The canary in the coal mine

Posted by lex, on August 1, 2006

Suddenly, in the wake of the Qana disaster, Israel’s war against Hizballah seems to be going badly. Whatever moral space was temporarily was ceded to the Jewish state by a generally anti-zionist Europe along with certain parts of the Arab Middle East more usually known for reflexive judenhasse has now seemingly evaporated. The Secretary of State looks ever more bedraggled with each foray into the diplomatic lion’s den – how  much of that could you take ? – while whatever shine once attached has come off the President’s well-earned reputation for stubbornness in defense of what he believes to be right. No one wants to hear it anymore, he is alone, or nearly so.

Suddenly Hizballah, by merely refusing to die in a sufficiently overwhelming ratio to the hapless civilians they hide themselves among, and by continuing to launch rocket attacks against population centers, seems a winner. In the wake of the Iranian-sponsored terror group’s unprovoked, well planned and apparently coordinated attack, it was thought that they had over-reached, perhaps fatally. Hard men on every side in the region cast their eyes to Lebanon, cast their eyes to Syria and Iran, made their customary calculations of power and gain. But even outside those bazaars of human indignity, issues of right or wrong, aggressor and victim have now been lost in the dust following the destruction of a three-story building and the tragic, unintentional deaths of dozens of Lebanese civilians – most of them, as the Hizballah PR machine continues to gloat – women and children.

Is this to be the way we fight in the future? Have we so far evolved in the roughly half century since Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki that we cannot stomach the thought of a single destroyed building and the sad fate of innocents who came between the terror masters and their nemesis? And more importantly, has this our evolution been paralleled by any increase of sensitivity among those with whom we fight?

No, our developments have followed separate tracks. We flail ourselves with Abu Graib, while they post their atrocities on the net, to music.

And now, if Hezbollah “wins” by not losing, we set a new standard for how non-state terrorist actors may squat within failed states. Failed states who, and I’m sure they’re very sorry, cannot muster the strength to actually do anything about those terrorists so long as they’re only killing Jews, or “crusaders.” Failed states that are quick to wave the bloody shirt of victimhood when they get called to help reap a whirlwind sown by their inconvenient guests. Failed states that appeal to a sympathetic world to stop Israel from doing what they themselves could not do, or would not do, but should have done.

We have a new and successful standard on how, not stateless terrorists, but actual nation states might wage war by proxy, those states made wealthy by unearned lucre springing from the ground, made mad from a bankrupt, even lunatic ideology. We have a vision of those states wherein wealth and madness create an especially toxic brew as technology both shrinks the globe and makes it more vulnerable to an evil whose only constraints are not the human suffering incorporate to the acts they undertake, but rather the ever-diminishing limits of their technical capability. 

I have been on strikes where men I knew and trusted hit the wrong targets, where civilians perished who shouldn’t have. I’ve looked into their eyes and seen their pain and horror after discovering what they have done. I’ve seen how the guilt of a simple mistake in an unforgiving environment can shatter everything – everything! – they had always striven for and meant to be as men and as warriors. I’ve sat with them over beers in foreign ports afterwards as they tried to explain what had happened, before finally giving up and saying, “you wouldn’t understand.” I’ve seen how they never really manage to get over it.

And now I’ve seen other men wave the bodies of dead children as though they were slabs of meat, so long as it achieved the desired effect of casting Israel as the aggressor, past all history or logic or reason. And now I’ve seen other men who ought to know better agreeing that they might have a point, and importune upon us to stop the killing, or at least bring it back to a quieter level. The level where only Jews die.

These things are tragedies, but they are not unique in time of war, nor even unique to warfare itself. Horrible things do happen, and these are the consequences of taking up the sword, or returning the blow. If our new standard is that we must be perfect not merely in intent but also execution, then we should admit that there’s nothing that we have left worth fighting for; not our lives, not our way of life, not our freedoms. We should forswear warfare forever.

I wonder how long we’ll last?

At least we have a canary in the coal mine.

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Filed under by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, GWOT, Lex, Neptunus Lex

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