'Disproportionate' in What Moral Universe? Also: Long Term View by Krauthammer
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, August 11, 2006; Page A19
With the defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut, antiwar forces are poised for a takeover of the Democratic Party. Tuesday's exhilarating victory, and the elan and electoral legitimacy gained, may carry the newly energized Democratic left to considerable success in November.
But for the Democratic Party it will be an expensive and short-lived indulgence. The Iraq war will end, as will the Bush presidency. But the larger conflict that defines our times -- war on Islamic radicalism, more politely known as the war on terrorism -- will continue, as the just-foiled London airliner plot unmistakably reminds us. And the reflexive antiwar sentiments underlying Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut will prove disastrous for the Democrats in the long run -- the long run beginning as early as November '08.
Consider an analogy that the antiwar types hold dear: Iraq as Vietnam. I reject the premise, but let's assume it for the purpose of following the political consequences of antiwar movements.
The anti-Vietnam War movement had its political successes. They were, as in Connecticut Tuesday, mostly internecine. One Democratic presidency was destroyed (Lyndon Johnson), as was the candidacy of his would-be successor, Hubert Humphrey.
Like Iraq, Vietnam was but one theater in a larger global struggle -- the struggle against the Soviet Union and its communist clients around the world -- and by the early 1970s, the newly reshaped McGovernite party had to face the larger post-Vietnam challenges of the Cold War.
The result? Political disaster.
The anti-Vietnam sentiment left a residual pacifism, an aversion to intervention and an instinct for accommodation that proved very costly to the Democrats for years to come. The most notorious example was the liberal flight to the "nuclear freeze" -- the most mindless strategic idea of our lifetime -- in opposition to Ronald Reagan's facing down the Soviet deployment of missiles in Eastern Europe.
Apart from the Carter success of 1976 -- an idiosyncratic post-Watergate accident -- the "blame America first" Democrats were not even competitive on foreign policy for the rest of the Cold War. It was not until the very disappearance of the Soviet Union that the American citizenry would once again trust a Democrat with the White House.
It took the Democrats years to dig themselves out of that hole, helped largely by such pro-defense, pro-Gulf War senators as Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. It is all now being undone by Iraq. The party's latent antiwar fervor has resurfaced with a vengeance -- in Connecticut, quite literally so.
In the short run, as in the Vietnam days, there will be "success": a purging of hawkish Democrats like Joe Lieberman. There might even be larger victories. Enough Ned Lamonts might be elected in enough states to give one or both houses of Congress to the Democrats. But even that short-term gain is uncertain. Lamont may not even win his own state. He narrowly beat Lieberman in a voter universe confined to Democrats. In November independents and Republicans will join the selection process.
But even assuming some short-term victories, where will the Democrats be when the war is over and President Bush is gone?
Lamont said in his victory speech that the time had come to "fix George Bush's failed foreign policy." Yet, as Martin Peretz pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, on Iran, the looming long-term Islamist threat, Lamont's views are risible. Lamont's alternative to the Bush Iran policy is to "bring in allies" and "use carrots as well as sticks."
Where has this man been? Negotiators with Iran have had carrots coming out of their ears in three years of fruitless negotiations. Allies? We let the British, French and Germans negotiate with Iran for those three years, only to have Iran brazenly begin accelerated uranium enrichment that continues to this day.
Lamont seems to think that we should just sit down with the Iranians and show them why going nuclear is not a good idea. This recalls Sen. William Borah's immortal reaction in September 1939 upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland to start World War II: "Lord, if I could only have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided."
This naivete in the service of endless accommodationism recalls also the flaccid foreign policy of the post-Vietnam Democratic left. It lost the day -- it lost the country -- to Ronald Reagan and a muscular foreign policy that in the end won the Cold War.
Vietnam cost the Democrats 40 years in the foreign policy wilderness. Anti-Iraq sentiment gave the antiwar Democrats a good night on Tuesday, and may yet give them a good year or two. But beyond that, it will be desolation.
What Moral Universe?
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Times
Friday, July 28, 2006; Page A25
What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?
What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities -- every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians -- and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy's infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?
To hear the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe. With a few significant exceptions (the leadership of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and a very few others), the world -- governments, the media, U.N. bureaucrats -- has completely lost its moral bearings.
The word that obviates all thinking and magically inverts victim into aggressor is "disproportionate," as in the universally decried "disproportionate Israeli response."
When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to cinders, and turned the Japanese home islands into rubble and ruin.
Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right -- legal and moral -- to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one's security again. That's what it took with Japan.
Britain was never invaded by Germany in World War II. Did it respond to the Blitz and V-1 and V-2 rockets with "proportionate" aerial bombardment of Germany? Of course not. Churchill orchestrated the greatest air campaign and land invasion in history, which flattened and utterly destroyed Germany, killing untold innocent German women and children in the process.
The perversity of today's international outcry lies in the fact that there is indeed a disproportion in this war, a radical moral asymmetry between Hezbollah and Israel: Hezbollah is deliberately trying to create civilian casualties on both sides while Israel is deliberately trying to minimize civilian casualties, also on both sides.
In perhaps the most blatant terror campaign from the air since the London Blitz, Hezbollah is raining rockets on Israeli cities and villages. These rockets are packed with ball bearings that can penetrate automobiles and shred human flesh. They are meant to kill and maim. And they do.
But it is a dual campaign. Israeli innocents must die in order for Israel to be terrorized. But Lebanese innocents must also die in order for Israel to be demonized, which is why Hezbollah hides its fighters, its rockets, its launchers, its entire infrastructure among civilians. Creating human shields is a war crime. It is also a Hezbollah specialty.
On Wednesday CNN cameras showed destruction in Tyre. What does Israel have against Tyre and its inhabitants? Nothing. But the long-range Hezbollah rockets that have been raining terror on Haifa are based in Tyre. What is Israel to do? Leave untouched the launch sites that are deliberately placed in built-up areas?
Had Israel wanted to destroy Lebanese civilian infrastructure, it would have turned out the lights in Beirut in the first hour of the war, destroying the billion-dollar power grid and setting back Lebanon 20 years. It did not do that. Instead it attacked dual-use infrastructure -- bridges, roads, airport runways -- and blockaded Lebanon's ports to prevent the reinforcement and resupply of Hezbollah. Ten thousand Katyusha rockets are enough. Israel was not going to allow Hezbollah 10,000 more.
Israel's response to Hezbollah has been to use the most precise weaponry and targeting it can. It has no interest, no desire to kill Lebanese civilians. Does anyone imagine that it could not have leveled south Lebanon, to say nothing of Beirut? Instead, in the bitter fight against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, it has repeatedly dropped leaflets, issued warnings, sent messages by radio and even phone text to Lebanese villagers to evacuate so that they would not be harmed.
Israel knows that these leaflets and warnings give the Hezbollah fighters time to escape and regroup. The advance notification as to where the next attack is coming has allowed Hezbollah to set up elaborate ambushes. The result? Unexpectedly high Israeli infantry casualties. Moral scrupulousness paid in blood. Israeli soldiers die so that Lebanese civilians will not, and who does the international community condemn for disregarding civilian life?
Why Seek "Proportional" Warfare?
By Michael Medved
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
The month of September brings not only the fifth anniversary of the horrific terror attacks of 2001, but also marks the passage of 67 years since the beginning of World War II. An accurate, unflinching recollection of that incomparably destructive conflagration remains indispensable in understanding some of the key issues of the bloody conflicts of our own time. In particular, the course of World War II demonstrates the complete folly of the currently trendy notion that a just war somehow must qualify as “proportional.”
Commentators endlessly invoked this concept during the recent battle between Israel and Hizbollah, faulting the Jewish state for an allegedly “disproportional response” to the invasion of its territory and the kidnapping of two of its soldiers. The resulting 34 days of conflict led to an estimated 1,000 deaths in Lebanon—more than half of them civilians – while Israel suffered a total of about 100 casualties, most of them soldiers. By the same token, some critics of American policy cite the entire war on terror as a wildly disproportional over-reaction: we lost 3,000 innocent civilians on September 11, and the Bush administration responded with the application of overwhelming force in Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in perhaps 20 times the deaths (including many civilian casualties) originally inflicted on the United States. The international Left regularly and passionately decries these lopsided levels of suffering as evidence of indefensible callousness, cruelty and irresponsibility on the part of the United States and Israel.
These critics of current conflicts, however, rarely refer to the example of World War II—surely one of the most outrageously disproportional conflicts in all human history. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and killed 3,000 Americans, virtually all of them military personnel; in the US response, some 3 million Japanese lost their lives, more than 500,000 of them civilians.
In their surprise attack on Hawaii, the Japanese easily could have devastated the unprotected population of Honolulu but they pointedly avoided doing so, while the United States ended the war with atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that claimed mostly civilians, as well as the even more devastating fire-bombing of Tokyo (that destroyed sixteen square miles of the city, with one fourth of its buildings, leaving at least 100,000 dead and more than a million homeless). By contrast, the Japanese never succeeded in inflicting any civilian casualties on American victims on American soil. The comparative death toll of noncombatants on native ground, in other words, stands at 500,000 to zero.
Does the grossly disproportional nature of this conflict somehow undermine the morality of the American war effort? Do the appallingly unequal figures of sacrifice and suffering suggest that FDR, Truman and the other U.S. war leaders deserve censure for their bloodthirsty tactics? The answer remains obvious and undeniable: the American political and military leadership did what it needed to do to bring the war to the quickest possible conclusion, thus sparing the lives of additional Americans (and Japanese). Proportionality of casualties bears no connection whatever to the justice or decency of a war effort; no truly moral leader could possibly justify prolonging the death and destruction in order to avoid the “embarrassment” of one-sided casualty figures. All the greatest commanders in human history—Alexander, Genghis Khan, Henry V, Napoleon, Lord Nelson, Stonewall Jackson—have inflicted horribly uneven casualties on their opponents. In one sense, the whole purpose of war is to make the enemy bleed and die more than you do. As General George Patton reportedly observed, “The goal of war isn’t to die for your country. It’s to make the other poor bastard die for his country.”
The way to judge the morality of a military effort isn’t to consider the level of enemy death and suffering but to examine the purpose for which that destruction has been inflicted. By that token the aggressive strikes by Japan at Pearl Harbor, or Al-Qaeda against New York City and Washington D.C., stand as far less justifiable than the essentially defensive (but vastly bloodier) American responses. Whatever one’s belief about the list of Islamic grievances against the Western world, or Japanese complaints about U.S. hostility to the Rising Sun Empire, no one could reasonably expect that surprise attacks on American targets would somehow reduce the level of combat and bloodshed in the world. U.S. responses, on the other hand—like the Israeli response in Lebanon –clearly meant to reduce or eliminate the chance of future conflict. Israel and the United States fought to make themselves safe from attack or intimidation, not to seize territory or to conquer other nations or to advance dreams of global domination. One may attempt to argue that recent U.S. (or Israeli) policies did little to enhance the security of the populace and proved counter-productive to their announced purposes, but no one could confuse the long-range goals of these democracies, so eager to bring their troops home at the earliest opportunity, with the aims of unabashedly aggressive, imperialist powers like the Japanese Empire or Islamo-Nazi fundamentalists, with their open dreams of international supremacy.
The whole idea of judging wars by comparing casualty rates depends upon the assumption of moral equivalence: since there is no meaningful distinction among powers, no significant contrast between the United States, say, and the old Soviet Union, then the only way to evaluate the performance of these nations is to consider the relative damage they’ve inflicted.
That argument leads to the conclusion that the Soviet intervention in Hungary and Czechoslovakia to impose Communism counts as less objectionable than the (ultimately successful) U.S. intervention in Greece to resist Communism – because more people died in Greece than in the restive Eastern European satellite nations. Only if one employs the values of moral relativism – that we can’t judge al Qaeda more harshly than the U.S., or Hizbollah more harshly than Israel – does the talk of “proportional” war make any sense at all.
Of course, context counts far more than merely counting dead bodies: not all nations are created equal, and not all military struggles deserve equivalent respect or support. The obsession with “proportionality” represents one more misguided contemporary attempt to substitute the bogus application of “objective,” numerical analysis for value judgments – the necessary distinctions between good and evil, decent and corrupt – which still constitute the core of all contemporary conflicts.