people wind up bankrupted because of medical bills. Life is hard and there are no easy answers.

  268. >Good post Saltation. But I’m not sure these lawyers were stupid, rather they were just trying to win the case for their client. Once a “Law of Equity” is introduced it will become part of the legal framework. These attorneys (barristers) may not have been liberal idealogues, but they could still use this law in their case, and would be stupid not to.

    a/ you’re confusing the govt prosecution with “the lawyers”, one part with the whole. under the uk (and usa) adversarial system there are 4 parties: 2 interested advocates, 1 disinterested arbiter with responsibility (and authority) ONLY for law, 1 disinterested arbiter with responsibility (and authority) ONLY for fact. a very neatly designed system with an eye firmly on the long term social consequences, at the explicit expense of short-term perfection (the reverse is true of the Inquisitorial approach (eg french) which consequently and for the same reasons has all the strengths and flaws of dictatorship/single-house politics).
    in these cases (all following the Tony Martin case’s recent precedent: bandwagonism/social-loafing) the Defence were stupid/negligent for not pointing out the correct law. and the Judges were stupid/negligent for not (a) pointing out the correct law (their responsibility to do so), and (b) even where the Defence failed to argue the correct law, not flagging up in their judgements that the case was argued on a law inapplicable to the facts and in fact subsumed by another very specific law not just of precedent but of statute.

    (the Jury made a decision of Fact based on the Law they were instructed to consider.)

    b/ v.unlikely the prosecution were “liberal idealogues”. rather: career bureaucrats seizing upon and pursuing a legal line that gave them a chance of a Win on their career record for future consideration in future Promotion Reviews. same as DAs in america. do what you need to do to win. the failure was not in the prosecution doing their damndest; the failure was in the defence being braindead/lazy and the court not explicitly flagging this up.

  269. >I was not aware that gun control had started in Europe in the late 19th century.

    well, now you are.
    from a culture where pedestrians habitually lent police guns to help them when they came up against (rare) armed criminals, within decades “I remember reading somewhere that is WWII they got scared in 1940 because the people were mostly unarmed” (and that’s just using your own words. in WWI a big problem in basic training was that most uk recruits/volunteers had never seen a gun, let alone held one).

    >Whatever happened to the doctrine of “every house a keep?”

    think that might be a mangling of “every man’s house is his castle”. and is to do with privacy and state interference, not guns.

    >Jeff Read, are you aware that all these government health care systems rely on us to develop new medical technologies and life saving drugs?

    sorry mate, that’s a weird la-la-land assertion utterly decoupled from facts.

    >I’m sure you have heard the horror stories of these systems

    most social-utility stye healthcare systems work fine. australia’s, for example, kicks arse. even those that sharply distinguish b/w public and private healthcase (EU) still work fine, if suboptimally. the uk’s has been swamped by social-status parasites IN the system. citing it as the Normal Case when it is pathological is inappropriate. i had never HEARD of such spectacular fuckings-over of poor people as is fundamental in the US system until i went there.

  270. I have been away for the past week or so, and must say that I was eager to return to this discussion. It is one of the more interesting, civilized and intelligent debates in which I’ve had the privilege to participate.

  271. I’m sure you have heard the horror stories of these systems: long waiting lists and indifferent care. I read a story about how the NHS in England was telling old people with serious health problems that it would not pay to treat them, but it would pay to have them euthanized. Does that really sound better than our system? You see what happens when you give bureaucrats a reason, or should I say an incentive, to start offing people. It will help them balance the books.

    Way to not read the post. I said NHS was made of fail and gave an example of the German system which works much better, providing speedy and good-quality care to rich and poor alike with no payments out of pocket. (In Germany, your paycheck is docked for half the insurance premium; your employer pays the other half.)

  272. Trying to catch up on the discussion, I came across Jon’s hypocritical diatribe, which is an infuriating piece of nonsense. It is not so much the fact that much of what he says is simply wrong or misconstrued, but the subtle way in which he espouses the conspiratorial “Elders of Zion” drivel while presuming to be even-handed with the Israelis and Palestinians. Even more frustrating is the way in which he shoves this innuendo in a painfully long article in which he refuses to follow up the debate. Personally, I feel that may be legitimate for an op-ed in a journal, but highly inappropriate in a public forum where an intelligent debate is being held.

    Even the valid criticism he raises (like the use of questionable weapons during the war) loses all its potency in the shadow of the mostly anti-Semitic, or at the very least conspiratorial, argument.

    Jon, if you’re still following along silently, I would urge you to make your voice heard again – in debate.

  273. i had never HEARD of such spectacular fuckings-over of poor people as is fundamental in the US system until i went there.

    Where have you been? Fucking over the poor is a time-honored American tradition along with mom, apple pie, and the Fourth of July.

  274. Yeah, that is a time honored American tradition: fucking over poor people. That was the whole point of the founding really.

    Fortunately we have wise people like Howard Zinn and Jeff Read to point this out to us.

    The only reason the whole world wants to come live here is because of false consciousness I guess.

  275. >I read a story about how the NHS in England was telling old people with serious health problems that it would not pay to treat them, but it would pay to have them euthanized

    i just re-read this.
    euthanasia of ANY form is illegal in the uk. there is no way in hell a govt body could pressure people into euthanisation. ALL participants are automatically accused of murder/manslaughter. regardless of level of involvement or motive. legal requirement. pour encouragement les autres. life imprisonment. there are a number of high profile cases right now where, eg, a husband accompanying a terminally ill wife to a swiss euthanasia clinic (because they’re illegal in the uk), has been automatically subject to a murder/manslaughter trial on his return to the uk.

    so this story is utterly fabrication, bordering on pure fantasy.

    you might like to bear that in mind, next time you read “a fact” in that story’s source.

  276. Utter fabrication bordering on pure fantasy huh??

    Euthanasia in the NHS.

    The practice of euthanasia is alive and well in our beloved NHS (the envy of the world):

    Eleven elderly patients on the same hospital ward were deliberately starved to death, an inquest was told yesterday.

    That’s the allegation of course. The judge remarks:

    He said that if “food and fluid was withdrawn at a time when they were perfectly capable of accepting it all because it was arbitrarily decided that it was time for them to die”, it would amount to a policy that had been “totally unacceptable since the dark ages”.

    Well, yes, it would be the deliberate killing of senile old men and we don’t do that. Well, maybe:

    However, he said: “If it should transpire that food and fluids were withdrawn in good faith and in the not unreasonable belief that it was in their best interests as the lesser of two evils, committing them to die in as much comfort and dignity as possible. . . it would be grossly unfair to record a verdict other than that of death by natural causes.”

    So condemning the elderly mentally ill to death by starvation and dehydration is natural causes now?

    Dr Claire Royston, a consultant psychiatrist, said that doctors often allow terminally ill patients to starve to death by deliberately stopping their food.

    Not only is it natural causes, it’s common practice.
    A small piece of advice for anyone reaching the end of their golden years. Stay at home, or if that is not possible, go into a hospice. It appears that the NHS (the envy of the world) would rather starve you to death.

  277. What I had in mind, again, from a cultural point of view is rather another kind of masculinity, the “Trespassers will be shot” kind of stuff. I’d very much like the growth of that kind of masculinity that people want to defend their women and themselves in case of a burglary or mugging or rape.

    Firearms are a pre-occupation of certain cultures rather than some universal aspect of masculinity. Australia has no culture of private firearms ownership; do you think Australian men wouldn’t lay down their lives for the safety of their women? Most people here will simply not see an actual loaded gun in their lifetime (let alone in a violent encounter), and so an investment in firearms proficiency for the purposes of self-defense is viewed as paranoia.

  278. He said that if “food and fluid was withdrawn at a time when they were perfectly capable of accepting it all because it was arbitrarily decided that it was time for them to die”, it would amount to a policy that had been “totally unacceptable since the dark ages”.

    When I get that old, I hope someone has the sense to take me out the back and shoot me.

  279. “Guns are a tool of freedom. The founding fathers put the second amendment in there for very strong reasons. Tyrants never want the common people having access to guns.”

    I just can’t understand it. The first thing a hypothetical tyrant would do is to ban guns and then conduct random searches and shoot everybody in the house if they find any. Which means what you can do about a hypothetical tyranny is an armed insurgency, an all-out, us-or-them, total challenge of it, not just carrying a gun around. Now, if the RPG’s and Kalashnikovs didn’t help the Iraqi/Afghan insurgents much, then how could handguns and sporting rifles help?

    I can understand that it’s a honourable, respectable tradition, that they are symbolic reminders of freedom and gun freedom can even be seen as the canary in the mine, in this regard I have nothing against it, traditions and symbols are important because human beings – thank goodness – are not fully rational, and I’m also for because of the practical self-defense / home defense stuff, guns being the “great equalizers”, it’s all OK, but I just can’t see how would they help in _practice_ in case of a hypothetical tyranny.

  280. Jeff,

    German healthcare system: read this:

    http://tiss.zdv.uni-tuebingen.de/webroot/sp/spsba01_W98_1/germany5.htm

    “Two of the fundamental problems are: an increasing life expectancy causing the need for more money by more elder people. The second problem, if medical treatment improves it then becomes more expensive (see BmG 1997: 3).

    However, there are also some more ego-related problems led to increasing costs (Germany’s social system is like a jointly financed and privately exploited supermarket, says Kühn [cited from Bontrup 1996: 834]). ”

    (More in-depth analysis at the link.)

    I find the second paragraph very intstructive on a more general level as well. I’m keenly aware that the main problem of modern society is egoism and I know that’s basically the root of everything you criticize. I think people have forgotten what was very well known 2-300 years ago, that the real way is not the satisfaction of the ego, neither the oppression of the ego by the state, but the voluntary taming of the ego.

    Calls for solidarity i.e. less egoism are completely reasonable and good, however, the main point is that since the root of egoism isn’t created by the objective circumstances but is a built-in feature of human nature, an externally imposed system of solidarity, meaning big gov’t, taxes, bureaucracies etc. does not tame our egos, in fact, it makes egos bigger.

    This is really the one thing you should understand. I can very well understand your aversion from the thinly disguised celebration of egoism under most rhetorics about the free market. But while free markets approve of egoism, in the ideal case they at least tame egos a bit by forcing people to give every time they want to take. Big-gov’t policies, while their anti-egoistic rhetorics sound nice, in practice make egos bigger because they always end up creating some kind “private benefits, socialized costs” system. Because the costs are easy to socialize as everybody wants to get rid of them, profits or benefits are very hard to because there is always, always, ALWAYS just one more creative way to game the system.

    The term used in this analysis, “jointly financed and privately exploited supermarket” is a perfect example of the “private benefits, public costs” principle which big-gov’t always degenerates into, and it’s WORSE from an egoism point of view than “private benefits, private costs”. It’s not more solidarity, it’s a more feckless, more irresponsible kind of egoism.

    However. There may be a way out. Free-market-egoism and big-gov’t-egoism are not the only two possible choices. They both are largely the ideology of the Modern age, of Enlightenment Rationalism.

    Both Pre-Modern and Post-Modern are tending towards a third idea, a community-based, “grassroots” idea. A big gov’t can never tame the ego, because you have no emotional reasons to make voluntary sacrifices for some huge, cold, and impersonal bureaucratic institution. So you, quite normally, want to take advantage of it. But a local community that you can love, because it’s small and humane enough to be lovely, now that’s a better idea. That’s harder to define and even harder to prescribe, let alone implement. But largely I’m talking about the “little platoons” concept of Burke. (David Cameron, interestingly, seems to be getting it, surprisingly well for a politician:

    http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2008/12/David_Cameron_Britains_Economic_Future.aspx )

  281. What I had in mind, again, from a cultural point of view is rather another kind of masculinity, the “Trespassers will be shot” kind of stuff. I’d very much like the growth of that kind of masculinity that people want to defend their women and themselves in case of a burglary or mugging or rape.

    Yeah, but we don’t have capital punishment for burglary (or anything else) so why encourage citizens to mete it out? Particularly as a lot of burglars are kids, like that 16-year-old Tony Martin shot. In the back. Get a baseball bat, it’s much more in proportion to the crime. And AFAIK women are not often raped in front of their lamentably unarmed menfolk, apart from in Bosnia and such.

  282. I just can’t understand it. The first thing a hypothetical tyrant would do is to ban guns and then conduct random searches and shoot everybody in the house if they find any. Which means what you can do about a hypothetical tyranny is an armed insurgency, an all-out, us-or-them, total challenge of it, not just carrying a gun around.

    The theory is that if enough of the populace were armed, an armed insurgency against tyranny would at least be within the realm of feasibility, whereas if most people are unarmed, by the time the hammer falls it’ll be too late to rebel without massive outside aid. Furthermore, the threat of an armed rebellion would deter any would-be tyrannical governments as achieving that first step would be profoundly more difficult.

    But that’s just theory. In practice, tyrants have become much more sophisticated about keeping the masses under control, so simply arming the citizenry does not suffice and may create more problems than it solves. (In urban areas, a firearm discharging poses considerable risk to innocents in neighboring buildings.)

  283. > actually, the gun control was pulled off in the 19th century

    It depends on where we’re talking about. France, yes, but apart from religious discrimination, gun control started in the UK in 1903 and didn’t get serious until after WWI (because of worries about Communists).

  284. > Yeah, but we don’t have capital punishment for burglary (or anything else) so why encourage citizens to mete it out?

    Self-defense isn’t punishment, it’s stopping an attack. It’s increasing the attacker’s risks.

    > Get a baseball bat, it’s much more in proportion to the crime.

    Except that the attackers are typically younger, faster, stronger, so physical confrontations work to their advantage.

    Crime isn’t some sort of “fair go” game.

    > And AFAIK women are not often raped in front of their lamentably unarmed menfolk,

    So what? American women can use firearms, even if UK women have some relevant physical or mental impediment.

  285. Self-defense isn’t punishment, it’s stopping an attack. It’s increasing the attacker’s risks.

    You can dress it up as an economic process between rational actors as much as you want, I reckon it’s punishment. The idea wouldn’t give you guys such persistent hardons otherwise.

    “Sheepdogs”. Feh.

    Except that the attackers are typically younger, faster, stronger, so physical confrontations work to their advantage.

    Perhaps in your case, I’m reasonably confident of my ability to intimidate someone with the climbing axe I have to hand, though this being Japan, it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about.

    So what? American women can use firearms, even if UK women have some relevant physical or mental impediment.

    Er…you seem to be taking the conversation in a new direction here. Have fun.

  286. >I just can’t understand it. The first thing a hypothetical tyrant would do is to ban guns and then conduct random searches and shoot everybody in the house if they find any.

    Which is why part of a healthy gun culture is this norm: if they come to confiscate your weapons, that means it’s time to shoot the fuckers! If enough people internalize this — which is the way the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended citizens to behave — confiscation becomes impractical because the tyrant runs out of goons before the citizens run out of guns.

    Large-scale civilian possession of weapons is a necessary condition for the prevention of tyranny, but not in itself a sufficient one. The citizens have to know what the weapons are for, and they have to understand that by the time a would-be Fearless Leader has gotten to the gun-confiscation stage it is already not merely their right but their actual duty to rise in armed revolution.

    This is, in fact, how the American revolution happened. The British got antsy enough about colonial insurrection following protests against he Stamp Act, etc. to send redcoats around to confiscate civilian weapons. The colonists knew what this meant for the future — a bootheel in the face, forever — and revolted.

  287. Marshal:
    >Australia has no culture of private firearms ownership; do you think Australian men wouldn’t lay down their lives for the safety of their women?

    hell, we laid them down for the safety of ideals, never mind in-your-face realities.
    my paternal grandfather fought in WWII, my maternal grandfather fought in WWI: in the Somme (“Wipers”): got gassed 3 times, 3rd time the trench fell on him. given 6mths to live, died on the farm several decades later of overeating, hitting the ground in front of one of his 13 children. neither would ever talk about the war(s).
    interestingly, the cultures with least peacetime prevalence of guns in WWII were notable for being sharply more effective in combat than those with high prevalence. austria an interesting exception.

  288. Adrian Smith:
    >apart from religious discrimination, gun control started in the UK in 1903 and didn’t get serious until after WWI (because of worries about Communists).

    interesting (self-defeating) viewpoint

    hint: culture-wide movements tend to be only latterly reflected legally. as you yourself note.

    >>Self-defense isn’t punishment, it’s stopping an attack. It’s increasing the attacker’s risks.
    >You can dress it up as an economic process between rational actors as much as you want, I reckon it’s punishment. The idea wouldn’t give you guys such persistent hardons otherwise.

    la-la-land. if someone attacks me, my first instinct is not “Punish YOU!”, it’s “WTF!? protect ME!”

    never underestimate the primacy of fear.

    >>Except that the attackers are typically younger, faster, stronger, so physical confrontations work to their advantage.
    >Perhaps in your case, I’m reasonably confident of my ability to intimidate someone with the climbing axe I have to hand, though this being Japan, it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about.

    la-la-land again. “i’m bigger and carrying a lethal weapon in a culture primarily noted for timidity norms so therefore people who are smaller and not superiorly armed in cultures primarily noted for aggression norms are dickwits for not feeling safe”. nice one, mate. good grasp on the situation.

    tony martin for example was in an remote area plagued by a wave of burglars, each home quite isolated, with savage attacks by burglars (often lethally armed: sharpened screwdrivers frequently used) quite common and typically resulting in lengthy hospitalisation. he himself had been burgled several times before. this time he came down armed into a pitch-black farmhouse kitchen in countryside midnight darkness, told the two black shapes in the dark to get on the floor, the guys froze then jumped suddenly, tony fired. shotgun, so not real precise. the wounds matched this imprecision (one guy only wounded in legs, supporting tony’s assertion he shot low)

    only an insane person would think his overriding thought then was “PUNISH!” rather than “SHIT!”

    the pair had brought a screwdriver, incidentally. he didn’t know that at the time but amusing that his genuinely valid concern was wholly borne out.

    fear:
    friend of mine (exTKD) is a country vet in the uk now. last time i was there, his only neighbour (100m away) had recently been burgled. the couple were attacked in their bed, dragged downstairs and duct-taped to chairs, then beaten unconscious. they were found by the milkman 2 days later, concerned they hadn’t collected yesterday’s milk.

    my mate and his wife were understandably worried for themselves. the house was just across the road, after all; visible from their front windows. he’s personally lethal bare-handed but there’s not much you can do if you’re asleep or if they threaten your wife first. and we’re both heavilly multi-attacker trained so know damn well what the actual odds are even if prepared and in a fair fight.

    friend of mine (exKarate) was attacked in the street outside his home in london by a bangla gang of young teens. surrounded. they stabbed him as soon as he resisted.

    i’ve been attacked by two guys who jumped on me when i was in superchillout mode. total surprise. one weighting me down by hanging off my backpack from behind, the other holdin me via the strap in front and poking me with a 10″ blade. when i resisted, i was stabbed in the chest. a rib took it, or it would’ve hit either heart or aorta (scar over rib just left of top of sternum) and i wouldn’t be writing this today. doctor pointed out later i’d been stabbed from behind as they ran up, but the backpack blocked it — all you could see on my back was the bright-red mark of the knifetip’s breadth.

    think you need to grow up a bit mate. have a crack at the real world.

  289. eric:
    >Which is why part of a healthy gun culture is this

    *musing* looking at various cultures, i’m inclined to think a healthy gun culture is either 0 or 1: either nobody has them or everybody has them.

    just a thought. just occurred to me.

  290. interesting (self-defeating) viewpoint

    hint: culture-wide movements tend to be only latterly reflected legally. as you yourself note.

    Wasn’t me said that.

    >Perhaps in your case, I’m reasonably confident of my ability to intimidate someone with the
    >climbing axe I have to hand, though this being Japan, it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying
    >about.

    la-la-land again. “i’m bigger and carrying a lethal weapon in a culture primarily noted for timidity norms so therefore people who are smaller and not superiorly armed in cultures primarily noted for aggression norms are dickwits for not feeling safe”. nice one, mate. good grasp on the situation.

    Do burglars carry baseball bats (or guns) in the UK now, then? I know they have screwdrivers. If a burglar’s got a gun and is determined to hold you up in your bed I’d advise backup systems – dogs or alarms, probably. Emigration would also be considered, but maybe that’s just me.

    la-la-land. if someone attacks me, my first instinct is not “Punish YOU!”, it’s “WTF!? protect ME!”

    Nobody’s attacked me, or any of my UK friends. Might change my opinion if it happened. And I don’t think anyone’s attacked the Americans here who are so enthusiastic about shooting burglars either, course they’ll say it’s only because they’re all armed to the back teeth.

    only an insane person would think his overriding thought then was “PUNISH!” rather than “SHIT!”

    I wasn’t talking about Tony Martin’s thinking, but that of his enthusiasts.

    think you need to grow up a bit mate. have a crack at the real world.

    Get stabbed a couple of times? Lovely. You’ve reminded me of one of several reasons I never want to live in Britain again, at any rate. Things’ll have to get worse before they get better there IMO.

  291. >*musing* looking at various cultures, i’m inclined to think a healthy gun culture is either 0 or 1: either nobody has them or everybody has them.

    “Nobody has them” isn’t a healthy culture of any sort – it’s a genocide-in-waiting.

  292. >the cultures with least peacetime prevalence of guns in WWII were notable for being sharply more effective in combat than those with high prevalence. austria an interesting exception.

    Where did you get this idea? U.S. troops in WWII were highly combat-effective, in part because in those days it was pretty normal for conscripts to already have basic rifle skills. Even today, with the civilian gun culture in far less healthy shape, U.S., line troops train to a standard for precision fire that only elite units from most other countries reliably match.

  293. >>*musing* looking at various cultures, i’m inclined to think a healthy gun culture is either 0 or 1: either nobody has them or everybody has them.
    >“Nobody has them” isn’t a healthy culture of any sort – it’s a genocide-in-waiting.

    loosely put. i meant in the sense of guns not normally being present in ordinary citizens’ houses. vs excluded from the nation. ie, guns available en masse in the event of external attack.

    eg/ie: 0 = australia , 1 = switzerland

  294. >U.S. troops in WWII were highly combat-effective,

    umm. actually, no. typically they overran the germans/italians by weight of numbers. the best documented instance was normandy: they budgetted to lose 4 tanks per german tank, they actually lost 6, but that was ok because actually they had 8. to put it another way, the germans fought odds of 8:1 against, and nearly won. infantry-wise, the americans might as well not have been involved at the beachhead. complete failure vs light resistance until the brits and anzacs beat heavy resistance on the hardpoints (prior strategy — they were intended only to hold/distract and the americans make the breakthrough — american fieldmarshal) then spread out and took the pressure off. even the canadians were remarkably ineffective. “inexplicable lassitude” was a great quote of one observer of the canadian assaults.

    i realise this is a hot topic with americans. my apologies. i probably shouldn’t have brought it up. but america’s primary contribution to WWII was economic.

    there were instances of truly spectacular success by individual americans, all “rednecks” or mid-westerners, in WWI. like the chap who personally captured 80odd (iirc) germans in a single effort.

  295. i realise this is a hot topic with americans. my apologies. i probably shouldn’t have brought it up. but america’s primary contribution to WWII was economic.

    You are so going to get dogpiled here.

  296. undoubtedly. i’ve had americans go red in the face and shouting and dragged away by friends for even mentioning the lunaticly unarguable fact that the sherman was a deathtrap. (the germans called it “the tommy-cooker”)

  297. nevertheless, post-blitzkrieg state-level war is primarily economic and america was the insulated production engine that was a key element of germany’s defeat. similarly, russia was the population engine that was the other key element of germany’s defeat.

    the russians have a saying: “the americans supplied the money, the british supplied the spirit, and the russians supplied the blood.” if you step back and ignore the what-might-have-beens, it’s actually disturbingly accurate.

  298. the russians have a saying: “the americans supplied the money, the british supplied the spirit, and the russians supplied the blood.” if you step back and ignore the what-might-have-beens, it’s actually disturbingly accurate.

    The British supplied the embarkation point IMO, though I suppose some spirit was required to keep hold of it. ISTR the War Nerd reckoned the Germans were first, followed by the Russians, with the Americans a fairly distant third. Going to be up to our elbows in anecdotes indicating otherwise before long, though.

  299. ISTR the War Nerd reckoned the Germans were first, followed by the Russians, with the Americans a fairly distant third.

    In combat effectiveness, that is.

  300. Yeah, I know, they probably wouldn’t think it was that important, and in terms of numbers of divisions involved they’d have a point.

  301. i could read that harshly and think: that’s one of the more surreal re-castings of WWII i’ve ever seen.

    or i could read it flippantly/kindly and think: not sure you’ve fully grasped what happened, but i guess you could put it that way.

  302. Eh? Like in the saying, the Russians supplied the blood. I meant that if Britain had been conquered and Normandy hadn’t been an option, the Russians (with American economic support) *could* have “liberated” all of Europe eventually. Not that that’s what would have inevitably happened.

    What have I not grasped?

  303. It is true that the Russians did most of the hard fighting against the Germans. We Americans lost about 400,000 men in the war. That sounds like a lot until you realize that the Russkies lost something like 20 million. And had many of their cities and towns reduced to rubble.

    Also the Sherman tank was not very good; the German Panzers were much more heavily armed and armored. I read somewhere that it would take 5 Shermans to take out a Panzer. One on one they would have had little chance.

    Has anyone ever thought about Hitler could have won the war? From playing Axis and Allies I would say the answer is obvious: do not invade Russia in 1941, or perhaps ever. This would have done several things:

    1. The bulk of the German army would not have been tied up and ultimately worn down on the eastern front. This would have freed up millions of soldiers and saved a hell of a lot of gas, ammo, and supplies.

    2. Remember that prior to the invasion, the Soviet Union was more than happy to sell the Germans raw materials at inflated war time prices. These include various kinds of important metals, and most important of all, oil.

    If they had done this, it would have been much harder to invade France in 1944, the Allies might not have been able to do a cross channel invasion at all. In addition, the Germans might have been able to take North Africa and kick the British out of the Mediterranean. From here they could have a gateway to the middle east (and all it’s oil resources) and India.

  304. >umm. actually, no. typically they overran the germans/italians by weight of numbers

    I don’t know who your sources are, but that story doesn’t match either the history I’ve read nor the many WWII simulation games I played back in the days when hex-wargame designers took historicity rather seriously. It’s true the Sherman was a deathtrap, and early in the war U.S. troops were badly led (Battle of the Khasserine Pass is the paradigm example of the sort of fuckup that led to). It’s also true that the Germans excelled at small-unit tactics and had a depth of talent at the NCO level that none of the other combatants could match. And that individual Russian troopers were extraordinary tough and better at handling field hardship than the Americans or anyone else, and that the British generally took the palm for courage under fire.

    But weight of numbers as the main U.S. advantage? No…U.S. conscript troops frequently outfought hardened professionals (notably the Japanese military, the most recently experienced in war of any of the combatants in 1939) by exploiting several other advantages:

    1) Superior mobility. U.S. units were and remained throughout the war more mechanized than any of the other combatant armies. Mech mobility was common even in formations that were nominally leg infantry, and was well integrated into U.S. combat doctrine from early on. Compare the Germans, who could field a few mobile elite units (mostly armor) but were heavily dependent on horse transport throughout the war.

    2) Superior marksmanship. The Russians, with the exception of specially-trained snipers, barely had the notion of aimed fire. Germans and Brits did better on this score…but this was still a significant U.S. advantage, especially in village and urban fighting; Americans were considerably more effective at taking out opponents in partial cover. (This became very clear in the Normandy hedgerows.)

    3) Tactical flexibility, initiative, and inventiveness. Russian troops basically only understood two orders: “hold ground”. and “march forward firing”; part of the reason their casualties were so horrendous was that they fought stupid. Individual British troops exhibited more flexibility, but their officer corps was largely composed of men who were , by American standards, hidebound by-the-book disciplinarians. While this had one useful result — British troops were the least likely to break under fire of any side in the war — their ability to improvise and adapt under pressure was limited. Germans did better on this score, but the Americans were the masters of the improvisation, the clever hack, and the nasty surprise. Correspondingly, U.S. troops were notably good at coping with novelty, and better able to handle the unexpected on every level from equipment changes to novel battlefield conditions.

    The U.S.’s economic advantage was real, but not a sufficient explanation of observed performance (especially in the Pacific). Just as important, if not more so, was the Americans’ ability to learn on the job and make optimal use, doctrinally, of both industrial capacity and the ability to get inside the OODA loop of opponents with less mental flexibility (see, for example, the way Nimitz out-thought and out-fought Yamamoto at the Battle of Midway). Among their allies and opponents, only the cream of the German officer corps was as good in this way (Erwin Rommel may be the best-known example; I would add Guderian and Hoth and maybe von Runstedt).

    It is, by the way, notable that the traits I’ve indicated as advantages in U.S. troops have generally become even more marked relative to their allies and most of their likely opponents in the 60 years since that war. U.S. troops now fight with a doctrine that emphasisizes mobility, rapid reaction, fighting at night, and tactical improvisation (on-the-spot decision-making by junior officers) to a degree so great that even our most advanced allies cannot keep up. Even the British and Germans can’t do it — and while logistical capability is an issue, the culture and training gap is the real showstopper. Of all the world’s militaries, only the Israelis might actually be able to hack it, on a good day with a following tailwind.

    This matters a lot. I tell you quite soberly that, at present, there is no military in the world whose planners will go on record with a belief that its line troops can reliably win a stand-up fight with American formations of equivalent size and equipage. The U.S. casualty levels in Iraq and Afghanistan – preposterously low by historical standards both in absolute terms and when scaled to combat-hours and force ratios – are perhaps an even better proof of this pudding. But the U.S. military style that produced those results was already well developed by the end of WWII. It was not “win with overwhelming numbers”.

    None of this should be surprising. Militaries are mirrors of their societies; it would only be surprising if the U.S. military tradition didn’t reflect the individualist, entrepreneurial, anti-authoritarian folk psychology of its parent culture.

  305. Germans did better on this score, but the Americans were the masters of the improvisation, the clever hack, and the nasty surprise.

    ISTR reading in one of Harlan Ellison’s books about how some relative of his, who had fought in France (?) in the winter, had described to him finding a German patrol sleeping huddled together in pairs with their sleeping bags joined together to stay warm, and going among them slitting the throat of one of each pair.

    Always thought that was kind of nasty.

  306. ESR,

    “Which is why part of a healthy gun culture is this norm: if they come to confiscate your weapons, that means it’s time to shoot the fuckers!”

    I understand that perfectly well, that’s what I was saying. But that’s not a healthy gun culture. That’s a healthy machine gun, bazooka, and SAM culture, if you want any more chance than a snowball in hell. Handguns and rifles in the mil-tech realities of 2009? You might just as well talk about a healthy crossbow culture.

  307. “Emigration would also be considered, but maybe that’s just me.”

    Same feelings. The UK is very interesting, but 3 years are enough, I’m off to Austria in a few months.

    Which, incidentally, seems to be one of the healthiest places in Europe from a guns point of view too:
    http://homepage.usask.ca/~sta575/cdn-firearms/Laws/austria

    “The interesting point is that it is a right and not something the police
    may deny if they just don’t like ordinary citizens to possess guns. I
    think this is somewhat similar to the RKBA granted by the 2nd Amendment,
    except it just a law here and not a part of the Austrian constitution.”

    Score +1 points for the “Europe is diverse, it’s not just France writ large.” stuff I keep repeating.

  308. >Handguns and rifles in the mil-tech realities of 2009? You might just as well talk about a healthy crossbow culture

    A lot of civilians believe this. Military officers know better. Armed civilians on their home ground are not easy to take, especially in urban settings. They’re no good for seizing territory or the other things you do in strategic-level warfare, but they can chew up an invader or occupier pretty effectively. They’re an especially demoralizing and difficult foe if your soldiers are (genetically or culturally) related to them. This was demonstrated repeatedly during the breakup of the Soviet bloc, notably when communist coups in Russia and Latvia were thwarted by armed civilians.

    Yes, rifles and handguns won against tanks. And it’s true that’s because because the real war was taking place in the minds of the soldiers driving the tanks, but that’s always true in civil revolts – it doesn’t mean the rifles and handguns weren’t essential to framing the situation.

    The Iraqi insurgents did a shit-poor job of fighting the U.S. because their home-ground advantage was almost negated by weak or nonexistent popular support, crappy leadership and tactics, factionalism, and an apparent inability to formulate achievable political objectives. (Effective warfare against Western troops is generally quite difficult for tribal, low-trust cultures.) Their performance is not a good basis for generalization.

  309. Has anyone ever thought about Hitler could have won the war? From playing Axis and Allies I would say the answer is obvious: do not invade Russia in 1941, or perhaps ever

    It would have had to be neutralised as a potential threat at some point. Persuading Stalin to take all of Poland might have been interesting, though I don’t know if the Allies would have been ready to attack Russia then, and they would have had serious access problems. And taking the Middle East, possibly through Turkey, not the easiest terrain but they probably could have managed it…*could* have worked if they’d been able to hold it with horrible supply lines. But I reckon the American oil near-monopoly was a bigger contributing factor to Allied victory than Eric’s list of apple-pie virtues.

    If Hitler had left military decisions to his generals (like not retreating from Stalingrad) he could have lasted longer. But his predictions about the rapid progress of the Polish and French campaigns had apparently been closer to the mark than theirs, and AFAIK he just got into thinking that they were a bunch of neurotic old erm…persons.

  310. A lot of civilians believe this. Military officers know better. Armed civilians on their home ground are not easy to take, especially in urban settings.

    They probably are if they’ve got their families with them and you turn off the utilities for a couple of months before you go in, especially in winter. In Montana or Idaho, I grant you, some of them are off the grid and bristling with large-calibre goodness, but you could probably just leave them to stew up there indefinitely, it’s not exactly a strategically crucial area.

    You’re not being nasty enough.

  311. >>Except that the attackers are typically younger, faster, stronger, so physical confrontations work to their advantage.

    > Perhaps in your case, I’m reasonably confident of my ability to intimidate someone with the climbing axe I have to hand, though this being Japan, it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about.

    I’ve nothing against confidence. My point is that strength and speed can matter. For some reason, attackers often pick their victims with that in mind.

    Yes, there are 40-50 year-old men who are better than at “strength/speed” weapons than typical 20-30 year-old thugs with similar equipment, but they’re the exception. And women are worse off (on average).

    > So what? American women can use firearms, even if UK women have some relevant physical or mental impediment.

    > Er…you seem to be taking the conversation in a new direction here. Have fun.

    Huh? You’re the one who brought up women being attacked without men around

    >>> And AFAIK women are not often raped in front of their lamentably unarmed menfolk

  312. >> Has anyone ever thought about Hitler could have won the war? From playing Axis and Allies I would say the answer is obvious: do not invade Russia in 1941, or perhaps ever

    It would have had to be neutralised as a potential threat at some point. Persuading Stalin to take all of Poland might have been interesting, though I don’t know if the Allies would have been ready to attack Russia then, and they would have had serious access problems.

    Well Adrian I’m not so sure. Remember that Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia had signed a nonaggression pact with each other, and Hitler may have been one of the few people in the world that Stalin trusted. Stalin’s spied around the world tried to warn him that a German invasion was imminent, but he just didn’t want to hear it. The Russians were caught totally unprepared. Hitler also was stupid in this regard: He should have recognized that Stalin’s Russia was pretty similar to his own country in that they were both totalitarian. Stalin’s Russia was more similar to Germany at this time than Churchill’s England. Stalin himself, late in the war, was once heard to remark, “Together with Germany we would have been invinceable!”

    Can you imagine how things might have gone down differently if Russia had entered the war on the AXIS side?

  313. Can you imagine how things might have gone down differently if Russia had entered the war on the AXIS side?

    I hadn’t really thought about that, but it’s a bit hard to imagine on account of the racial theories the Germans were carrying. They thought of the Slavs as lower forms of life – Hitler had hopes of an alliance with England at one point, I believe – fellow Germans in a sense. And they wanted that lebensraum, which was only really going to come out of Slav lands. They’d have been almost driven to stab them in the back eventually. The fact that they were both totalitarian doesn’t mean there was necessarily a basis for trust there.

    But yeah, if they’d managed some sustained cooperation everybody else would have had problems. It’s like China and Japan – if they could trust each other they could probably accomplish quite a lot, but the hurdles to them doing that are pretty high.

  314. “They thought of the Slavs as lower forms of life” – it’s true, but the Ukranian Waffen-SS didn’t seem to mind that much. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_Waffen_Grenadier_Division_of_the_SS_Galicia_(1st_Ukrainian) Even more interestingly, if one takes Nazi racial ideology literally, Norwegians should have been seen as higher forms of life than Germans, still it didn’t stop them from attacking Norway. So I figure that at the end of the day, military interests have usually overridden ideology.

  315. The story I’ve heard – I don’t have much evidence at hand but it’s popular, well-known story – that Stalin was preparing an attack on Hitler and the reason they were surprised that badly is that they were preparing for offense, not defense. It’s beyond my knowledge of mil. logistics to say with any certainty, but it sounds reasonable to me that a logistics prepared for offense is very vulnerable if it finds itself in a defensive role.

  316. Hmmm. that’s interesting Shenpen I have read quite widely about WWII and have never heard that Stalin was preparing his country to attack Germany.

    I don’t think this is the case: I don’t think they were planning on war at all, but were quite content to profit from the war by selling commodities to the Germans.

    Stalin was paranoid and had ordered many of his officers to be killed, and this presented quite a problem when the Nazis invaded: the Red Army lacked good leadership.

    If they could not even competently defend their own turf, how could they have possibly invaded Germany?
    And by the way, Russia did invade and take part of Poland, the eastern half, this was a secret component of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

  317. eric, thanks for the reasoned (and lengthy) response to something i realised latterly was a hot-topic.

    i’m not going to respond here because a proper hashing out of my overall point requires careful and mutually-understood stabilisation of culture-comparisons etc (note your response used examples crossing extremely different cultures), including consideration of why civil wars are typically so much bloodier than intercultural or even interstate wars. i think we’re on the same page, i do think i may have some data/experience which will enlarge your view slightly and maybe have you leaning towards what i said, but frankly i don’t have the appetite for trying to thrash this out in writing over several weeks, with constant risk of flameout due to misinterpretations, vs an hour’s enjoyable shouting and hand-waving over a beer or three.

    so let’s table this unless and hopefully until we can do it in person.

  318. (also: it was only a truly tangential musing-aside. would much better have never have been included in that post. utterly trivial and apart from the point under discussion. a distraction.)

  319. back On-Topic:
    just ran across something relevant and accidentally amusing re Leftist Spin

    an open letter to the palestinians was sent last week to Maariv (apparently — i can’t read hebrew so can’t confirm this), and an english translation appeared widely on the net.

    it’s titled “An Open Letter to A citizen Of Gaza:
    I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home:
    By: Yishai G (reserve soldier) [ygoldflam@gmail.com]

    (amusingly, despite anonymising his surname, they then give it in his eddress…)

    well worth a read — it may or may not be a PR stunt but it certainly reads sanely and certainly echoes the feelings of the israelis i’ve spoken to.
    that particular link is accidentally hilarious, btw — after you’ve read the letter, zip back to the top and see how the poster (a left academic) has titled it: “I want you to know that after I gassed your mother I turned off the shower faucet and after I cremated her I turned off the oven. Would you like to meet at Starbucks? (It’s on me.)”

    but now, in a separate re-posting of the letter, read the following [explicitly counterfeit] response letter (which is hilariously fictive — you’ll start spluttering in the 2nd para). and then, much more importantly, read the response to the response by an apparently apoplectic palestinian, in the (5) comments :

    “How typically arrogant of western leftists to feel the need to speak on behalf of Palestinians, even while actual Palestinians are here and perfectly capable of speaaking for themselves!”

    “Let’s contrast this counterfeit letter with a letter from someone who actually lives in Gaza.

    I’m from Gaza & I can describe hamas in few sentences :
    They are criminals.
    They are backwords.
    They are ideal professionals that can manipulate and utilize the religion for personal interest. NO ONE ALIKE.
    They had done real war crimes in Gaza along the same as Isreal had done.
    They had contributed to grieve the poeple of Gaza by their unresponsible actions.”

  320. The response letter was written by someone named Zalman Amit, who I Googled and found this: http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/authors.php?auid=1897
    The site seems to be pretty pro-Palestine (I didn’t look at it for long, so I can’t say for sure), but the page says that he’s Professor Emeritus of Psychology at some university in Canada. It’s amusing to see someone like this’s opinion vetted by the person they are supposedly speaking for.

  321. Delicious to see an Arab, who actually lives over there throw their views right back in their face.

    These leftist views of the situation can only survive from a certain distance. Anyone actually on the scene sees Hamas for what it truly is.

    And that letter sure seemed like it was written as a piece of PR propoganda.

  322. > Of all the world’s militaries, only the Israelis might actually be able to hack it, on a good day with a following tailwind.

    The Israeli and American armies often train together, to each other’s mutual benefit. I don’t know if one or the other benefits more from the exercises, but clearly both come away from the experiences with new material. The Israelis are often impressed with the equipment, the loyalty and extreme discipline of the soldiers, the depth of thought that goes into tactical and strategic planning, and the fancy and tasty packaged food. The Americans often are impressed by innovative Israeli techniques, know-how (often sadly developed in battle), conservation, tactical maneuvers under fire, the culture of improvised personal equipment, and the food. Israel (and other American allies) also sends officers for advanced training in the US, to West Point and other military and civilian schools.

    Personally, I think it’s an interesting thought experiment to consider a friendly match between an Israeli and American army of equal size. The sheer scale of the American army – in terms of funding and personnel – renders any effective comparison pretty useless, except on smaller scales.

    > But the U.S. military style that produced those results was already well developed by the end of WWII. It was not “win with overwhelming numbers”.

    Actually, wasn’t this one of Rumsfeld’s great experiments in Iraq? From what I can recall, he intentionally sent significantly fewer soldiers than the army asked for, to demonstrate the American army’s enormous force, even in reduced numbers.

    > None of this should be surprising. Militaries are mirrors of their societies; it would only be surprising if the U.S. military tradition didn’t reflect the individualist, entrepreneurial, anti-authoritarian folk psychology of its parent culture.

    I think this is the central point to be made about the whole discussion and often overlooked by the world leaders, the international press and the societies themselves. Militaries are indeed mirrors of their socieities.

  323. >Actually, wasn’t this one of Rumsfeld’s great experiments in Iraq? From what I can recall, he intentionally sent significantly fewer soldiers than the army asked for, to demonstrate the American army’s enormous force, even in reduced numbers.

    And about the war itself, he was prescient and correct. Unfortunately, it takes more boots on the ground to fight a counterinsurgency.

  324. None of this should be surprising. Militaries are mirrors of their societies; it would only be surprising if the U.S. military tradition didn’t reflect the individualist, entrepreneurial, anti-authoritarian folk psychology of its parent culture.

    I think this is the central point to be made about the whole discussion and often overlooked by the world leaders, the international press and the societies themselves. Militaries are indeed mirrors of their socieities.

    Isn’t the military by definition an entity based on respect to authority and verticalism? Aren’t entrepreneurship and individualism lauded only very rarely, because 99% of the times it means you got your team killed or -militarily worse- maimed? It’s nice to see Rambo movies, but the army doesn’t train or work like that. Or am I wrong?

  325. Argh. I conflated two different posts in my last quote. First paragraph belongs to esr, second to noam. Apologies.

  326. > Isn’t the military by definition an entity based on respect to authority and verticalism? Aren’t entrepreneurship and individualism lauded only very rarely, because 99% of the times it means you got your team killed or -militarily worse- maimed?

    And the basis for Adriano’s assertions about how the military works and what works in battle is?

    Two things get you killed. Doing something dumb and an opponent that does something right.

    I find it interesting that Adriano believes that the military is dumb and that deviating from the military line is necessarily dumb.

  327. It’d be nice to know where in my post I said anything about dumb. I said that the army -usually- trains soldiers to work in a team, respect and follow orders to the letter and immediately (yes, Geneva conventions, etc. do apply) and that the usual military structure is vertical. It’s done that way because they actually must train people to kill on command, and remain alive. I don’t think that is dumb.

    That some operatives in the military are trained differently is another matter altogether.

    But please explain how you got ‘military training is dumb’ from my comment.

  328. “Yes, rifles and handguns won against tanks.”

    Hmm. Thinking more into it, I’m torn between two opinions, due to two kinds of historical experience.

    One is that when in 1956 the Soviets tried to repress the Hungarian Revolution in an incredibly stupid way: tanks without infantry support, they won, buy at a fairly high cost: besides the usual sorts of IED anti-tank weapons i.e. Molotov-coctails, some tanks were disabled with something as innocuous as *soap*. Recipe: pour liquid soap on steep and cobblestone-paved roads after a rain: the tank slides down and crashes into a house. At the very least it disables the main gun all right if it crashes head-on into a thick wall. So this sort of thing seems to support your argument.

    The series of failures of Islamist insurgencies is the other source of historical experience that seems to deny it. You mentioned some weaknesses of them, some of which sound reasonable and some sound as something new to me: tribalism? I though the whole point of Islam was universalist dualism: one House of Peace (Ummah) vs. one House of War, us-or-them, no third option and no room for factionalism. So you are saying that it’s just a theory, doesn’t quite work this way in practice?

    Anyway, the real point is how to rate the effect of these weaknesses vs. the effect of the strength of having fighters who really, really don’t care about dying. Fear of death can be a good thing: it incentives one to make better plans. But largely and in general, having soldiers who want to survive the battle I think is a weakness, and having soldiers who do not fear death I largely see as very big advantage, which may cancel out all these disadvantages. I’m not very sure about it though, a point could be made that the lack of fear of death causing the disadvantage of poor planning an the advantage of really brave attacks, the difference is small or even maybe negative. But I haven’t yet seen such an argument. And whatever little I know about modern history seems to give a huge advantage to fearlessness, e.g. the kami-kaze: lose a plane and the enemy loses a warship, a very advantageous exchange and all it requires is one pilot who does not fear death and half a ton of TNT in the plane.

  329. > But please explain how you got ‘military training is dumb’ from my comment.

    That’s easy – I didn’t, as anyone who read what I wrote can see.

    Let’s start with Adriano.

    >> > Isn’t the military by definition an entity based on respect to authority and verticalism? Aren’t entrepreneurship and individualism lauded only very rarely, because 99% of the times it means you got your team killed or -militarily worse- maimed?

    He’s making specific assertions about the military and battle.

    So, I asked the basis for his assertions.

    I’m the one who brought “dumb” into the discussion with:

    >> Two things get you killed. Doing something dumb and an opponent that does something right.

    >> I find it interesting that Adriano believes that the military is dumb and that deviating from the military line is necessarily dumb.

    My “deviating from the military line is necessarily dumb” is basically a restatement of Adriano’s initial comment. “believes that the military is dumb” is a conclusion based on reading Adriano for some time.

  330. >You mentioned some weaknesses of them, some of which sound reasonable and some sound as something new to me: tribalism?

    The Arabs have a very low-trust culture in which people have chronic difficulty sustaining cooperation across tribal boundaries. The Islamic doctrine of the House of Peace is counter-tribal, but has never been as effective as the corresponding idea of “Christendom”, which seems like a historical relic because Westerners don’t think tribally any more. Ironically, the Arabs who are most liberated from tribalism by it are our bitterest enemies, the Islamist fanatics.

    Tribalist thinking has all kinds of insidious effects on military capability. One is that it’s difficult for Arab military units to have decent cohesion unless unit boundaries map neatly to tribal boundaries. Another is that tribal authority structures tend to compete with military ones, creating conflicts and divided loyalties. These are two principal reasons that Arab units, regular or irregular, tend to have abysmally poor esprit by Western standards – they’re undisciplined and brittle under fire.

    I’m specifying “Arab” here because Islamics that are neither Arabs nor from Arabized tribal cultures like the Afghanis are not necessarily slaves to tribalist thinking. Kurds and Persians, for example, don’t have this syndrome as badly; it’s one reason the Kurdish part of Iraq has done so well.

    >the strength of having fighters who really, really don’t care about dying

    Most of the advantage you think you see is illusory. What wins battles and wars is not fearlessness but mission focus; fearlessness is useful only to the extent it improves mission focus. Islamic shaheeds and the organizations that field them are so high on martyrdom that they tend to lose mission focus. Or, as a junior U.S. officer memorably said in Iraq around 2003 “It’s a perfect meeting of minds – they want to die, and we want to kill them.”

  331. @Andy: That was fun. What I meant was commenting Militaries are mirrors of their societies; it would only be surprising if the U.S. military tradition didn’t reflect the individualist, entrepreneurial, anti-authoritarian folk psychology of its parent culture.” with “but wait, isn’t American military nothing like that?”

    >”My “deviating from the military line is necessarily dumb” is basically a restatement of Adriano’s initial comment.”

    And oh so wrong. What I said was “I don’t think the military works or behaves that way at all in the general case”.

    Military tactics and culture work in the military, and not always elsewhere. Ditto for the opposite case. I do not believe that the military of a civilization is always the mirror of its general spirit, and I asked about that. Instead of answering my question, you start mildly flaming. Shame. And to answer the one actual question you made: no, I have no references or quotes handy, sorry.

    > “believes that the military is dumb” is a conclusion based on reading Adriano for some time.

    I have nothing in opposition to the general idea of an army, or military training, etc. If I had to, I’d serve willingly and proudly. Trying to extrapolate ‘military == dumb’ from my posts makes me chuckle. I’ve got plenty of things to oppose certain militaries doing certain particular stuff, which is what -I hoped- I was writing on my posts. I see how you could be confused, though. If there’s actually something to support your opinion in my past posts, I apologize, but that’s not what I think, and I was wrong.

  332. Militaries (almost?) always have a different structure than their society. However, they (almost) always are composed of their populace and controlled by the same governing bodies. So effectively, they are strongly influenced by the culture, moral compass and outlook of their society.

    It is reflected in the ways in which the military does its training. Does it beat up the rookies, advance them quickly, see them as meat for the fodder or valuable assets, teach them military ethics or just how to fire a gun, encourage they share responsibility or pit one soldier against another…?

    It is reflected in the military values and structure. Is it corrupt? Is there a loose or strict hierarchical structure? Is it a conscription, volunteer or slave army? Is there an organized tribunal system or are soldiers shot at the first hint of mutiny? Are soldiers expected to shoot downed enemy soldiers to ensure they “stay down” or does the army prefer to take POWs? Does it treat them with respect or abuse them? Do soldiers get paid a salary?

    It is reflected in the interface between the civilian and the military. Does the army purchase its goods from the society or does it take what it needs when it needs it? Does it distinguish between military authority in times of peace and times of war or Marshal Law? Do civilians volunteer their services willingly to the military in times of need? Do hospitals, public transportation, government organizations, civilian organizations give soldiers and/or the military priority in ordinary daily civilian life?

    Very often the influence is mutual. The first indicator of such influence is often lingual: military words are adopted by the general population in either ordinary or slang usage. This is especially evident in fascist and other authoritarian states where the military itself controls the society itself.

    It’s possible I meant something different than esr when I echoed his sentiment that militaries are mirrors of their societies, in which case I’m sure he’ll correct me. But what I meant is that you can find general cultural themes in any military that clearly emanate from the society. Answer enough questions about the military and you’ll get a good basic understanding of the society.

    A couple of quick examples off the top o my head: The American army has a relatively strict sense of discipline, hierarchy and professionalism, in which staff sergeants can hold the position for 3 decades, that somewhat reflects many American workplaces. This is different from the Israeli army in which the command structure at the lower rungs is a bit “flatter”, people move up the lower ranks, and in which strict discipline is demanded in certain situations (e.g., combat) but not so much in general. This reflects that part of Israeli society that is more communal and less given to authority.

    Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, sociologically, anthropologically and historically. But I did not mean to suggest that you can see the society’s reflection by looking at those things common to all militaries and deduce anything significant about their societies. You can’t look at the fact that military uses guns and draw any conclusions about the society. But you can look at gun training, production, tactics and possibly draw useful conclusions.

  333. >The Israelis are often impressed with the equipment, the loyalty and extreme discipline of the soldiers, the depth of thought that goes into tactical and strategic planning, and the fancy and tasty packaged food.

    that’s interesting.

    the aussie forces are very impressed with the equipment (more: the sheer DEPTH of its re-supply), the theatrical individualism and extreme lack of real-world discipline of the soldiers but the frenchforeignlegion-style brutalism of internal hierarchical displays of relative social status labelled as discipline, the lunatic lack of thought about real-world consequences that goes into tactical and strategic planning, and the fancy and tasty packaged food.

  334. >>Actually, wasn’t this one of Rumsfeld’s great experiments in Iraq? From what I can recall, he intentionally sent significantly fewer soldiers than the army asked for,

    correct. rumsfeld loved the “shock & awe” aspects of blitzkrieg. the theatre of it was more important than the consequence. but: attack is easy, holding is hard. every allied army warned them not to do it, and petraeus’s “surge” was just a correction of the error.

    more importantly: every single observer (diplomat, military, and civilian) with actual EXPERIENCE of the local culture screamed that any invasion would have real-world long-term consequences wildly dissociated from its nominal military goals.

    >The Arabs have a very low-trust culture in which people have chronic difficulty sustaining cooperation across tribal boundaries.

    “welcome everybody! trust nobody!”

    the only culture where traditionally houses have large welcoming guest suites on the ground floor, and the stairs leading up to the family’s 2nd storey quarters are removable, for when you have guests.

    >One is that it’s difficult for Arab military units to have decent cohesion unless unit boundaries map neatly to tribal boundaries.

    interestingly, that’s the traditional british army’s structure. tremendous resistance when it was re-worked b/w WWI and WWII.

    >A couple of quick examples off the top o my head: The American army has a relatively strict sense of discipline, hierarchy and professionalism, in which staff sergeants can hold the position for 3 decades, that somewhat reflects many American workplaces. This is different from the Israeli army in which the command structure at the lower rungs is a bit “flatter”, people move up the lower ranks, and in which strict discipline is demanded in certain situations (e.g., combat) but not so much in general.

    quite. something not many people realise is how closely the “modern” american army resembles the “modern” american corporation, in a (sub)cultural sense. strong inwards focus, strong theatre-of-internal-display focus, strong internal status/hierarchy focus, weak external results focus.

    “got your Game Face on?!?!”

  335. >correct. rumsfeld loved the “shock & awe” aspects of blitzkrieg. the theatre of it was more important than the consequence. but: attack is easy, holding is hard. every allied army warned them not to do it, and petraeus’s “surge” was just a correction of the error.

    As far as I know, the actual war, against actual regular forces commanded by Hussein, was done pretty well with only the soldiers originally sent, because that was a situation in which the US’s overwhelming advantages in terms of military technology and control of the sky could play a definitive role. The surge was done to allow for more troops for the counterinsurgency and/or occupation, because in those phases by definition US forces were fighting guerilla targets that were smart enough not to stay still for the US to bring overwhelming force into play.

  336. >>> The Israelis are often impressed with the equipment, the loyalty and extreme discipline of the soldiers, the depth of thought that goes into tactical and strategic planning, and the fancy and tasty packaged food.

    Interesting comment about the food. I have talked to ex-soldiers who refer to the MREs as “Meals ready to excrete.” Heh.

    I talked to one guy who talked about some peanut butter stuff in the army food that was so gross he doesn’t eat the stuff to this day.

    I heard that they have kosher food for the jewish soldiers, and, when the rest of the guys saw how good it was, they all wanted it.

    Any one have any thoughts on this?

  337. > the aussie forces are very impressed with the theatrical individualism and extreme lack of real-world discipline of the soldiers but the frenchforeignlegion-style brutalism of internal hierarchical displays of relative social status labelled as discipline

    This can be summed up as “military discipline”, which often finds release (pardon the pun) in non-military settings.

    > , the lunatic lack of thought about real-world consequences that goes into tactical and strategic planning, and the fancy and tasty packaged food.

    Exactly right. I should have said that in my experience, the Americans try to plan tactically and strategically for every possible occurrence in the field – kind of like a chess game – but usually without thinking too much outside the box or expecting the unexpected. I can’t really substantiate this, but the impression strikes true.

    My impression has always been, for example, that the American field commander is expected to survive any encounter, so there isn’t too much delegation of responsibility. There’s a very focused command at every node on the hierarchy.

  338. > Interesting comment about the food. I have talked to ex-soldiers who refer to the MREs as “Meals ready to excrete.” Heh.

    Nothing beats home cooking. But if I were stuck in the field for a week, I’d much rather have American field rations than Israeli!

    > I heard that they have kosher food for the jewish soldiers, and, when the rest of the guys saw how good it was, they all wanted it.

    Maybe there’s some home cooking in those kosher meals? :)

  339. > The surge was done to allow for more troops for the counterinsurgency and/or occupation, because in those phases by definition US forces were fighting guerilla targets that were smart enough not to stay still for the US to bring overwhelming force into play.

    The point is that Rumsfeld should have planned for the counterinsurgency as well as the initial war and sent more soldiers, but chose to ignore it in favor of his demonstrative blitzkrieg tactics.

  340. >>”My “deviating from the military line is necessarily dumb” is basically a restatement of Adriano’s initial comment.”

    >And oh so wrong. What I said was “I don’t think the military works or behaves that way at all in the general case”.

    Actually, he didn’t. I quoted him, twice now. so let’s go for three. “Isn’t the military by definition an entity based on respect to authority and verticalism? Aren’t entrepreneurship and individualism lauded only very rarely, because 99% of the times it means you got your team killed or -militarily worse- maimed?”

    I’ll admit to interpreting “got your team killed or – militarily worse – maimed” as “dumb” wrt western militaries, but does Adriano really want to hang his hat there?

  341. @Andy: If you’re saying that my perception is wrong, please say exactly how. That’s what I asked. Try Noam’s style.
    Otherwise, this stopped being fun about a post ago.
    Since you’re fond of quotes,

    “It’s nice to see Rambo movies, but the army doesn’t train or work like that. Or am I wrong?”

    from my first post should point out that I did indeed say “I don’t think the military works or behaves that way at all in the general case”.

  342. >>correct. rumsfeld loved the “shock & awe” aspects of blitzkrieg. the theatre of it was more important than the consequence. but: attack is easy, holding is hard. every allied army warned them not to do it, and petraeus’s “surge” was just a correction of the error.
    >As far as I know, the actual war, against actual regular forces commanded by Hussein, was done pretty well with only the soldiers originally sent

    like i said:
    > blitzkrieg … attack is easy, holding is hard

  343. old replies.

    esr Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 3:23 pm
    >>but the wars in iraq and afghanistan are not killing terrorists, on average. they’re merely accelerating the extant cultural osmosis of average citizens to fanatical fighters vs X, where X in this case is america.
    >This is clearly not true in Iraq. If it were, the surge would have failed and violence against U.S. troops would have risen in the aftermath. It hasn’t. Instead, attacks have dropped to levels not seen since 2003, Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been reduced to irrelevance, and informed opinion is that the insurgency is basically dead.

    A change in approach by many sides, and a counter-insurgent insurgency. The situation in Iraq deteriorated for three years before beginning to improve. The reason the insurgency is ‘dead’ is not because the US killed X number of insurgents.

    esr Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 1:15 am
    >>EXACTLY. and THIS is the ur-problem with the usa’s approach to al quaeda etc. they think they’re fighting people. they’re not. they’re fighting a meme. and the guns and tanks etc only bolster the meme’s grip on the population they think they’re helping.
    >I don’t believe this. I think we need to be doing both things — killing terrorists wherever we can identify them and waging memetic warfare.
    Truth is the ultimate meme. While it is subjective, that subjectiveness is based on other memes and base desires, it is not reprogrammable by simply spreading enough propaganda. To understand why the US did not win in Iraq and why Afghanistan is still heavily contested after 8 years of fighting, you have to understand the component of truth that terrorist organizations possess.

    Did you understand the significance of the shoe-throwing incident with George W Bush? The journalist who threw the shoe has recently had his trial postponed yet again, to March 12, and every time it comes up there are people saying he should be set free without penalty.

    Saltation Says:
    February 1st, 2009 at 6:01 pm
    >eric, just as you guided OSS into mainstream success by treating it as a memewar, we need you in the US DoD guiding them into treating the current approach as a memewar instead of a setpiece ground battle.
    The US military has been getting better at using the right approach. It takes a while for the knowledge to filter up to higher levels in a hierarchy that certain approaches or ways of thought are retarded, but as mistakes accumulate that knowledge will, eventually, reach the top of the hierarchy… up until the world changes again and situational options also change. Obviously it’s best if you have someone intelligent at the top of that hierarchy so they can avoid making huge mistakes in the first place, but it’s difficult for someone from the outside to make any large change in policy unless those on top are already receptive to new ideas, in which case they’ll probably find the answer from one of their many intelligent subordinates.

    Anyway, esr still makes mistakes about the complexity of the moral situation in the middle east.

  344. also, I find it incredible that no one (apart from my link to wikipedia, which no one read) who replied made reference to the economic siege that is the reason for all the recent violence, nor to Gilat Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured in 2006…. these being the main issues under discussion, or rather not under discussion when it comes to Shalit, for the current talks regarding a possible peace between Gaza and Israel.

  345. oops, correction, Jon did mention the blockade. Luckily, even the Israelis (as a whole) do not have the attitudes displayed by many posters in this thread, or they would have already self-destructed with the neighboring countries.

    Jon discusses realistic solutions. The Palestinians themselves are very aware of the options available to them in this conflict, mirroring the dangers of their approach. From the start of Israel’s latest war on Egypt the different parties in the region emphasized that disputes between the different Palestinian entities was just as important as the one between Israel and HAMAS; the attitude by HAMAS has always been that Israel selectively supported Fatah in order to weaken HAMAS, such as by releasing Fatah political prisoners while not releasing HAMAS prisoners. Concurrently with negotiating with Israel, the Palestinian factions have been strengthening and healing relations between themselves; with the stalling of negotiations this is the main area where permanent progress has been made. It was… interesting, that one of the agreements between HAMAS and Fatah was that they would stop the ‘media campaigns’ while negotiations between the two parties were ongoing.

    Arabs understand the ‘meme war’ better than anyone in the US; the obstacle here is, and has always been convincing Israel to cooperate, which led up to the situation of the invasion with Israel trying to force HAMAS’s hand. This did not work, but both sides were in doubt before the war.

    Palestinian efforts since the war can probably be seen as a success. The UK is close to negotiating with HAMAS which means recognizing them as a legitimate entity.

  346. hi,
    I am from Bangladesh. May be you don’t know this place. My name is syedi hasan. I am a fan of ESR’s work. At first I am not good at english. I came to this blog just accidently. anyway I read all comments. some of things i understand and some of this not due to my lacking of english and history. it seems all of you are good people, but may have not true information about islam. I know The follower of islam is rare in this current world. I am well wisher of ESR and all who comments here. so I like to all of you read(if you get some time) about islam from

    http://irf.net

    Its a Islamic Research Foundation , founded by Dr. Zakir Naik, May be some of you know him, or no one. I thought he describes islam what it is really.

    He is from India,

    I apologize , its a unrelated content from your article.
    But I request all of you to know about islam, and follow it, and be a true follower of Islam. The main reason i comment here is, All of you are certainly wiser than me and have a good position in this world. I want from my heart , all of you get same respect and better position to Allah (Which in other religion called God).

    One thing , I am not promoting Dr. Zakir Naik or his web site, But it’s true I am trying to promote Islam By My Heart, and I will try to be a great programmar(because I like to program and a computer science graduate from RUET- a local uninversity in my country) like ESR, only for islam so that people will hear me.

    ESR you are a great programmar , you know it, you already do many good things for this earth, I hope you will continue it.
    I dont’ know more about Hamas, But I know Al Qayeda is bad, Talibans are bad, May be all( who said we are muslim) are bad. But Islam is Only religion From Allah Now, Before that Christian was, I know all of are beliefs. Who follow Islam is called Muslim(there is no definition in Islam for any one can by born muslim, every one must be admit Islam to be a muslim)Please don’t be distracted from my words. Please if you have time, read the above site and you will get some content from his TV Channel(Peace TV) , what Dr. Zakir Naik Says about Islam, May be you will find other Scholar of Islam.

  347. Very interesting article and many ways to look at this subject. Many are closed in their thoughts and need to open up a little.

  348. I keep hearing the Israelis “took the land from the Palestinians.” That is not a valid or useful description of what happened. Why is this statement accepted by both sides of the argument?

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