Israel vs. Hezbollah

posted 03 August 2006

Okay, so I've had a few discussions about this nightmarish situation recently, and essentially my take on it is this:

Technically speaking, Israel is a democracy being threatened by a terrorist organization being hosted within a weak/failed state. We in the west have already decided (twice) that these are appropriate conditions under which to invade, producing massive civilian casualties in the name of providing greater security (or "fighting them over there" if it's not going so well, or "humanitarian reasons" if you're the kind of government that admits when it can't find WMDs).

Hezbollah are firing indiscriminately into Israel's civilian population with a large number of (inaccurate, not terribly destructive, but obviously very scary) missiles supplied by Iran. Israel is firing back with overwhelming force and -- and this is very debateable -- not noticeably greater accuracy.

So morally, Israel should have some kind of advantage on the basis that they are responding to terror, and their intention is not to cause civilian casualties -- they are aiming at "military targets", like, er, apartment blocks, because the terrorists are in the apartment blocks. However, two things combine to rob them of this tenuous advantage:

  1. The ridiculous imbalance in levels of power and levels of casualties. If you dropped a nuke on a civilian population in order to kill a terrorist, you would be tried for genocide. One you accept that, you acknowledge that the difference between acceptable casualties and war crimes is just a line in the sand, and nobody is ever going to agree on a number of dead bodies that's "ok".
  2. And this is more important: there is a moral difference between shooting a gun at a terrorist and accidentally hitting the civilian next to him, and lobbing a grenade at a terrorist who is hiding in a crowd of civilians. There is a difference between accidentally killing civilians on one hand, and on the other hand killing civilians on purpose, in the certain knowledge that they will die, because you believe their deaths are worth you achieving your goals.

All of this is not to say that I think Hezbollah have some kind of moral advantage. This is to say that both sides are being morally reprehensible and I can summon no sympathy for either one as a result. It's horribly depressing, and I'm tempted to just let these fuckers drown in their own bloodbath until they get sick of pointlessly killing each other.

...but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen, so it seems like somebody has to wade in their and separate them, and it can't be the US or the UK -- knowledgeable friends have suggested Turkey and France with an option on Russia. I don't care who it is as long as they do it quickly. But standing idly by while Israel commits war crimes in the name of security is just further blackening our already heavily tarnished names.

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