Thoughts that just come to me...
and the actions of Israel
Published on July 31, 2006 By Genghis Hank In Politics
(The following definitions are from dictionary.com)

war n.
A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties.
A concerted effort or campaign to combat or put an end to something considered injurious: the war against acid rain.

pun•ish•ment n.
A penalty imposed for wrongdoing: “The severity of the punishment must... be in keeping with the kind of obligation which has been violated” (Simone Weil).

Over the past weeks we have heard many voices calling for the condemnation of Israel for their “disproportionate response” in the current crisis in Lebanon. Some decry that “600 lives are not worth 3 soldiers”, or “It’s not fair to punish the civilians of Lebanon for the acts of Hezbollah”.

Well, I agree. 600 lives are not worth 3, or 100, or 1000. There isn’t any math for that kind of equation. Life is individually unique and can not be easily quantified to say any one is more, less, or equal to another. And it’s not fair that civilians in Lebanon have died, but life is never fair except when men stand up and make it so. But is it fair to Israel that the citizens of Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to set up shop in their neighborhood? Is it fair to Lebanon that Hezbollah put them in this position to begin with?

But this idea that Lebanon is being punished brings up a point that I think has been lost on much of the world. It echoes a familiar refrain for me, as I remember the arguments not that long ago against invading Afghanistan having the same theme. It’s not fair to punish a country for the acts of some people in it. And yes, I can even agree to this point.

But war is not punishment. The army is not a police force. There is no sentence being carried out enacted by any judicial authority. War is about change. War is conducted to end or change a policy, action, or condition that is otherwise considered to unbearable to continue living with.

The United States did not enter the war in Afghanistan to “punish” the Afghan civilians, but to end what we considered a real threat to our civilians, namely, the safe harbor the Taliban provided to Al Qaeda. Likewise, Israel entered war not to punish Lebanon’s people, but to bring an end to a threat they considered was too dangerous to live with.

I understand why those who seek sympathy for Hezbollah wish to couch the discussion in the terms of punishment and disproportionate response. If this were about Israel acting in a police role against individual citizens, this may be appropriate. But Hezbollah has by it’s actions and words elevated itself out of the realm of a citizen group and into the realm of an army, one that is very good at asymmetrical warfare. Armies aren’t arrested, they are warred upon.

But what about the rest of Lebanon? Civilians die in wars, and have since time before time. It is a tragedy, but one that is unfortunately part of the human experience. But what is more tragic is allowing a half war to continue to prolong the misery and deaths of people to continue for generations. It would be better to have a quick war that resulted in the cause of the conflict being solved than to prolong it with untenable cease fires and acts of terror, tyranny, and war flair-ups. But again, people will only have fairness and peace when those people decide to do so.

I think that if we could take the “punishment” rhetoric out of our discussions we could move further along to finding something more constructive to do than argue.

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