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Moral confusion on the Left

Amanda Marcotte at the Pandagon blog objects to Israel’s tactics in its war on Hezbollah, and laments the “absence” of a more peace-loving viewpoint in the media (and presumably among Americans in general):

The fear of the Wingnutteria whining has turned the mainstream media into the biggest bunch of cowards you ever saw; meanwhile the right wing press is unafraid and this has made them less constrained on the subject of this war.

The mainstream media is most definitely not blindly backing Israel. Take for example CNN correspondent Nic Robertson’s gullible participation in a Hezbollah propaganda stunt. No, the MSM is predominantly left-leaning and tends to support the “talk-talk-talk” strategy for warfighting, as advocated by liberals like UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland (who at least condemns Hezbollah, to his credit).
As for the right wing press (whatever that means beyond “Eeeeeevil Fox News”) being “less constrained”, I have to plead ignorance of exactly what she’s complaining about. Is it that conservatives generally support Israel’s right to strike back hard against Hezbollah and eliminate that terrorist organization for good? Or is some kook on the right advocating genocide? If so, I’ll happily label him a kook of the first order.

The problem with that is when Israel does something so obviously odious as killing innocent civilians and holding them culpable for what an unsanctioned organization does, well, even just straightforward reporting is going to seem critical.

Doesn’t the population of a country bear at least some responsibility for what the country does or what it allows to happen inside its borders? A goodly number of liberals seem to think so when the country in question is America. Otherwise why apologize at all?
The Lebanese government was elected by the Lebanese, and it shares some responsibility with the citizens in allowing Hezbollah to rocket Israeli civilians and kidnap Israeli soldiers inside Israel. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Israel to hold all of the Lebanese people partly culpable for allowing Hezbollah to start a war. What is it that exempts Lebanese civilians from culpability for their government’s behavior, while we’re on the hook for America’s policies?
And please remember that Hezbollah did start this war. Until this month Israel hasn’t occupied a single square inch of Lebanon since 2000. Hezbollah doesn’t want to end an occupation; it wants to eliminate Israel. If that doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re wilfully blind to reality and nothing can persuade you otherwise.

It�s not just the media, either. There was a bit of a dust-up on Punkass Marc�s post on how he thinks Ned Lamont is going to be politics-as-usual because of his refusal to criticize Israel openly for what seems to be obviously wrong, which is, of course, killing innocents with such a slim excuse.

Lebanese civilians die despite Israel’s best efforts, while Israeli civilians live despite Hezbollah’s best efforts.
There’s no “slim excuse” here. Innocent civilians die in war. It’s tragic and it’s sadly unavoidable. The difference to keep in mind here is that Israel does not intentionally target civilians, but Hezbollah does. Hezbollah also sets up its rocket launchers and bunkers in the middle of innocent civilian concentrations precisely because they want those civilians to die. Every Israeli targeting error becomes a propaganda coup for the Islamists. Every time.
Even then, Israel refuses to carpet-bomb entire towns. Instead it drops leaflets and broadcasts radio warnings to civilians urging them to evacuate the areas the IDF plans to attack. They don’t have to do that. Those announcements tell Hezbollah long in advance to mass where the attack will come, and makes for higher casualties among the IDF’s troops. Yet Israel warns Lebanese civilians anyway. That doesn’t strike me as the behavior of a nation bent on wholesale slaughter.
When an attack finally begins, the IDF attempts to strike only Hezbollah targets. Wantonly killing civilians doesn’t make any strategic sense; Israel wants a peaceful Lebanon on its northern border, and slaughtering the Lebanese doesn’t help achieve that goal. Bombs aren’t perfect, and neither are pilots or artillerymen. The IDF doesn’t have weapons as precise as our own, so they unfortunately cause more deaths among the civilian population during a battle.
Also, keep in mind that the Hezbollah terrorists very often fight wearing civilian clothes, so it’s reasonable to conclude that many of the “civilian” dead are actually Hezbollah fighters.
But be of good cheer. We’re getting ready to send the IAF more precise munitions like GPS-guided bunker buster bombs that will further limit civilian casualties. You folks at Pandagon surely approve, right?
As an aside, one commenter seems to think that Israel is the bad guy just because more Lebanese have died than have Israelis. Amanda doesn’t voice this view, but I hear it quite often among lefties. Applying this logic to World War II would have made Japan, Germany and Italy the victims of a disproportionally aggressive America. After all, the Axis suffered more losses than we did.

The problem is — if I�m free to say so without dredging up the operant conditioning debate — is that whenever the fear of having right wingers equate criticism of Israel with being an anti-Semite makes a liberal or even just a journalist engage in self-censorship, that emboldens the right and undermines our position.

I’m a right winger and I’m not going to claim that Amanda’s anti-Semitic. I have no evidence to suggest it, so I’ll go with my default assumption: she’s sincere and means well. She also happens to be morally confused. Her well-intentioned concern for the innocent who die in war is so intense that she’s blind to reality.
Israel is the victim here, and Hezbollah is the aggressor. What would Amanda have Israel do, if it may not destroy an implacable enemy devoted to its demise and unconstrained by the rules of civilized conduct? Talk-talk-talking with Islamists doesn’t work. Nor does trading land for Islamist promises of peace. Israel tried both, and the Islamists responded with suicide bombers, thousands of rockets and multiple kidnappings. If a military response isn’t kosher, what’s the viable alternative?

Right now there�s a general feeling that the two views on this �conflict� are �Kick some ass, Israel!� and �Some fringe elements seem to think it�s a shame that innocent civilians will have to suffer while Israel kicks some righteous ass.� Far be it for [sic] me to be a party pooper and wish that we could broaden the discourse just a little so that a viewpoint that allows that there�s something terribly wrong about killing innocent people could be included.

So broaden the discourse. If an Israeli military response to Hezbollah attacks is out of the question, suggest something else that’ll work.