Monday, January 5, 2009

05 Jan 2009 09:11 pm

The Reality Of War


The legs of the body of one of three Palestinian siblings from the Al-samoni family, killed by an Israeli tank shell, are seen in the mortuary of Al-Shifa hospital, on January 5, 2009 in Gaza City. Seven members from the Al-samoni family were killed including the mother, three children and a baby, when an Israeli shell struck their house south of Gaza city. By Abid Katib/Getty.

05 Jan 2009 08:32 pm

Proportionality And Terror, Ctd

A reader writes:

The problem with the doctrine of Just War, I would submit, is that it can only be applied in retrospect. In prospect, it is at once too restrictive and overly permissive. It requires an unachievable degree of certainty. But when leaders or their population nevertheless convince themselves that a conflict meets its standards, even though it cannot, it tends to grant them a sense of moral absolution that leads to callous indifference to the loss of human life.

No, the Israeli assault on Gaza cannot be said to be Just. Declaring it to be so is a manifestation of moral cowardice, of an unwillingness to face up to its awful price. It is merely a war: a messy, dirty conflict that injures all who are involved. It will exact a terrible toll on soldiers, militants and civilians, and there is no possible set of justifications which should blind us to that fact.

But that does not necessarily mean it merits moral condemnation. It does not mean that Israel was necessarily wrong to launch it, nor wrong to finish it. Those judgments tend to become clear only with the virtue of hindsight.

Continue reading "Proportionality And Terror, Ctd" »

05 Jan 2009 08:25 pm

Yglesias Award Nominee

"I always liked Panetta. He served in the Army and is openly proud of it. He seems to be a good lawyer (oxymoronic though it may seem). He's a good manager. And he's going to watch Obama's back at a place that's full of stilettos and a track record for attempted presidential assassination second to none. But Italians know all about political assassination; you may remember Julius Caesar. Or Aldo Moro. The self-proclaimed cognoscenti will deride his lack of "spycraft," and he's never worked in the intel bureaucracy or, for that matter, in foreign policy or national security. But he's been chief of staff, which involved all that stuff. I think it's a smart move," - Michael Ledeen, NRO.

Joe Klein comments here. Others, like Goldberg and York, peddle the line that no one who has operated in the "real world" of intelligence could agree with Obama's attempt to move the US past the torture era. No: a huge majority of intelligence professionals agree with Obama on effective interrogation. But after eight years of a CIA tainted with torture and presidentially-sanctioned lawlessness, drawing a bright line under the recent past is critical.

That's why the Panetta pick is inspired. The more I think about it, the more that seems true. This is change we can believe in. And in this necessarily secret area, public trust is vital. For the first time in a long dark patch, we will regain it.

05 Jan 2009 07:15 pm

Another Take On Proportionality

I hope to respond to Noah tomorrow. Meanwhile:

Israel’s just playing by Chicago rules:  “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.  That’s the Chicago way!”

05 Jan 2009 07:13 pm

The Gaza Crisis

In discussing this with a colleague, and thinking how reasonable it is for Israel to expect that its own citizens should have exactly the same freedom from fear and terror as those in other Western countries, I could not help but recall the great Onion headline from their classic book, "Our Dumb Century." It's from 1948:

War-weary Jews establish homeland between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt

'In Israel, our people will finally have safety and peace,' says Ben-Gurion. Jordan welcomes new neighbors with celebratory gunfire, rock throwing.

05 Jan 2009 06:37 pm

Face Of The Day


Christian Califano of France rests during the third motorcycle stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally between Puerto Madryn and Jacobacci, in Argentina, on January 5, 2009. Marc Coma of Spain won the stage and keeps the lead of the race. By Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty.

05 Jan 2009 06:14 pm

The Price Of Unvictory

Marc Lynch's take on Gaza:

However this round of violence ends -- and it's hard to see any scenario in which it produces remotely positive results for anyone involved -- the outcome at the regional level will likely be to further exacerbate these conflicts and to undermine the chances for the incoming Obama administration to make early progress.

Continue reading "The Price Of Unvictory" »

05 Jan 2009 05:25 pm

An Occasional Primate

Ross catches up on Christmas blogging.

05 Jan 2009 05:20 pm

Kaplan On Gaza

A reader writes:

Very interesting piece – but the core argument, that this is somehow about neutralizing Iran, really is a stretch.  As the Israelis know better than anyone, there is no way they can cleanly or decisively dismantle Hamas with this invasion.  The foreseeable results are: (1) inconclusive withdrawal without fundamentally damaging Hamas; (2) permanent re-occupation; or (3) the elimination of Hamas with such horrific loss of civilian life that they lose even the Sunni regimes’ tacit support (and garner world condemnation).

It’s tempting to tie this to a wider geopolitical strategy (just as it was to tie the proposed Iraq invasion to a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict), but I don’t think the Israelis are as delusional as our own neocons.  I still think it has more to do with domestic Israeli politics than anything else.

05 Jan 2009 05:19 pm

What are the Isaelis Thinking?, Ctd

Yaacov Lozowick tries to answer the question:

What's the end game? It could be weeks of sifting through the city of Gaza until Hamas has effectively been disarmed. I expect, however, that it's more likely that Israel itself will now speed up the diplomatic process, starting with the visit this evening of Sarkozy: You want a cease fire, all you folks out there? Y