Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Morally Clueless? Megan McArdle on Israel-Palestine

Megan McArdle's the economics blogger at the Atlantic. She's usually very sharp. Today, though, she's faltering. We see this in her essay, "The Problem With Israel-Palestine Blogging," where the fatal flaw of her libertarian (and apparently amoral) epistemology is revealed:

Everyone engaged in it is interested in proving that one side is righter than the other. Since no action in the region has occurred without plausible provocation for 4,000 years or so, this requires constantly shifting the metrics by which you measure whichever side you happen to favor. Point out that Israel is killing a lot of civilians and you are told that they had to do something in response to the Hamas rockets. Point out that practically, the response they chose has absolutely no strategic or tactical benefit, and a huge potential downside, and you are castigated for your lack of moral outrage about Hamas's attacks on civilians. Either Israel is doing this because it hopes to gain something, in which case the whole thing is hopelessly ass-backwards - they are strengthening Hamas and worsening their international political position - or it thinks that it's okay to kill boatloads of civilians purely for revenge against Hamas; revenge for attacks that have so far killed and injured almost no one. This rather undercuts the argument of moral superiority, because guess what? That's what Hamas thinks it's doing.

On the other side, there's a tendency to forget, or forget to mention, that whatever the provocation, a plurality-to-majority of Palestinians constantly and actively wish to kill large numbers of Israelis purely for revenge. Gaza wants to be at war with Israel, and then hide behind the protections of not-quite-war, because they haven't the foggiest hope of winning anything like a real war.

I'm of Northern Irish descent, and I grew up in New York City in a mostly Jewish high school, and so as you can imagine, I've heard all the arguments about who's really to blame about a zillion times. And all I get out of it in the end is that the whole thing makes me sick and sad. I don't see any untainted victims. I see a bunch of people who have been stomped on by history beating up each other in revenge for past wrongs that can't be righted, lashing out whenever they think they can get away with it without losing the foreign funding that allows them to continue the fun. And I don't ever blog about it because one is not allowed to have an opinion on the matter - no matter what I say, I'll be excusing terrorism or, irrelevantly, the holocaust, or shilling for western imperialism.

The saddest, truest thing that I've ever heard about the conflict is a friend who said that it seems to him like a stable equilibrium. In that spirit, I'm turning comments off on this post. Happy New Year.
After all of this, McArdle suggests that it's "sad" there's a "stable equlibrium." Why would one who adopts a position of moral equivalence be "sad" if the Middle East balance of power is at a "stable equilibrium"? Considering that materially Israel is thousands of times more powerful than Hamas and the rump-Palestian Authority, such parity - if demonstrated as objectively true - should be seen as a disaster for Israel's survival as a sovereign state and a boon to those who see Palestinian terrorists as morally equal.

Not only that, McArdle's not very good at posing hypotheticals. If she or anyone she knows has actually said that Israel's response "has absolutely no strategic or tactical benefit, and a huge potential downside," then frankly she has no business talking about Middle East international politics (or she needs to
spend some time with Zbigniew Brzezinski). Israel planned, for two years, last weekend's airstrikes down to the finest detail. The overwhelming number of those killed were Hamas terrorists, and the civilian lives would have been spared had not Palestinian rocket depots been set up within civilian residential lodgings. The airstrikes and likely ground incursion have restored strategic confidence to the Israelis, and breaking the Hamas resistance may well be key to success on West Bank diplomacy.

But the "4,000 years" thing is particularly a killer. Conflict in the Middle East - while driven fundamentally by religion - is existentially about national sovereignty, and that systemic element is the basis for this crisis of states and national peoples, which dates back roughly 100 years to, say, the Balfour Declaration. There really was no "Palestianian" people at that times. Bedouin and nomadic peoples of Arab extraction would be the most accurate ethnic designation. The push for a true Palestinian "nation" is a 20th century phenomenon. Prior to this, the Ottoman empire maintained authority across the region, and the grand muftis and Arab grandees enjoyed power, prestige, and privilege under a what was essentially an imperial Islamic caliphate. As for "plausible provocations," since 1948 - when Israel was established with the blessings and legitimacy of international law, embodied by the will of the United Nations, and out of the existential bleakness of the European Shoah - Israel has been in a constant state of siege, fighting at least a half-a-dozen wars and with roughly a third of the nations of the world calling essentially for the elimination of the Jewish state in Eretz Israel.

Much has been written this last few days on Israel's "disproportionate" response. Readers can check my blogging tags below for some of my earlier posts. Here I'm simply going to let Melanie Phillips have the (next to the) last word, drawing on her powerful essay from earlier this year, "
This Blog And (Some of) Its Readers":

I have noticed a persistent complaint by some readers posting comments on my blog entries which I think requires some comment and clarification ... They seem to believe that it is wrong for me to write about Israel as often as I do ... Some of these readers, as is painfully obvious from their comments, simply have a big problem with Jews – at least, Jews who identify with and defend the Jewish people. But others, whose instincts may be rather more decent, seem to be labouring under one or two misapprehensions. So let me make a number of things clear ....

... the reason why Israel figures so heavily in any discussion about the predicaments of our era is that Israel is the defining moral issue of our time. It is Israel, and the century-old existential onslaught against the Jewish people in its ancient homeland, which stands at the very centre of the titanic fight by truth against lies, fact against propaganda, freedom against totalitarianism, liberty against slavery, justice against injustice and reason against irrationality in which the entire free world is currently engaged. Israel is the quintessential canary in the mine. It is the front-line in the defence of the free world. If it goes down, the rest of us will go down. Those who are on the wrong side of the Israel issue are on the wrong side in the great struggle for civilisation against barbarism. That is why I return to it again and again.
I would only add that it seems chauvinistic and ethnically-insulting for McArdle to suggest that growing up "in New York City in a mostly Jewish high school" gives her some kind of superior insight to Israel's predicament. Having said that, McArdle's nevertheless smart to close comments on her post. Israel-Palestine's the hottest of the international hot-button issues, and Lord knows it brings out the nastiest of the fever-swamp nasties.

Hat Tip: Memeorandum.


Reliapundit said...



Laura Lee - Grace Explosion said...


These Islamicists are so sick, that the civilians they willfully put in the line of Israeli bombs targeted at terrorists were suicide-bombees victims. Hamas has suicide bombers they send into Israel - and suicide-bombees they place between terrorists and legitimate warfare. This is a morally bankrupt hate group that values no life - even of it's own members and citizens.

The terrorists COMMITTED ACTS OF WAR. They continued to send bombs over into Israel... and that is an act of war. There's no sound rational that can state "although an armed combatant commits acts of war - one is not allowed to engage the enemy". Especially when the enemy is genocidal according to a fixed and unchangeable will to commit global genocide against all non-Islamic mankind... merely starting FIRST with the Jew. Their target isn't just "Israel". Their target is the entire world and all people... including Megan.

As for moral equivalency - people are created equal by God. That doesn't mean that their subsequent VALUE SYSTEMS are inherently "equal". The value system of Islam declares genocide on all mankind who do not convert to Islam. The Jews are only the first enemy - the canary in the coal mine. Megan ought to realize - she's next. We all are according to Islam. Islam is a hate group bent on worldwide genocide. There can be no moral equivalency. This Islam political movement of genocide is the most evil hate group on the planet... and needs to be recognized according to the values of it's system that states death and seeks to force all the world under it's totalitarian genocidal political jihad for worldwide domination.

Tell Megan she's on their hit list - and she's next. Then I want to hear how they are battling age old conflict when she tries to stop them from cutting her head off. This is a radical political organization. It's not about "history"... it's about their genocidal manifesto: The Koran and Islam. This is the evil beyond human comprehension... and I think Megan needs to wise up. It's about TODAY!! It's about a manifesto TODAY!! History doesn't matter. The demand for global domination and genocide of ALL who will not submit to Islam is the reality of this political hate group called Islam.


AmPowerBlog said...

Happy New Years' to you, Reliapundit!

AmPowerBlog said...

"This is a morally bankrupt hate group that values no life - even of it's own members and citizens."

You said it right there, Grace!

shoprat said...

God bless Israel and her people.

And Happy New Year.

AmPowerBlog said...

Happy New Year to you, Shoprat!

Law and Order Teacher said...

Happy New Year.

Norm said...

It is truly amazing how Ms. McArdle can blast a thousand words and miss the broad side of the barn. Grace Explosion is absolutely correct. Ms. McArdle either is too stupid or has her head in the sand in avoiding the fact that groups like Hamas want to see Islam control the entire globe. What is driving Hamas absolutely nuts right now is that a religion other than theirs controls a tiny portion of the Middle East. Defeating Israel would just whet their appetite for the balance of the globe. There is no two sides to this war, either Israel wins or the free world is doomed.
I hope 2009 is a happy and healthy for everyone !!!

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely sick.
Whereas the Jewish people have the same right to life and liberty as anyone else, and their recent history does give the world a special responsibility to insure "never again" - it is morally reprehensible for all of you to go to the absurd extreme of giving Israel a blank check to do what it wishes.

The inescapable truth is that Israel has occupied Arab lands for 41 years now, and under all moral standards and international law have had no right whatsoever to do anything with those lands except occupy them militarily in such a manner as to insure they are not used for attacks against Israel - and to facilitate the day when the lands could be turned over to a responsible local government.
But instead of that, Israel has engaged in a 40 year exercise of theft of the land - illegally moving 400000 of its own people onto the land - in direct defiance of international law and American policy.

If I were a Palestinian, I would resist them, with violence if necessary. So would any of you. I see the hysterics that those on the right go through over the illegal Mexican immigrants to this country. Imagine if they all claimed to have a god-given right to take over our country, because they ruled here in the past. All of us would resist.

The way is clear for a peaceful resolution of this issue. it starts with Israel withdrawing from all Arab lands. Till that happens, they should not expect, nor do they deserve any sympathy when people fight them.

AmPowerBlog said...

Anonymous: You're wrong, and you don't address the facts raised at the post.

Also, I don't allow anonymous comments, so you'll be allowed this one comment at this thread. Otherwise, you'll need to create a comment blog with a valid e-mail address in the profile page.

Norm said...

Anonymous, the Arabs occupied Israel by invasion, by force. So according to you, they should withdraw from Israel too. Jews have lived in Israel for over 3000 years.
Even during the disapora Jews lived in Hebron, Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberas, since when did Israel become only Arab land ?

Norm said...

Thank you Phillipe, and all the best for you in 2009 too !

Norm said...

Thank you Phillipe, and all the best for you in 2009 too !

Anonymous said...

NOrm what on earth are you talking about? You ever heard of the Zionist immigration, ie the first alliyah to the fifth alliyah?

You people just make this shit up for kicks? What a joke. I mean seriously NOrm, by your reasoning, the Natives have been the rightful owners of the entire north american continent for thousands of years, don't you think its high time you get your arse out of America?

I certainly do. I think you and mr. American power and friends should pack their bags and scoot. Since you people are great advocates of revising history to a point which suits your needs, I am sure the natives would love to roll back in time where they ruled the west.

Hypocrisy comes easy to you folks huh? Is it a Christian virtue?