25 July 2006

On Taking the Moral High Ground

Columnist John Podhoretz asks an interesting question in a New York Post op-ed:
What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?
He goes on to imply that Israel should wage all-out war against Lebanese civilians in an effort to stamp out Hezbollah. In other words, he argues that Israel's best strategy is to ruthlessly victimize a largely innocent populace in order to eliminate a terrorist organization.

Podhoretz obviously believes he's being edgy and thinking outside the box here. He goes so far as to compare Israel's invasion of Lebanon with the firebombing of Dresden and the United States' nuking of Japan. But his argument is deeply flawed for at least three reasons:

1.) Hezbollah is not a universally supported, state-sponsored regime. It is, rather, a subgroup of the nation, and to punish every person in Lebanon for Hezbollah's actions is morally repugnant because it implies that every Lebanese citizen is complicit in the terrorist actions of a few.

2.) The U.S. and Britain were not necessarily in the right in their massive attacks on civilian populations. At the very least, there is a school of thought that says our second nuclear bombing of Japan -- specifically, Nagasaki -- was for the benefit of gaining face with Russia rather than for bringing a quick and less painful end to the war.

3.) The West -- and nations that we support -- must refrain from using massive strikes on innocent people as a strategy in any fight against terrorist organizations. For one thing, it is counterproductive, since it is more likely to increase resistance than to eliminate it. But for another, slaughtering civilian populations in order to get rid of opposition is a terrorist tactic. If we surrender our moral high ground by stooping to our enemies' level, we are in effect reinforcing their view of the world rather than proposing an alternative.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said.