ETHICS OF PRE-EMPTIVE RAIDS
By Richard H. Shulman
During WWII, the US had every right to bomb civilian centers deliberately. But Israel has no right for helicopter attacks on Hamas leaders, with incidental deaths to bystanders. The difference was that the US was at war, states William F. Buckley Jr., but "of course" Israel is not. The US government usually doesn't moralize on the "Mideast 100-year war," but it and Europe did reproach Israel this time.
"The Israeli killer operation is explained by two standards. One says: Like capital punishment, such treatment of terrorists may deter. A second says: we derive satisfaction from executing such as were directly or indirectly involved in the terrorist operation in Tel Aviv last June that killed 2 of our citizens." (NY Post, 8/4, p.19.) "Satisfaction" falsely implies pleasure.
Europe and the US, which have perpetrated and still perpetrate enormous crimes against humanity, would be better advised to acquire a decent code of ethics before judging others. The US usually does moralize on the Mideast. In doing so, it blunders and inflicts harm. Acting out of bias and ignorance, European and US critics of Israel are not on the side of morality.
The deliberate and thorough US and European bombings of Japanese and German civilian centers were not justified by the state of war. That was terrorism! Mr. Buckley must recognize such a thing as a war crime, for he undoubtedly would categorize German bombing of European civilian centers and Japanese slaughter of Chinese civilians as crimes despite the state of war.
First Buckley asserts that Israel is not in a state of war, then he admits that it has been at war for a "100-year war" (but more like 80 years). Which of his contradictory statements is correct? Consider that there is no peace treaty with half the Arabs, and that the other half breaks the pacts they did sign. Consider that terrorism is a new form of warfare but warfare nevertheless. Consider that the PA leaders have declared themselves at war many times and that Israeli leaders recently have declared it, too, though they didn't want it. Formal declarations of war seldom are made, these days. How much fighting the US has engaged in, without a formal declaration of war! There always seem to be double standards against the Jewish state.
There is no likeness between the US carpet-bombing in Indochina and the Israeli assassinations of terrorist leaders, carefully limiting civilian casualties and usually preventing them altogether. That there occasionally are injured bystanders in Israeli actions should not be held against Israel, but there is a new, mindless notion of waging war without accidents.
Buckley speculates whether the Israeli actions are effective. It is not his "call" to judge whether they should be done. Israel is attempting to remove the middle echelon of commanders, so as to drastically reduce terrorism. If Israel persists, especially if commentators encouraged it to, which might have a drastic effect. As it is, those terrorists liquidated were planning more attacks and sometimes were moving to attack. After all, Buckley described the Israeli raids as "pre-emptive." What could be more ethical than preemptively eliminating terrorists about to murder civilians, again? Just as pirates are to be taken dead or alive, according to international law, so should terrorists be given no quarter.
Buckley also speculates on whether the accused really were Hamas commanders of terrorist raids. That decision, too, is Israel's to make. Besides, in war, one does not first have to investigate whether enemy commanders had seen action, before attacking them. I think that Israel should wipe out the entire terrorist force in the PA, which would include all members of the 9-10 PA "police" forces, the Tanzim, and other PLO and non-PLO militias such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The problem with overly-punctilious moralists is they end up favoring immorality. Buckley and others ought to appreciate Israel's unique surgical approach compared to the US's usual scattergun approach. Israel is minimizing civilian casualties. The West's failure to appreciate what Israel is doing, and its failure to reproach the Arab terrorists for what they are doing, indicates that to the Western governments and media, ethics is a tool of policy and policy is a tool of bias and corporate interests. When will ethics govern politics? Western righteousness is contemptibly hypocritical.
Israel has a just cause -- both self-defense and national self-determination in its own homeland - and uses just means. The Arabs have an unjust cause - aggression and attempt to deny Jewish self-determination - and uses unjust means. Nevertheless, commentators rebuke Israel on its means and its cause, and advocate the cause of the Arabs, regardless of their means.
"Israel's Right to Self-Defense" was the subject of Michael Kelly's "NY Post" column. He disputes the moral equating of killing on both sides, because the Arabs are the aggressors, with the strategic aim of forcing "an emotionally exhausted Israel to surrender on terms that would threaten Israel's viability." Instead of fighting Israeli forces directly, they concentrate on Israeli civilians. Israel has acted defensively. (He means that they don't fight to win, only to thwart attacks) Israel has kept Arab civilian casualties to a minimum.
After two restaurant suicide bombings that killed 35 and wounded over a hundred, Sec. of State Powell said, "I hope that both sides will act with restraint." He was being morally equivalent, i.e., immoral: more than "stupid, it is indefensible." Why should Israel be restrained and what business is it of Powell's? This is war and Israel is losing (8/15, p.27). The Arabs don't exercise restraint.