Culture, Global, Politics

What Went Wrong

I’m sorry to bring up the same old point again, but apparently I’m missing something. A past president of the OU, and a former executive vice president of the Religious Zionists of America thinks that the problem with the war was that we did not kill enough civilians. He seems to think that Israel should have followed the pattern set by America when it firebombed Dresden and napalmed the Viet Cong. This person who has spent a large part of his life defining what it means to be a religious Jew says it all, so beautifully, in words that seem to have come directly from the prophets themselves.

Israel must totally destroy the building [sic] under which the bunkers lie. Let the terrorists suffocate and let not one Israeli soldier die, in the name of minimizing “civilian” casualties. Justice, morality and the need to survive demands no less!

Please excuse me for not wanting to call myself Orthodox.

31 thoughts on “What Went Wrong

  1. I’m not Orthodox but excuse me for hating the idea that anyone would lump me in the same category as you. Since you obviously can’t remember what happened a few weeks ago or likely any week, let’s continue with what Dr. Ganchrow said in his blog which was a rebuttal to Amnesty international’s report and really a great rebuttal against you too:
    How not unexpected is the attack on Israel by Amnesty International for its bombing campaign in Lebanon against Hezbollah,accusing them of” war crimes”.
    Not mentioned are the 4000 rockets against indiscriminate civilian targets in N.Israel.
    Not mentioned are the 16,000 homes and civilian shops destroyed in that area by Hezbollah.
    Not mentioned are the Israeli civilian casualties,and the 1 million Israelis forced
    to endure for one month in shelters.
    Not mentioned are the 1000 rockets by Hamas against civilian targets in S. Israel,starting the day that Israel withdrew from Gaza.
    Not mentioned is the failure of Hezbollah and Hamas to allow Red Cross visitation to the kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
    Not mentioned is the continuous violations of International law,when Hezbollah not wear uniforms, and hide within civilian homes and areas ,and use their weapons of destruction intermittently (so as to allow Amnesty the ability to claim that Israel has violated international law,when they respond).
    If anything as I wrote two days ago,too many Israeli military lives were lost because they went out of their way to avoid civilian casualties.
    Where is Amnesty Int. as hundreds of civilians are slaughtered each day in Iraq, in the name of Islam?
    Who is guilty of “war crimes”?
    Israel trying to protect itself from an unprovoked attack, or Amnesty Intrnational protecting the 2006 version of Naziism?
    One final point!
    In international law the response of a nation that has been attacked,is not proportional to the damage incurred,but to the threat!

  2. Yeah, I know it’s like, a bummer dude. But this man speaks the truth. The only way the Nazis and Japanese imperialists were defeated was with overwhelming force. We rebuilt their economies after we decimated them militarily and destroyed these totalitarian states. I know we all wish we lived in a world where reason, dialog and general well wishing would solve these problems. But reality has a way of inserting its head into the picture.
    Historian Jeffrey Herf delivered the following remarks at a forum on the theme of “does terror have a history,” sponsored by the Center for Historical Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park on October 8, 2001. I think he is spot on.
    “Osama Ben Laden and Al Qaeda emerge in a melange of a global political culture in which elements of leftist anti-globalization discourse and reruns of fascist and Nazi visions of Jewish conspiracies merge with religious passions. Religion marks the clearest difference from the secular religions of the twentieth century…Yet in the most crucial matters, such as its attitude toward death and suicide, and its stance toward rationality, it appears closer to the fascist and Nazi than it is to the Communist past. While the stand-off with Soviet Communism could end with its peaceful implosion, the only way the threat of terrorism inspired by radical Islam can end is, as was the case with fascism and Nazism, through its military defeat.”
    “[A]as in World War II, we are in a race against time. However complex, long-term and multi-faceted our assault on terrorism will be, it must include, as the Bush administration has made clear, the military defeat of this network. In contrast to the response of the authoritarian Austro-Hungarian empire to the assassination of June 1914 in Sarajevo, the United States is responding to the mass murder of September 11th as it should, namely by seeking to isolate the terrorists from the rest of the Islamic world, to underscore that they have no solutions to any of the problems they mention, that the era in which they can kill others with impunity has come to an end and that the democracy and democracies which they regard as decadent and weak are in fact capable of both judicious as well as powerful capacity to make a war which will end in their destruction. Terrorists in the twentieth century repeatedly made the error of assuming that liberal democracies were weak and vulnerable. Al Qaeda is making the same mistake of believing its own propaganda about our reluctance to fight and defeat them.”
    The solution to this problem is militarily defeating the totalitarians. Not negotiation, not diplomacy.

  3. It’s so easy huh Josh? It’s so easy to say: “Man, I hate brutal cops”…”Polution sucks”…
    There’s a time for everything. And there’s a time for war. And if you’re going to go to war, you go at it 100%, or you’ll pay the price in the future. And we’ll pay the price. And i’m sure you’ll be the first one to post: ” Wow man, this, like, totally sucks. Why does everyone hate us?”

  4. Dude, I don’t agree with the paragraph you quoted either, but give the Ortho-bashing a break. “Orthodox” doesn’t mean whatever you don’t like. There’s a lot more diversity in the Orthodox community than in any of the Liberal movements. Grow up. Orthodox people don’t exist to be your strawmen.

  5. Josh-
    It looks like we finally agree on something. You don’t want to call yourself Orthodox. And speaking as an Orthodox person, I have no problem with that.
    Come up with your own solution before you condemn that of other people.

  6. Do you also refuse to call yourself an American because this Union was held together when General Sherman began targeting the Confederacy’s civilian infrastructure?
    warp back to WW2 and imagine we were losing the war against Nazism because the Nazis were hiding behind civilian targets we refused to bomb them, would you still be as disgusted by someone who said that the solution was more aggressive bombing tactics?
    And if so the real distinction is not between whether or not you’re opposed to such tactics, but how gravely you measure the circumstances we’re facing. If not, then you would prefer to see the Holocaust completed then do what’s needed to stop its perpetrators.

  7. One of the reasons many of us were concerned about this war is that it very difficult to win a war without harming civilians, even against an enemy that seeks to minimize its civilians death.
    All the more so against an enemy that does not seek to minimiize it own civilians death. More still when the enemy is embedded within a civilian population.
    But while I still don’t think that this would have proven effective, Dr. Granchow is 100% correct that it was even less likely to achieve the desired results without being willing to inflict massive collateral damage.
    This is realpolitik. It is severe and brutal. But it is not blanketly napalming an area. And it makes sense if you are going to go to war.
    And if I am going to go to war (which I was not really convinced was a good idea here, and signalled as such in an earlier post) I would want to do so under the command of the former Executive Director of the Orthodox Union than the likes of Josh.
    Under Josh, we would definitely get our asses kicked.
    I’ll stick with Granchow where we have a fighting chance.

  8. Wow, you guys are really incredible with your attacks. It’s almost like you didn’t even read Josh’s post, or understand it.
    Somewhere, there’s got to be a line between self defense and “kill em all, let Gd sort em out”. And it doesn’t seem that Dr. Ganchrow cares so much about that line. Can we establish all the deaths in Lebanon as civilian? not completely. But to suggest all Lebanese casualties were hezbollah is also impossible, and I think insane.

  9. Israel has lived on its sword since birth. First, by necessity. Now, by choice. It’s an ingrained habit of mind – called militarism by some. Jewish survival does not trump all other values, every single time. There are some crimes so wrong, that they must not be committed even in the name of self preservation. Judaism recognized this: murder and incest come to mind.
    I’d rather die prepared to meet my maker than live with the stain of murdering babies to survive. I’d rather Israel evolve and change into a state of all its citizens, living in full equality, then live forever as a Jewish surpremacist state.

  10. Ruby, I read it and I understood it. So did most of the people commenting on it. Josh is upset that totalitarians need to be defeated militarily and that means killing of many of them as we can, destroying the terrorist infrastrcutre, &c.
    Very few people here are saying all the Lebanese civilian casualties were Hezbollah members but more than a few people think the majority of the civilians were Hezbollah sympathizers. Whether they are or not misses the point which is in all wars civilians die. Every single war. There are no exceptions. Given this fact, the next issue is do we–the U.S.A., Israel and all other democratic nations–want to win the war against Islamist totalitarians? I say absolutely yes, no ifs and or buts.

  11. This has been done to death, no pun intended, but I’ll try one again:
    There is all the difference in the world between (a) attacking military targets, even if you suspect or even know for a certainty that civilians will be killed, and even if the civilians are numerous, and even if you aren’t positive about the military status of the target but you have reason to believe it’s a military target, and (b) indiscriminate slaughter.
    I’m getting tired of people who can’t see this obvious difference, whether through their own obtuseness or in order to score cheap propaganda points. There may be people who wouldn’t want to attack in the manner described under (a); I think they’re wrong, but let them make their argument. It’s equalizing (a) and (b) that I think is unacceptable.

  12. “There is all the difference in the world between (a)…and (b)…”
    Absolutely. And the people claiming Israel is guilty of (b) are the usual suspects: the far left (anarchists/communists), the far right (fascists) and their pals the “resistance” i.e. the Islamists.
    Birds of a feather….
    We’ve been told by these same people that Israel has been engaging in indiscrimate slaughter for such a long time (50 years) that its gotten pretty old at this point.

  13. i think some very good points are being made here. we need to bomb more people, and steal more land. that will make us more secure.

  14. I like that “steal more land” line. And when did you stop beating your wife, sir?
    And of course, a thorough study of history shows that bombing more people never has any connection to security. Where do people get these ideas?

  15. Could your not wanting to be “orthodox” which is a religious classification, have something to do with things other than politics?

  16. The left is off in this debate. It is rare that anyone wants to kill more civilians or damage civilian infrastructure. The question is whether we are willing to against an enemy that uses human shields. If we are not, we might as well begin evacuating Tel Aviv today.

  17. If nothing else, this post demonstrates that the Tikkun crowd is a minority on Jewschool. They’re vocal, and they’re allowed to post, but they’re the minority. Kinda like Neuterei Karta..small, loud and lost.

  18. As it is almost Shabbat, please excuse me for writing such a hasty post. Perhaps, discussion would better be served by waiting until Sunday. However, I feel a need to respond, so please bear with me. First, I have fully and always supported the right of the State of Israel to protect itself. In particular, I have supported the state in this war since its first day. I was fully prepared and expected to fight in it. I even had my miluim bag fully packed, yet my unit was not called. However, despite that perfect readiness to fight, kill and die, I have tried, on this forum, to reflect and understand the ethical underpinnings of war.
    It has been very difficult, and I do not understand things fully. However, I have insisted on sticking to a basic premise of both Judaism and Western ethical philosophy: the infinite value of human life. While it is certainly justified to take life on occasion, such an occasion is a momentous one and needs to be understood. As well, I have discussed, without passing judgement, the basic reality of soldiering in which we kill people, even if it is not easy to rationally justify it.
    What struck me about Dr. Ganchrow’s post, and why I decided to write about it, was his seeming disregard for such issues. His attack on the I.D.F. for not following America’s lead in Dresden and Vietnam frightened me. The firebombings he referred to killed countless numbers of innocent people, and their moral and military correctness is not simple. To say that Israel is wrong, is injust, for showing restraint, for not killing civilians, is disturbing. Further, in the section that I quoted on the blog, Dr. Ganchrow makes explicit the underlying error that I am trying to combat. That is the devaluing of life because it is Lebanese. If human life has value, it has value on its, regardless of what passport a person carries. However, Dr. Ganchrow does not feel that way. For him, any number of Lebanese may be killed to protect the life of one Israeli wearing green.
    As a traditionally observant Jew that is generally referred to as being Orthodox, who has spent years in Orthodox yeshivot, that has been involved in the leadership of Orthodox institutions, and that is strongly considering enrolling in an Orthodox rabbinical school, statements like these from other nominally Orthodox Jews, and community leaders in particular, infuriate me. When I see the basic Torah values of tzedek and mishpat ignored in order to justify a certain view of the State of Israel it makes me mad, and it makes me embarrassed to consider myself an Orthodox Jew.

  19. shtreimel, based on what? That 4 or 5 people posted multiple comments? Sorry, but that’s hardly scientific.
    Also, Jeffery Herf is a total asshat. He doesn’t even know that Nazism and Fascism are right-wing authoritarian. Hardly compatible with anti-authoritarian, anti-globalization anarchists. But this is the current LIE the right is peddling that somehow the left sympathizes with Al-Queda. If anything, the islamofascists and christofascists are two peas in the same pod. I just wonder if the commenters really believe that America is ready to bring back the draft in order to fight in Iran. Current polling indicates this is not the case, even if Iran got a nuclear weapon. Sorry, even lies about WMD won’t work this time around.

  20. Let’s pretend, for argument’s sake and just for a moment or two, that the reflexive idiotic comparisons of Saddam Hussein and Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad to the Nazi war machine in World War II were not prima facie evidence of a congenital brain defect. To then extend the analogy, let’s also assume that in 1945, Roosevelt got on the radio and informed the American public that not only did the Allied forces have no idea where to find Hitler, but that the Army had disbanded the unit dedicated to locating him. In short order, Roosevelt would quickly – and deservedly – be branded the most criminally negligent hack ever to sit his ass on a White House toilet, much less in the Oval Office, and demands for his immediate impeachment would issue from every editorial page and Congressional office in the United States.
    ust as they should for Bush.
    Thank God, Americans have wised up enough to recognize that Bush’s little adventure in Iraq has absolutely nothing to do with any war on terrorism, no matter how many really impressive acronyms (G.W.O.T.) the Republicans use to dazzle their moronic faithful. The precise reason we have been left virtually defenseless against Iran is that the Republicans have spent virtually every ounce of our military resources and political capital on a vanity warmongering project in Iraq, a circumstance that was immediately apparent from the day the bloodthirsty thugs started their saber-rattling 5 years ago. This is a level of sheer incompetence that’s been equaled only on extremely rare occasions in U.S. history, a number of them within the past 6 years that this administration has managed to make our country the most hated political entity on the planet.
    But, of course, Saddam Hussein no more resembles Hitler — and, indeed, does so far less — than dozens of other murderous third-world butchers such as Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and Charles Taylor, on whom the United States managed to avoid wasting thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. Nonetheless, it was as a result of Bush’s unique combination of arrogance and stupidity that Saddam became the focus of this government’s war-making capacity, rather than, oh say, Osama Bin Laden, the man personally responsible for the death of 3,000 Americans. “Quit fighting”???? How about if we START fighting, a process that can commence with the exhaustive Congressional investigations that will be launched following the November elections.

  21. WEVS1:
    Incidentally, I didn’t have a chance to draft a response to your comment from a few days ago, addressing, inter alia, the differences between two basic varieties of political opposition, i.e., that which attributes disagreement to a mistaken – but good faith – dispute over relevant facts, and another that attributes such disagreement to the corrupt, concealed, and dishonest motives of one’s opponents. I plan to, though, because your analysis was trenchant, highly relevant, and well worth further discussion. Indeed, if it were more widely recognized, we could, at the very least, more easily distinguish between those discussions that have the potential to produce some meaningful insights, and those that consist of little more than coming up with more inventive ways of telling our opponents to fuck off.

  22. Hey, Mob (or any other technical wiz in charge):
    Anything to be done about reversing the automatic italics? Let’s face it: the prose around here isn’t competing with Hemingway for transparency, and adding further visual challenges doesn’t help matters much.

  23. Nicholas, Professor Herf is far more knowledgeable than yourself about totalitarianism. He’s written extensively on the issue and has devoted a decent chunk of his life to understanding totalitarian movements. He is, by all measures, an expert.
    The reference to anarchist terrorism, I believe, is to propaganda by the deed. This tactic was endorsed by anarchists in Spain, Italy, France, Russia and the United States. Some of the people who consider themselves anarchists today are aparently unaware that there is a tradition of political violence in anarchist ideology.
    The contemporary anarchist milieu is a pale simulacrum of the creative and intelligent anarchism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It *was* a vibrant libertarian political movement that was vocal and physical in its confrontation of authoritarianism. By contrast, the politics and ideas of the contemporary anarchists are very similar to the authoritarian socialists you protest with, not against. Anarchists should be fighting these people in the streets. And I write this, not with pride, but disappointment. As a former anarchist activist and someone who studies and writes about the history of the anarchist movement this is nothing to be happy about.
    “He doesn’t even know that Nazism and Fascism are right-wing authoritarian.”
    Hayek would disagree with you on that. And remember, the ideological and organizational foundations of the fascist movement in Italy were on the left, not the right. Many syndicalists became fascists as well.

  24. David Smith:
    I think we all believe in the justness or righteousness of our own political positions. This makes it psychologically difficult to see our own bias. But, as human beings, I think we are stuck between bias and ignorance.
    Most of the political decisions being made by the federal, state, even local bureacracies are so complex we really don’t know what’s going down. In order to compensate we rely on heuristics, or for those of us who are crazy about politics, more complex heuristics we call ideologies. In either case they are a form of intellectual shortcut to allow us to get around actually understanding the complexity of an issue. Without special knowledge we are ignorant of what is actually happening. But, the more knowledgeable we become about an issue, the historical context, etc. the more biased we get. This is one of the things I research so it is of great interest to me. Here’s a link:
    Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases
    Shankar Vedantam
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    “Partisans, it turns out, don’t just arrive at different conclusions; they see entirely different worlds…”
    I tried to answer your other questions as well. In particular my thoughts on what a centrist position on rendition, military tribunals, etc. is. Or at least my individual opinions on these things.
    Take it easy.

  25. “To say that Israel is wrong, is injust, for showing restraint, for not killing civilians, is disturbing.”
    I say that entering a war and not doing everything in your power to acheive a quick and decisive victory is disturbing. War is an ugly business but it is even ugglier when political carreerism and the whims of popular opinion take precedent over the opinions and concerns of generals. Let me be clear, I am not in favor of the military controlling the state but in matters of war, the military should be given more control of policy. I think if they had, the IDF would have had greater success against Hezbollah and we (the U.S.) would be in much less of a mess in Iraq.

  26. “When you go to besiege a city do not cut down fruit-bearing trees”
    If a Jewish army is so commanded regarding a tree what are some of you thinking regarding killing innocent human beings.
    I do not think that people who hide rockets and aid the enemy
    are “civilians” Every bomb and bullet has it’s target designated
    by a divine being and as such He knows who is “innocent”

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