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Breaking the cycle of violence

We are most of us familiar enough with how the cycle of violence works in the Middle East but for those who aren’t here is a quick summary:

1. Palestinian terrorists commit outrage.

2. Israel resolves to do “something”.

3. “Something” turns out to be against international law and attracts international condemnation.

4. “Something” turns into nothing.

5. See 1.

There are two ways out of this. One, Israel does nothing. Two, Israel ignores international law.

The “do nothing” option sounds suspiciously like defeat and generally-speaking that sounds like a bad thing. So, I’m with Israel ignoring international law. Which means rather than all this “Palestinians bombed their own car park” malarkey, I look forward to the day when the Israelis say, “Yes, we bombed the car park. We intended to do it, are proud of the fact and we will continue to bomb car parks and any other target that will lead to the deaths of 500 ‘innocent’ civilians until the Palestinians surrender.”

62 comments to Breaking the cycle of violence

  • Ben David

    Well it’s important to add scare quotes around “international law” – because it is creatively reinterpreted to chastise Israel.
    Israel has never done anything that was not done with impunity – and media indifference – in other conflicts.

  • Kirk

    The simple answer for Israel is to actually do that which they are accused of, and do it to such a degree that everyone agrees it’s way smarter to nod along with them than to oppose them.

    That’s the tactic/technique/procedure that the Moslems have been doing since ferfreakin’ever, and see how it’s worked? You can do artwork mocking Christianity all you like, but when was the last time someone dared produce a “Piss Mohammed”?

    Say what you will about Islamic barbarism, but it does get results. Everyone walks softly around Islamics, gives them space, allows them “room” to do things like honor killings and going after blasphemers and apostates.

    Trust me on this one… Should Mossad start whacking anti-Semites with the same glee and enthusiasm that Islam has gone after, say, Salman Rushdie? Whoo-eee… Observe the sudden and newfound respect all these cowards would have for Jews, world-wide. If the next time some Islamic cleric made a fatwa against the interest of the Jews, instead of turning the other cheek, Israel should just kill him and all of his followers, family members, and family goats. The reason that Jews are everyone’s favorite punching bag is that they’re such good little victims.

    Had the Gestapo and Einsatzgruppen met with the vicious armed resistance that they should have, the enthusiasm for going after the Jews would have been a hell of a lot lower than it was. Part of the ease with which the Jews were dehumanized is that their killers looked at their non-resistance and thought “Wow, they won’t even defend themselves… These aren’t even human beings…”

    Yeah, I get that centuries of oppression and the lower numbers of Jews in the population made that a preferred response for them, but the problem is that it sets precedent and conditions the victimizers to think less of their victims. Had all those pogroms started by the nobility met with a campaign of assassination and revenge from the Jews that were the subject of said pogroms? Had the Jews just cut those stupid bastards off from their services, as well? Yeah; things would have been a bit different. Maybe the Jews would have been wiped out, maybe not… People don’t respect weakness, they respect strength. If you had to worry about some random Jew showing up on your doorstep years after you killed another Jew, and he shot you, burned down your house, and then went after your friends and family in revenge?

    I don’t think people would be so casually anti-Semitic. You pay a price for it? You live in fear, after you kill a Jew? You’re not going to be so likely to go after one.

    The mistake Jews made, throughout the Diaspora, was rolling over and bending with the wind, allowing people to abuse them at will. This has created the situation we see before us, which stems from the rest of the world seeing Jews as easy victims.

    The Israelis have broken part of the code; now they need to digest and grasp the rest of the lesson, the one that the example of Islam has tried teaching them.

    It never works, being the easy victim. All you get is more trouble than you actually avoid.

  • Mr Ed

    I remember the 1982 Hama Massacre in Syria carried out by the Ba’aathist regime of Assad against the local Muslim Brotherhood, effectively the same group as Hamas, operating in Syria.

    Reports as to the numbers killed range from 10,000 to 40,000, and the city was cut off, bombarded and large parts were flattened. There was no pretence of any measured or targeted response.

    It bought Syria internal peace for almost 30 years, at a terrible price.

    Yet were Israel to descend to being even half as brutal as the Ba’athist regime had been, it would lose any moral worth.

  • Kirk

    WTF is “moral worth”, when you’re constantly getting terrorized and slaughtered?

    I don’t think you understand the problem, which is that when you allow “civilized scruples” to be applied to people who don’t reciprocate, you’re setting yourself up for incessant violence.

    Syria’s leadership under the elder Assad understood that. They got peace, and ya know what? I can’t say as I blame them for what they did.

    You cannot answer barbarism with civilized behavior. Doesn’t work. You have to lower yourself to their level, speak to them in the language they understand. Anything else merely signals that you’re a patsy, a victim waiting to happen.

    Which is precisely what Israel has been doing, since day one.

    I guarantee you that had Israel actually slaughtered all of its Arabs back in ’48, the way they’re reputed to have done? They’d be at peace, right now. And, anyway… If you’re going to be blamed for doing that sort of thing no matter what, why the hell should you be bothered when you have to actually do it?

    Moral high ground ain’t worth much, in the final analysis. Survival? Absolutely. That’s worth it, and if you wind up having to do “the necessary” because your enemies force you to? Too bad, so sad… Unless you started it, of course. The Jews unfortunately “started it” in too many minds when they insisted on the right to exist and live peacefully by their own laws.

    Things like this are why I have zero sympathy for the Arabs in what was Israel. They’re like a bunch of spoiled barbarous children who can’t accept that they were incompetently led, lousy soldiers, and got defeated. They still haven’t grasped that fact, and it’s just like the “stab in the back” fairy tale that the Germans told themselves. You want to win a damn war? Win it, and on terms that the enemy understands their defeat. In the case of the Arabs, that’s unfortunately going to mean “slaughter on a biblical scale”.

    They’re slow learners, I fear.

  • Kirk

    And, as for “international law”? Can anyone tell me what “international law” has done for all the Israelis killed down the years? What did it do for the Jews who were thrown out of Islamic nations, penniless, because they happened to be Jewish?

    “International law” is a joke, and because of that, it’s a null concept. Appeals to it are the marker of essentially delusional and unserious people.

  • bobby b

    Assad knew that life is simpler if “moral worth” is considered an unnecessary luxury good.

  • bobby b

    “International law” is a lot like the rules of warfare. Both are designed to inhibit the underdog and keep the powerful from being troubled.

  • snag

    Except that “International Law ” and “war crimes” aren’t whatever some dumb leftist prick on formerlyknownastwitter says they are.

    If Hamas terrorists are sheltering in a school or a hospital (which, duh, they always are) and an Israeli targeted missile takes them out, and at the same kills some schoolchildren, according to actual International Law a war crime has been committed – BUT it is Hamas that has committed it, not the IDF.

  • bobby b

    “BUT it is Hamas that has committed it, not the IDF.”

    Exactly. But you’ll never hear the UN condemn Hamas for it. It will always be Israel’s fault, according to them. Israel is the underdog in this scenario. The UN represents the power.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Speaking for myself, i increasingly identify with the Genghis Khan school of international relations.

    Except that most people would interpret that statement as an endorsement of the tactics used by Hamas. The truth is that barbarians don’t use that sort of tactics: only civilized people do.
    (Not all civilized people, of course: only the most insane.)

    My view of the Genghis Khan school is based on Jack Weatherford’s biography. (Which i have seen described, not without reason, as: Genghis Khan through rose-tinted glasses.)

    See also the last paragraph of my IMDb review of Munich (2005).

  • Kirk

    A huge part of the problem has come from two major issues: One, the US and other Western powers have refused to enforce what there is of “Law of War”. Two, nobody really knows what the hell that consists of, because of that.

    What should have happened all along in Iraq and Afghanistan is that we should have been treating all captured personnel who were out of uniform and not sponsored by a state as exactly what they were under the Law of War: Illegal combatants. Then, having given them fair trials as speedily as possible, they should have been executed out of hand. Period. Same for anyone sheltering in a school, near civilians, using a mosque or other protected building for storage of weapons or shelter for an attack… The list goes on.

    Had we done that? There’d have been no ISIS, because that entity was formed by all the regime prisoners that Obama had the Iraqis release rather than deal with properly. We created ISIS, literally; all of the major players in it were former detainees we’d captured under arms inside Iraq, and then detained at Camp Bucca.

    The process should have been simple: Shooting at Americans or legitimate Iraqi armed forces? Not in uniform? Not affiliated with a state actor as an organized force? Death penalty, after due process. Which should have simply consisted of the nearest field-grade officer conducting a drum-head court martial, and making the appropriate finding.

    Instead, we were “humane”. Which, in this context, is better translated as “irretrievably stupid”.

    There are thousands of dead Yazidis and Kurds that trusted the United States. Same as there are thousands of dead Hmong and Montagnards that did the same, a generation or two ago. My advice? Trust individual Americans, but don’t ever trust their government or anyone working for the US State Department. Those assholes will betray you every time, in the name of “expediency” and so that they can appear as the “good guys” to their Foggy Bottom peers at cocktail parties…

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT international law as it applies to warfare, you might want to watch Eye in the Sky (2015). As thrilling as the above-mentioned Munich (2005), and more thought-provoking.

  • bobby b

    “What should have happened all along in Iraq and Afghanistan is that we should have been treating all captured personnel who were out of uniform and not sponsored by a state as exactly what they were under the Law of War: Illegal combatants. Then, having given them fair trials as speedily as possible, they should have been executed out of hand. Period.”

    The Afghans fighting the Soviets in 1980 – illegal combatants? Most of the American militias fighting the Brits in the Revolution – illegal combatants? Heck, even the fictional Wolverines in Red Dawn – illegal combatants?

    That’s what I mean about the Rulz simply being a way to conserve power wherever it lies.

    It’s like the Queensbury rules in fighting. Go up against a bigger stronger guy, and you’d better kick a groin or poke an eye if you want to live. Cheating? Only in the eyes of the bigger guy, whom the Rulz always favor.

  • jgh

    You’ll never break the cycle when one side does its best to adhere to international law, and the other side are murderous genocidal medaeval fanatics who get off on slaughter.

  • Kirk

    bobby b said:

    The Afghans fighting the Soviets in 1980 – illegal combatants? Most of the American militias fighting the Brits in the Revolution – illegal combatants? Heck, even the fictional Wolverines in Red Dawn – illegal combatants?

    That’s what I mean about the Rulz simply being a way to conserve power wherever it lies.

    It’s like the Queensbury rules in fighting. Go up against a bigger stronger guy, and you’d better kick a groin or poke an eye if you want to live. Cheating? Only in the eyes of the bigger guy, whom the Rulz always favor.

    You may assume that I’m facepalming, right now. And, recruiting patience. Lots and lots of patience…

    Here’s the deal with “lawful combatant” and “unlawful combatant”, neither of which is clearly delineated in this supposed “international law”.

    The root of it is whether or not the combatant is openly engaged in honest warfare, legitimate war between nation-states. You don’t get to free-lance this crap, or the whole shoddy edifice comes crashing down. And, there is reason for these practices and customs of war to exist, in order to ameliorate a really lousy situation.

    Lawful combatants belong to some authority. Some duly constituted state authority. For the American Revolution, that was the Continental Congress, and/or the various state governments that raised militias. The guys at Concord? They were part of the militia, defending their privately-purchased stocks of arms and powder against illegitimate confiscation by the British government. So, your idea that the men fighting the Revolution were equivalent to the Taliban? A non-starter. There were elections held in Afghanistan and Iraq both; the parties doing the shooting in both countries eschewed the elections, and actively sought to impede them. They were never legitimate combatants; once the two governments were formed, and elected officials were in place, that was the legitimate authority in both countries. Unorganized resistance is legal only so long as there is no government entity to authorize such.

    Additionally, you have to be openly armed and in some kind of uniform, whether it consists of an actual uniform or if it is just a red bandana wrapped around your upper left arm. This is critical, in order to separate combatants from civilians. You do not get to use civilians as cover, even if it is only by failing to differentiate yourself from them in terms of clothing. The subterfuge here is what results in civilian non-combatants getting killed, because the legitimate combatant cannot tell whether or not that guy is a civilian or a combatant. I honestly don’t remember if John Milius actually laid that out for Red Dawn, but I think it’s something he would have included, if only for the accuracy.

    The other issue is operating from civilian locations. If you’re an insurgent, and you take advantage of a civilian crowd to sneak up on and fire at an opponent, while dressed as a civilian, you’re an unlawful combatant. This is something that needs to be enforced, in order to maintain protections for civilian non-combatants, because when you can’t tell the difference between them? They’re all targets.

    The problem with all of this is that the idiots on our side, like most of our JAG officers, all think that they ought to err on the side of “righteousness”. This is utter and rank stupidity, because by breaking down the customs and laws (such as they are…) of war, you’re just making the whole thing worse.

    It is just like the idiocy of George W. Bush, who willy-nilly ripped up one of the key basis points of the Westphalian sovereignty, namely that only duly constituted states get to declare and make war on one another. This is an important principle, because it stops a lot of idiocy like some local halfwit deciding to go raid a foreign country the way they did under feudal European law. The equivalent, today? That’d be al Qaeda; the nation-states that allowed and sponsored that bit of idiocy should have paid the price, in order to uphold what little utilitarian international law there is.

    You don’t want a situation wherein non-state actors can just make war whenever they feel like it, undeclared, and outside the framework. Allowing that is sheer stupidity, for so many different reasons. War is something that should only be done openly, with declarations of war between state actors, in order to ameliorate the side-effects on innocents. You start letting entities like al Qaeda make war for you? Then, where does that end? How would it work, if someone in the West got tired of it all, and decided to make war themselves, on their own, outside the framework of their own nation-state? Should we allow that? You let al Qaeda make deniable proxy war on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, where does that end?

    You may think this is all pointless bullshit, but believe me, when you’re the guy down at the pointy end of things, trying to work out whether or not to make the life-and-death decision to open fire on a vehicle that’s blown past your guards and warnings? You’ll think differently about that whole “let them make war while looking like civilians” thing. You’ll also rue the day that you thought it was okey-dokey to let entities like al Qaeda do their little thing and make war, because that is just the starting point.

    Postulate, if you will, the likely outcome where we allow non-state actors to routinely make war on all and sundry: What, do you suppose, happens when someone like Elon Musk (not that he’d do something like this, either… Just pointing out that he certainly could…) decides that he’s had quite enough of abuse sponsored by idiots in Tehran (d’ya remember Ross Perot…?) and then further decides to shift the orbit on a reasonably-sized rock…?

    Ya like those precedents, now? What’s good for one is good for all, and once you open the door to non-state actors making war on their own, and stop holding the states who those actors belong to responsible for their actions, well… Yeah. That ain’t a world I want to live in. Bush allowed precedents to be established the minute he didn’t call out the Saudis and Pakistan. Bad ones; I suspect that’s what he’ll be remembered for, more than anything else he did.

    Just imagine Ross Perot with his own nukes, and the ability to project them. Then, if you care to imagine, think about what it would look like if the US government could say to Mr. Perot something like “Hey, ya know what…? The Saudis sponsored and supported al Qaeda, so we’ve decided turn-about is fair play; go ahead and nuke Riyadh, we don’t care… Hell, if you like, take out Mecca and Medina…”

    That’s the world where you wind up, if these laws and conventions aren’t enforced, even informally. If anyone thinks that only countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can play at that game of proxy warriors, welllllll… I fear that those people are delusional and entirely too trusting in human nature.

    We’ve worked long and hard to establish these laws and customs of armed conflict. War is bad enough; you fight them without any rules, any restraints? It’s pure hell, for all concerned. And, I don’t like the idea of “war to the knife”, at all. Which is what you get when you don’t enforce these things.

  • JJM

    When the JAG types used to bring up that tired old line about military intelligence being an oxymoron, I’d always reply:

    “Very funny. And here’s another one: international law.”

  • Kirk

    The most humorous thing about the majority of the modern woke JAG warriors that I ran into was their utter lack of interest in following the actual laws of armed conflict. They’d twist and manipulate their findings so as to do the most damage possible to the US, treating the enemy as though they were their clients, not the US Army whose uniform they wore.

    I learned a lot of contempt for these sorts while working next to them in 101st Airborne’s divisional HQ. The sort of arrant stupidity that they’d come up with was just mind-numbing, after awhile. Not to mention the double-standards; I know of one case where they were dealing with a situation where US soldiers were forced to fire on civilians, and managed to capture the responsible parties. The assholes at JAG had the people who’d started the shooting from within the crowd of civilians released, and then turned around and opened a prosecution on the US soldiers who’d responded to their fire and hit some of the civilians that were being used as cover. One of the guys they wanted to charge had risked his life under fire to try and rescue some of the kids who were caught in the cross-fire.

    JAG was not on our side, I fear. You’d hear them talking about why they’d joined, and to a man and woman, it was never to advocate for US soldiers, always the enemy. So far as a lot of them were concerned, the insurgents were the “good guys”, and the US was automatically the “bad guys”. I have no idea what the hell people were thinking recruiting and accepting this sort of thing from lawyers, but there you go. It’s all a part of the whole mess, and a large reason why I see no hope for our society as presently constituted. Too many of the people who’re supposed to be upholding things are more interested in tearing it down than not.

  • bobby b

    Kirk: You’re arguing about what makes for a more comfortable, less horrific war. I agree with all that you said.

    But my point was, many “sides” don’t have the luxury of living by such rules. Those rules make war more palatable for the people who don’t face existential threats – like the US, and Russia – but the people who are the underdogs, who cannot hope to meet up in formation on the commons and blast it out with the other side, have no hope of winning if they were to follow those rules.

    The British complained that the Americans were uncivilized and dishonorable when they wouldn’t stick to the traditional ways of fighting – ranks of guns blasting back and forth. The Americans shot from ditches, from behind barns – all dishonorable and rule-breaking to the Brits. But the rule-breaking won out the day, where the Americans would have lost had they “behaved.”

    Same with the Afghans repelling the Russians. No uniforms, IED’s in bodies, civilian cover – all “dishonorable”, but the poor Afghans drove wealthy Russia out. They would have lost badly without doing so.

    The VC wore no uniforms (unlike the NVA), but it really was the VC’s rule-breaking fighting behaviors that won that war. They did everything bad that you described – they had no hope of massing forces to counter head-on attacks, they could never sustain a meeting engagement, because they lacked the money and the power of the US – and so they fought outside the rules that the powers-that-be prescribed, and prevailed.

    Israel can now choose to “follow the rules” – as prescribed by the US, and most major powers – and back off and allow Hamas to come at them again next year. But Israel faces an existential threat, and cannot afford the luxury of “fighting fair.” I would not expect them to. They’ve tried it too many times.

    A comfortable war – fought usually by proxies for various superpowers – might stick within the lanes of the rules. But if one side is fighting for existence against a more powerful threat, insisting that they follow rules is the same as insisting that they surrender.

    And, yeah, wars fought outside the rules are pure hell. Annihilation is probably worse, though. If I were Israeli, at this point I think I might finally vote for hell, and chuck the UN’s “rules.” As you’ve said before, every time Israel backs off because of “rules”, it re-empowers the Arabs, who only recognize pure loss. Israel backing off is a win for them.

  • Kirk

    bobby b, you romanticize the whole thing in a really delusional way. The VC were not “heroic freedom fighters”, they were sponsored terrorists supported by the North. And, the NVA wore uniforms, except when they wanted the advantage of appearing as civilians…

    You cannot run armed conflicts like you’d like to. The rules aren’t exactly all that onerous, either–You belong to a legitimate government organization, you wear a uniform or at the least, some form of signal that differentiates you from civilians, and you don’t fight while using civilians or civilian status as cover and concealment.

    Do any of the above? You’re an unlawful combatant.

    And, you should be killed out of hand, after the facts are established in a duly-constituted court martial.

    As well, the militia members who fought the British were not breaking any rules by doing what you describe. You’re conflating things in order to support your position, which is completely in the wrong.

    I have seen the after-effects of these things, and debriefed the soldiers who’ve wound up killing civilians who were used as cover. It’s not ever a pretty thing, and it’s a deliberate ploy by the enemy, who are much more the enemies of civilization than you realize. They seek to break these things down deliberately, in order to cause legitimate soldiers to kill civilians who’re unavoidably in the way when they do things like site munitions dumps under apartment buildings and schools. Hamas and Hezbollah are infamous for doing just that, and the reason they get away with it starts with that lack of enforcement for the very basics of armed combat.

    French Resistance fighters managed it, while fighting the Germans. All it takes is an armband, and to belong to some form of organized government-sponsored force like the Free French. It also helps to have things like rules that you actually follow, like taking prisoners and so forth. The armed bandit gangs like the Taliban, who still haven’t held a nation-wide plebiscite in order to form a legitimate government? They don’t do those things. It’s not all that hard, either–And, the only people who make excuses for not doing them are pretty much fellow-traveler types who don’t believe in the rule of law in the first damn place. It’s all expediency, all the time… Or, have you failed to note that with regards to all these “revolutionary forces” that sprang up under those notorious upholders of laws, the Soviets?

    There’s little enough that separates the soldier from the armed bandit, already. The fact we don’t demand that the enemy follow these simple rules is a part and parcel with the issues we have when our own guys go off the reservation and commit war crimes. It starts with the troops seeing that they capture the enemy unlawful combatants, turn them over to higher, and then see them again and again, because they were released. Then, you wonder why the troops start noticing that fact, and decide not to bother turning them over that third time?

    This crap isn’t just injurious to international law and custom, it’s damn dangerous to maintaining discipline within our own ranks. It’s like with the cops; they see the people they arrest released time and time again, and you wonder why they stop arresting them and start applying “informal street justice”?

    You either uphold the law, in all regards, or you might as well not bother with any of it.

  • jgh

    I’m of an age where I grew up with WW2 movies where one of the main take-aways was how dangerous undercover operations were *specifically* because if you were caught out of uniform you’d be immediately shot – on either side. It was the main reason Hess wore a flight captain’s uniform when he flew to Scotland, so that he would be identified as *uniformed* personel and arrested, not as a spy and shot.

  • Kirk

    Contrast the way we treated German infiltrators during the Battle of the Bulge who were caught in US uniform, driving replica or actual US vehicles with the way we treated similar offenses during the “Global War on Terror”.

    Quite the difference, don’t you think?

    Did the JAG of the time have any issues with how we shot them? Nope.

    See “Operation Greif”.


    Note the speed with which those Germans were tried after being captured in US uniforms, highlighted in “Aftermath”.

    And, to be quite honest, the use of enemy uniforms as a “ruse de guerre” isn’t unknown. It’s even legal, so long as you change out of the uniform before attacking anyone… You get caught in that uniform, however? Expect bad things.

    My take on the whole thing is that fighting while dressed as a civilian is even less acceptable, a perfidious act that needs to be punished severely, particularly when you use civilians as cover and concealment to enable your attacks. Why? Because that leads to a lot of dead non-combatants, something that is often a goal of these types. This behavior needs to be discouraged, and I think that automatically executing the bastards when caught would do nicely as a discourager. It’d definitely cut down on recidivism.

  • Tom

    When it comes to jurisprudence I am an American Realist. That is to say, a law is only truly a law if it has effective enforcement. International Law doesn’t and so is more an agreeable (and sometimes mildly useful) fiction. The United Nations treats all states as morally equal, which is a farce. The tyrants have a veto on the Security Council so “law” can only really be enforced by war conducted by individual states. Therefore justice depends on military might and, historically speaking, there’s no real evidence of any correlation between those two. If you’re under genocidal attack, my “legal advice” would be kill your enemies and figure out the “legalities” later. There’s no point in being right but dead.

  • Steven R

    If israel wants to go to war, and I mean really go to war and not do half-hearted measures to bloody Hamas’ nose, then so be it. But if they are going to do it, then follow Curtis Lemay’s advice and bomb Gaza flat. We did it with every city in Germany and Japan and didn’t think twice while doing it. The hand wringing only happened after the fact when everyone was safe and sound and comfortable in their academic towers and could second guess the generals and admirals doing the job of killing the enemy.

    “There are no innocent civilians, so it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing innocent bystanders.”
    “If you are going to use military force, then you ought to use overwhelming military force. Use too much and deliberately use too much; you’ll save lives, not only your own, but the enemy’s too.”
    “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting.”
    “Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.”
    “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”
    -Curtis LeMay

  • llamas

    Not to comment on the wider ‘laws of war’ questions – above my pay grade – but only to observe the dangers of comparisons between the present situation and the bombing of occupied Europe in WW2. While the Allied day- and night-bombing campaigns did some significant damage to the enemy war effort, it came at a very significant cost in both men and materiel for the Allied forces, with hundreds of men and dozens of aircraft lost on a bad day and (by some estimates) as much as 25% of the expenditures on the war effort. Some days/nights, more men died doing the bombing than were killed by it.
    In Israel/Gaza, by contrast, I suspect that an Israeli carpet-bombing campaign would encounter virtually-no serious resistance, they would have little difficulty in reducing Gaza City to #2A gravel, and I’m having more and more trouble understanding what’s staying their hand. It can’t be the mumbling idiot who whistle-stopped the other day, I don’t think they’re scared of Lebanon, or Iran FTM – is it just concern over a 2-front war?




  • Paul Marks

    It was not “Malarkey” – it was an Islamic Jihad rocket that hit the hospital car park.

    But that did not stop the British Prime Minister and British Foreign Secretary writing, on Twitter, about a destroyed hospital and vast loss of life – and before anyone says “you voted for….” Members of the Conservative Party did not get a vote.

    As for Israel driving out the Islamic population – there seems to be no chance of that, indeed aid trucks are going into the Gaza Salient. And the Biden Administration is, unlawfully, funding the “Palestinian Authority” which pays monthly stipends to the families of terrorists.

    Yes – so much for “the problem is Hamas”.

    I fear the war is lost.

  • Steven R

    I did like how the Potato-in-Chief played up the fact that he’s the first president since Lincoln to visit a combat zone…

    …except he forgot LBJ went to Vietnam in ’66 and ’67, Nixon went to Vietnam in ’69, Bush 41 went to Saudi Arabia on the even of the Gulf War in ’90 and then to Somalia in ’93, Bush ’43 went to Kosovo in ’01 and Iraq in ’03, ’06, and ’07 and Afghanistan in ’06, ’07, and ’08, Obama went to Iraq in ’09, Afghanistan twice in ’10 and once in ’13, ’14, and ’15, and Trump went to Afghanistan in ’19.

    Not to mention all the trips from presidents from Truman onwards to Dublin, Belfast, and the UK during the Troubles.

    But other than that, Biden’s the first since Lincoln.

  • NickM

    Israel cares that it is perceived as civilized. Hamas don’t give a toss but somehow get the nod anyway from lots of people intoxicated on the Che Guevara Rum of the romantic concept of the “Freedom Fighter”. Now, that’s the real question. Why can some nations/states/organisations/whatever get away with it and others can’t? How can some people (a lot of people) conclude there is a moral equivalence between Hamas deliberately hitting soft civilian targets and Israel hitting terrorists?

    We really don’t know. It is very likely that a lot of Hamas rockets have miscarried. Israel could have hit the hospital due to faulty intel or by accident. What I do know is Israel certainly didn’t target a hospital specifically. See my answer to Llamas, above. But lots of people will think they did because it re-inforces their misguided beliefs. Yeah, it probs was a Hamas fuck-up but… They have certainly milked it as they always do.

    What I really, really want to know is why, from a strategic point of view, did Hamas do this now? The only strategic goal for the raid on the 7th was to provoke all out war. Why now, exactly? What vile stars aligned?

  • Kirk

    bobby b said:

    The VC wore no uniforms (unlike the NVA), but it really was the VC’s rule-breaking fighting behaviors that won that war. They did everything bad that you described – they had no hope of massing forces to counter head-on attacks, they could never sustain a meeting engagement, because they lacked the money and the power of the US – and so they fought outside the rules that the powers-that-be prescribed, and prevailed.

    Meant to comment on this, last night. Forgot about it, but that’s what you get when pressed for time.

    This is a totally contra-factual narration of the Vietnam War. The VC were not “downtrodden peasants”; they were a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of the North Vietnamese government, undertaking their policies with their funding and their weapons. They were no more an “indigenous insurrection” than the Taliban were, who were owned and operated by the ISI in Pakistan.

    Also, the VC did not “win” the Vietnam War. That war wasn’t won so much by the North as it was abandoned by the US Congress. After the Tet Offensive, the VC were done. The majority of them were dead, and the rest badly demoralized due to the rest of the people in the South who failed to “rally” to their cause, mostly because of those selfsame tactics you so proudly claim “worked”.

    I’ve met former VC who were here in the US, after having escaped South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. They got out of the prison camps that the North Vietnamese put them in, because they’d actually had the temerity to ask for the things they’d been told they were fighting for… Like, local governance. VC cadre were about as badly treated as former RVN military personnel.

    So, the points you’re making? They’re not really real. Same with the US in the Revolutionary War. We had to fight within the recognized boundaries of the Law of War, or we wouldn’t have had the French stick with us. Throughout the war, the US maintained all the trappings of a Westphalian state, and held to the laws. There were violations and exceptions, mostly on the frontiers, but they were usually provoked by things like the British stirring up trouble with the various Indian tribes. Which was another reason the Indians later got treated like crap by the US government, something long, long forgotten.

    The history you recount? Ain’t really history; it’s the product of distortions and lies. The VC behaved like vicious animals, at the behest of their masters in the North, and they got exactly what they deserved during Tet and the aftermath. Which was a campaign the US largely won, contrary to Walter Cronkite.

  • Kirk

    Oh, and another thing: Everything, absolutely everything that took place in South Vietnam after the Paris Peace Accords was a treaty violation and a truly egregious violation of this sainted “international law” all y’all keep on yammering about.

    So, explain to me again why the hell the US and others should follow it? Nobody else does… Why, pray tell, should Israel?

    Here’s the lesson of the 20th Century post WWI: Rules are for chumps and the perpetual victims of the world. You follow them? You get killed by people who don’t. Same-same with the Arab-Israeli issue: How many times has Israel done the bidding of the sanctimonious “international community”, only to have them turn around and fund the people trying to kill them? Biden is sending in a few hundred million dollars of “aid”, which will be used to shore up Arab defenses and feed the fighters. Where’s all that concrete sent in for building new homes and businesses, again…?

    Oh, yeah: They build tunnels and defenses with it all. So they could go into Israel and kidnap, rape, and kill autistic little girls and their grandmothers. Those are the people who’re all y’alls “freedom fighters” and “proud warriors”. Same as the VC, who did much the same thing throughout South Vietnam. Sick, creepy bastards who “believed in a political cause”, and thought that entitled them to kill people.

    I’m of a mind that it’s a mental disease, both to take part in these things, and to sympathize with the people who do. And, I’ve got a little “solution” for both, when I encounter them.

  • Fraser Orr

    When it comes to jurisprudence I am an American Realist. That is to say, a law is only truly a law if it has effective enforcement.

    I found the comment that BobbyB wrote in this original very interesting and insightful. It reminds me of patent law — a law that is advertised as protecting the little guy but is in fact there to crush the little guy when the big guy wants his stuff.

    However, I did want to mention that there is more to a law than just the ability to enforce it. I hire a lot of contractors, sometimes overseas and they always sign a contract for various things like I own their work product, non disclosure, etc. etc. For the most part I have ZERO chance of enforcing any of these contractual obligations through the courts and police, however I still have them sign. Why? Because they are a documentation of what the expected behaviors are, what is considered correct behavior. So when international law says “wear your uniform” or “don’t use biological weapons” it sets an agreement about what is right and wrong, not a law in the sense of one that will be policed. And, although that is not as effective as having the cops and courts force compliance, it is still something that has value in itself.

    Of course if combatants never agreed to these rules, as was the case with the Japanese for example in WWII, or in this case Hamas, then it is really a different matter. At that point it goes from “you agreed not to do it” to “we think you shouldn’t do it”, which is very much less of a weak argument.

    Unless you have a Navy to back up your disapproval.

  • Kirk

    You can certainly impart the lesson, though.

    Here’s the thing about allowing non-state actors to make war, or the equivalent of war: By doing so, you’re weakening the protections afforded by having a state to hold accountable.

    al Qaeda did not have a state when it launched 9/11. It based itself in what was effectively international no-man’s land. This enabled them to be able to say “We’re the ones doing this…” and that provided a cut-out to the Pakistanis and Saudi Arabians. Who had to know; the ISI ran the Taliban. Everything in Afghanistan got run through them for approval. Based on the fact that the Taliban demanded that al Qaeda kill Ahmad Shah Massoud for them, before launching 9/11 tells you everything you need to know. The ISI had to have known what was coming; they did nothing to stop it, and did not inform the US of what their minions were up to.

    The Saudis had to know what was going on, because the hijackers all had nice, new and totally clean passports. They were vetted by the Saudi government as “students”, and someone inside the Saudi government had to have okayed that whole deal, being as nearly all of them had paper showing they’d been on the “Jihadi Trail”, something that the Saudi government is very careful to keep track of.

    So, two nation-states knew. And, likely aided and abetted; this sort of thing is inimical to the notion of state actors being responsible for what their citizens get up to, which makes war a hell of a lot more likely.

    al Qaeda on 9/11 is a good modern analogue for one of those feudal barons or counts in the old days, who’d decide to go on a chevauchée in the neighboring country’s territory with no mind to telling the guy running their own country what they were up to. The Westphalian conventions were established largely to put an end to that sort of stupidity, and there were damn good reasons for it. We mostly live in peace, these days, because of that convention being established: You don’t let people make war from your territory, or you pay the price for it.

    Eroding that principle, in today’s environment of easy-peasy weapons of mass destruction? Stupidity on an order I can’t even begin to lend words to.

    It’s the same with all the other “little rules” of armed conflict. You start eroding those, and you will not, I guarantee you, like where that leads everyone.

  • phwest

    To further elaborate on Vietnam – after destroying the VC during Tet, the US government changed policy under Nixon and Abrams and built up the ARVN as the ground force, to be supported by US air and naval assets. By 1972 that formula worked well enough to destroy an NVA invasion of the South that included equipment equivalent to a Soviet armored corps. That defeat, coupled with heavy bombing of the North brought the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table and a peace treaty that they promptly tore up after the 1974 election brought in a left-wing Democrat majority that clearly signaled they had no intention of allowing the US to honor its commitment to defend the South – a commitment that already had been proven effective in combat. But that was Nixon’s triumph, and lord knows that couldn’t be allowed to stand.

  • Kirk

    Pretty much. And, the architects of that whole betrayal of South Vietnam were the very same people who’d gotten us into the war in the first place…

    You review the facts of the Vietnam War, and if you can stomach voting for a Democrat after that review? There’s something deeply wrong with your moral compass.

    Do note, too, that the precise same playbook was in use during the Afghanistan debacle. They cut the aviation support; they cut the flight hours, they cut the ammo budgets in exactly the same ways they screwed the South Vietnamese. It ain’t a “resemblance”, either… It’s exactly what they did to South Vietnam, and then whined about how “they won’t fight”.

    After having built an army, in both cases, dependent upon US-style firepower and aviation. Which I think they knew, and did deliberately in Afghanistan. What should have happened with the Afghans would have been to build a damn army that Afghanistan could support indigenously, with their own assets. And, of course… We didn’t do that, wanting to ensure that they’d fail if we ever pulled the rug out from under them.

    I don’t know what the right answer would have been, in Afghanistan, but the utter stupidity of what we did, the sheer waste and witless destruction we visited, without intention to make it worthwhile? The lives we expended, Afghan and US?

    The assholes responsible deserve hellfire and suffering for eternity. The bastards told my generation of enlisted men and women “No more Vietnams!!!”, and there they went and did the exact same thing.

    Now, they wonder why recruiting is so low, and why nobody wants to serve in their new-age woke military. Huh. Go figure; ya think that maybe having two generations of your immediate ancestry telling the kids how they got screwed, and what a waste it was might have an impact…? Particularly among those with actual propensity to join in the first place?

  • Fraser Orr

    Regarding the Vietnam war, it seems to me that bombing the shit out of the poorest people on earth who had committed no violence against Americans is probably not a moral thing to do. Even if, god forbid, they want to go in a political direction we disagreed with. We are assured that the goal was containing communism, lest the dominos fall and all SE Asia become communist. I suggest a better way to “beat” the communists rather than destroying them is to build up ourselves. To release the massive amount of funds spent, keep around the capability and innovation and work capacity of the young American men killed in a hell hole, and make America stronger by being better, more technologically advanced, more industrially capable. And rather, befriending the Vietnamese government by buying and selling from them irrespective of their political affiliations. Kind of like what NASA was doing at the same time with the space program.

    Instead we got politicians “playing the world stage”, trying to “get out with dignity” — as if fifty thousand blood soaked coffins have any dignity — and advancing their own agendas and power.

    Wars are almost always causes by people with gigantic ambitions willing to kill of thousands or millions of innocent people to convince themselves that their dick is bigger than the other guy’s. What it comes down to, all to often, is that the biggest fear of politicians is that people think they are irrelevant. “me, me, me, look at me” they cry. War is a great way to make them look important, and the hell with the people who pay the cost. My god, the idea that we put politicians in charge of war is terrifying to me. Most politicians I wouldn’t trust them with five bucks to go down the store and buy me a gallon of milk. And yet somehow we think it is ok to give them a Navy? Yikes.

    There are some types of wars that are necessary. What is happening in Israel is a very ugly necessity. But Vietnam? It was not one of them.

  • Kirk

    That’s one of the most stone-ignorant takes I’ve ever heard about the Vietnam War.

    Did you somehow miss that there was an actual history, there? That the nation of South Vietnam existed, and that there was a treaty that ended the French presence in Vietnam, and that the North was the aggressor with Soviet sponsorship? That they were trying to “revolution” all of South-East Asia?

    It isn’t like the US military woke up one fine morning, and decided to go bombing innocent countries for the hell of it. There were actual, y’know… Reasons. Ones based mostly on the Soviets and Chinese playing at “Proletarian Imperialism”, not the US getting a random hair up it’s ass.

    In all likelihood, the whole thing was a waste of time, as the Pentagon told both Eisenhower and Kennedy. Unfortunately, Kennedy chose to campaign on the “domino theory”, and there ya go.

    However inept it was, the raw fact is that the North Vietnamese were the aggressors, and emphatically not the “good guys”. Whatever we did to try and prevent them taking over the entire country? A net moral good, I fear.

    I once got to spend a whole bunch of time with a lot of declassified reports, after-action reviews, and other documents from a sector of South Vietnam. Friend of mine was an officer, and chose to do his Command and General Staff Course paper on the little Special Forces camp his father had served at. In service of that, he’d gotten all this material from that camp, everything he could find and get declassified at the National Archives.

    I spent a weekend helping him sort through it. I rather wish I had not; the experience was pretty horrific. All those stories you hear about the “noble VC”? Bullshit, all of it, judging from what they got up to in just that one little area of South Vietnam. The murders, the rapes, the blackmail they subjected their victims to, most of whom just wanted to live their traditional lives? You think Che Guevara was an unusual outlier, in terms of “communist monster”? Yeah… Spend a weekend reading several years of low-level data that outlines just exactly what they were up to, out there winning “hearts and minds”.

    The fact that people were lining up to get on anything floating to get out of South Vietnam after the NVA took Saigon ought to be a damn clue, but… All y’all will have your little “socialist heroes”.

    The reality was quite different. I happen to agree with the guys that said we shouldn’t have gotten into the war, but having engaged in it? You’re morally bound, once the killing and dying starts. By the end, the South Vietnamese were doing a more than adequate job of defending themselves, and the only reason that they didn’t turn the ’75 invasion into even more of a debacle for the North was that we’d cut them off at the knees.

    The VC and the NVA were not heroes; they were scum, who preyed upon their own people in the name of an ideology that they gave up on, once they gained total power in the country. You look at Vietnam today? WTF? What, exactly, was the North fighting for? To turn the whole place into a capitalist showplace, the same as it would have been anyway, just with the Communists still running it all?

    That’s the really disgusting thing about it all. You look at what they did, after the war, when they discovered that their vaunted “socialism” didn’t actually work? What’d they do? Oh, right… Whipped around on a 180 degree turn and went full-bore capitalist. What. The. Actual. Fuck? And, people defend what they did during the War? What?

    I could see defending them if they’d stuck to their guns and tried making a truly socialist paradise, but that’s not what they did, is it? They committed atrocity after atrocity, violated international law, broke solemn treaties they swore to uphold, and on and on… Then, turned around and basically made Vietnam what it would have been, anyway, had they not had their little “will to power” experience.

    The whole lot of them deserve hellfire and damnation, in the afterlife. How many million Vietnamese died for their little ego trip? To accomplish what, the capitalist success that they said they didn’t want? Where are the social benefits they said they were fighting for? The supposed economic justice?

    No, it was raw power they wanted and got; the rest was sweet-smelling lies that the supposed “intelligentsia” of the West bought hook, line, and sinker.

    Damn fools and cretins, all of them. Down to the present day.

  • Fraser Orr

    That’s one of the most stone-ignorant takes I’ve ever heard about the Vietnam War.

    It’s always such a pleasure debating you Kirk.

  • Kirk

    Well, Fraser… You make outrageous and historically inaccurate statements like:

    Regarding the Vietnam war, it seems to me that bombing the shit out of the poorest people on earth who had committed no violence against Americans is probably not a moral thing to do.

    One, they weren’t the “poorest people on earth”, two, they were under attack from some truly egregious assholes at the time, and three…? You act as though the NVA and VC were these neutral, harmless political opponents, instead of being the assholes who drove the Vietnamese Catholics out of the North, stole their property, and committed a whole bunch of really excessive abuses on the peasantry that didn’t want to go along with the program of appropriation and collectivization.

    Most of which they’ve now undone, because it didn’t work. They started that process not too long after ’75, so what was the point of it all, again?

    You make a statement like the one you did, and you want “polite debate”? Dude, I want you to take that sentence and go into Little Saigon in any major US city, find someone who was a veteran of that war, and say the same thing. You’re going to get more than your feelings hurt; you’ll probably wind up stabbed a whole bunch.

    The former ARVN I know still carry grudges. Justifiably so.

  • Fraser Orr

    You say my claims are historically inaccurate:
    * “They are the poorest people on earth” — sure, they weren’t the ABSOLTUELY poorest people on earth, but seriously? You think that is a serious point? The villages we bombed into oblivion were tiny places in the middle of the jungle where people scraped out a living growing rice in mud fields (which we destroyed with agent orange.) If they weren’t absolutely the poorest people in the world at the start we definitely made sure they were at the end.
    * “They had committed no violence against Americans” — bullshit you say — they attached Vietnamese Catholics.. Presumably those Catholics weren’t Americans, right? People are being attacked all over the world right now, do you think the US should bomb the living shit out of all of them too?

    TBH this is exactly why I never read your comments save occasionally a sentence or two. You spew out all this rhetorical drivel — attacking straw men, assuming facts that are VERY debatable, spew out vile hatred based on people’s skin color, gender or sexual orientation, and on and on with some of the most unpleasant things, bristling with rhetorical tricks and nonsense. And you compound it with WALLS and WALLS of text which even in the best of case is hard to get through. Of course I’m an advocate of free speech. You can say whatever you want. But I still can rarely bring myself to read it. And if you think you’ll convince anyone by starting your arguments with insults, you are wrong. Of course I am kind of doing that here, but I’m not trying to convince you of anything. Just telling you what I think and why I don’t engage with you.

    I’m sure you are a very nice person though. I just wonder what you do to have so much time to post so much stuff here. Me? I’ve got a job.

    You make a statement like the one you did, and you want “polite debate”? Dude, I want you to take that sentence and go into Little Saigon in any major US city, find someone who was a veteran of that war, and say the same thing. You’re going to get more than your feelings hurt; you’ll probably wind up stabbed a whole bunch.

    Nice. I’ll remember not to do that with you should the occasion ever come up. Apparently you think that stabbing someone because they disagree with you is justified. Welcome to the dark side.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    It’s odd that the cause of Palestinian statehood should have become such an obsession with the virtue-signalling classes. Endless tweets, ‘open letters’ and all the rest of it.

    Why specifically Palestine? Where, for example, were all the virtue-signallers barely a month ago when the three-decade post-Soviet struggle for statehood by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh was finally snuffed out by a territorially-aggressive dictatorship? Not a peep out of any of them about that!

  • bobby b

    Hamas and Hezbollah had better PR consultants.

  • bobby b

    (As I look at my 10:50 comment, it sounds like I was joking. I wasn’t. A lot of money went into the anti-Israel marketing effort.)

  • Snorri Godhi

    OK, I did not read all what Fraser and Kirk wrote. Life is too short.

    But this strikes me as delusional:

    Regarding the Vietnam war, it seems to me that bombing the shit out of the poorest people on earth who had committed no violence against Americans is probably not a moral thing to do. Even if, god forbid, they want to go in a political direction we disagreed with.

    Is Fraser unaware of the number of Vietnamese people who died at sea to escape the Commie dictatorship?

    NB: this is not an endorsement of Kirk’s views — if for no other reason than the fact that i have not read much of what he wrote 🙂

  • bobby b

    SG: There is disagreement among historians as to whether they were fleeing communism, or instead fleeing the killing rage of the communists after having fought them in a horrific war for thirty years. IOW, had the French – and us – stayed out of it, and had the North then easily subsumed the South, perhaps they would simply have become yet another Asian communist country without the blood rage – with no boat evac needed.

    (To be fair, I still believe that we should have committed our resources and won that war. Once we entered and raised the bloodshed stakes, we were honor-bound to NOT abandon SVN – since we were then responsible for much of the rage ourselves. It was like we entered a barfight to protect someone, and then left them to get doubly hammered when we tired of the fight. Had we not entered at all, perhaps it would have been a less-hostile thing. Even the NV people were horrified at the excesses in Kampuchea.)

  • Fraser Orr

    @Snorri Godhi
    Is Fraser unaware of the number of Vietnamese people who died at sea to escape the Commie dictatorship?

    Snorri, your opinion I value. I think you have lots of really great things to say. But I’ll be honest here I see a complete departure in the way you think and the way I do. The vietnamese people were fleeing in rickety boats from oppression. That is a reason to send ships to help them, help them resettle in other countries. find other ways to let others flee. It is not a reason to bomb the living crap out of their country of origin, making sure to kill off those in their country who didn’t manage to get out. It is not a reason to send kids from small town america into a jungle hellhole to kill or be killed. One week they are taking Jenny to the sock hop at high school, then next week they are up to their waist in water, watching their buddy’s brains getting blown out, then shooting back killing other people they don’t know, and really don’t know why they are fighting.

    I’m not at all a pacifist. I just watched a news piece about how the Israeli government is loosening gun control in their country, and my reaction is “WTF, why would you possibly have restrictive gun regulation in a place like Israel”. If everyone in those kibbutzim had home defense weapons it would have been a very different story. So not a pacifist, I recognize that sometimes governments have to take armed action. But Vietnam? What a moral outrage. It wasn’t about saving the boat people, it was about the cold war and international power struggles.

  • Fraser Orr

    To be fair, I still believe that we should have committed our resources and won that war. Once we entered and raised the bloodshed stakes, we were honor-bound to NOT abandon SVN – since we were then responsible for much of the rage ourselves.

    I definitely understand the point you are making here BobbyB. The politicians totally screwed it up, and so somehow we have to unscrew their mess. But I have two sons, and I promise you I would not be willing to sacrifice their lives, or expect anyone else to sacrifice their kids’ lives to dig some politician out of a hole he made for himself.

    And all that money and death, what did it avail? The communists still won in the end. And now? They are an important trading partner, and a country with growing GDP as they gradually allow commercial realities to move them toward a more free market economy. So all that death and wasted resources and political humiliation bought us exactly zero. All we got is a big debt we still haven’t paid off, and a very, very large wall of black marble in Washington DC.

    Jefferson called it: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations…entangling alliances with none”

  • bobby b

    “WTF, why would you possibly have restrictive gun regulation in a place like Israel.”

    20% of Israel’s population are Muslim. Given the undercurrents, they thought it was necessary to quell daily violence.

    In hindsight . . . ouch.

  • bobby b

    “But I have two sons, and I promise you I would not be willing to sacrifice their lives, or expect anyone else to sacrifice their kids’ lives to dig some politician out of a hole he made for himself.”

    Two of my kids are boys – well, young men – too. And I was about to get my lottery number when Laird announced the draft was over. So I definitely understand.

    But it wasn’t the politicians sitting in the hole that we had dug. It was the millions of South Vietnamese who were always going to be the sacrificial goats. All the pols got out and away with their riches. Theirs and ours.

    It left me with the very strong belief that we should either not join in with wars, or we should win the damn things – not do the “just enough to not win” dance that we always seem to do. What we do always ends up hurting the civilian population more in the long run than staying away would have done. We keep everyone fighting enough to grow and foster generational hatred, and then we run, leaving our “friends” to pay.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobbyb, two points — I’ll be completely honest, if you gave me the choice between sacrificing the lives of my two kids and not stopping the deaths of millions of Vietnamese that neither I nor they were responsible for, I’m afraid I’d chose for my kids. The trolley problem is only difficult to solve because people are not entirely comfortable with the difference between causing harm and not stopping harm, or the reality, built into the fiber of our being, that we have circles of caring, and the further out from the circle you are, the less I care about your fate. Although most people wouldn’t admit it, most people would choose to save the life of their pet dog over the life of a thousand people on a distant shore they hadn’t met.

    As to your last paragraph, I 100% agree. If we are going to war we should win it with all force necessary to get the job done quickly. As long as when it comes to that “if” we have a strong preference for NOT going to war, and only doing so in the most dire of circumstances. The truth is politicians really like war. It does two very important things for them, it makes them seem really, really important getting them on the news every night with somber self important speeches, and second it generates a LOT of money for the donors and excuses them to ramp up taxing and borrowing — money they can use to buy themselves votes and fund their pet projects. The blood of patriots and brave men is rarely much of a concern to them beyond a great photo op. As long as it stays a low level grind they love war.

    And so it is, since politicians love war, that we the people should be very skeptical when they want to start one, that we should have a VERY high bar before we let them do it, and that if they do we should take away their plaything as soon as we possibly can. Why, after all, is nearly every war America fought over the past fifty years fought without any measurable goal, or any way to say “we are done, we won”. Because moving the goalposts lets the party in Washington continue unabated.

    It really is profoundly evil.

  • Kirk

    Most of the people adopting the “conventional wisdom” vis-a-vis Vietnam have not the slightest idea what they are actually echoing. You have to talk to the men and women who were there, who lived that experience, and who actually suffered the consequences.

    I had a fairly conventional view on that whole thing, brought about because of the generally agreed-on narrative. You get exposed to things that don’t support that narrative? Suddenly, you have questions. If you have the slightest intellectual honesty and self-awareness. It also requires a certain commitment to the actual truth, not the “truth” of the leftoid scum.

    I don’t happen to think that the Vietnam War was the wisest thing we ever got involved in. I will point out, however, that the people who got us involved there, against the sage advice of the Pentagon types who everyone loves to excoriate for being “warmongers”, were the same assholes that forced our betrayal of the South Vietnamese. If you actually read the history, it’s pretty damn clear: Under Eisenhower and Nixon, involvement in Southeast Asia was not happening, because the people Eisenhower sent in looked at what was going on with the French and said “Yeah, not a good idea…”

    Then, the wunnerful con artist John F. Kennedy campaigned on “the missile gap” and the “Domino Theory”, saying that Eisenhower and Nixon weren’t doing all they could to secure peace for America. Egregious lies that couldn’t be refuted, lest the intel sources be betrayed. Then, having scammed their way into office, they found that the reality was that what they’d claimed wasn’t happening, and that they had to behave as though it were. So… Big military spending, an arms race, and then involvement in Southeast Asia. It was, at first, a fairly low-stakes thing, but then the Kennedy idiot brothers finagled the death of Diem, and there ya were: We owned it, as a problem.

    The whole thing was a travesty, and it only got worse. We still don’t know for sure what the hell happened in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, but I’d suspect it was an LBJ put-up job.

    To my way of thinking, you can do as you like with politics, but the minute you’ve killed someone because of it? Theirs, or ours? That’s a game-changer: You send young men off to kill, in your name, then you’d damn well better believe in what you’re telling them to do. And, likewise, when you ask them to die for your policies? Same thing.

    Once the blood is on the blade, there are no options left. You’ve killed men, you live with the consequences all the way through to victory. Or, defeat; only the Democrats seem to believe that it’s all some kind of game, where you get to have take-backsies and all that childish crap.

    You send men off to war, you better know what you’re doing, and be certain of your intent to follow through. It’s not a thing of half-measures, or “calibration”. War is war, which is hell itself. You unleash it? You’d better be certain of what you intend.

  • bobby b

    Maybe interesting if you’re an Ayn Rand fan: Rand discussing her thoughts on “international law.”


  • Fraser Orr

    Oh, BTW, since we are the privilege of a criminal defense lawyer in this thread, I have always wondered what the law would say about the trolley problem. I see a train traveling down the track about to kill five people, I see if I switch the track it’ll avoid them but kill another person instead. Am I criminally liable for murdering that person? What if the train in going to kill my wife and I flip the track to kill one other person instead. What is my criminal liability? What if the train is going to kill my dog and I flip the track and have it kill someone else instead? What if it is going to kill five people, but I push a fat guy off a bridge to stop the train, sacrificing the fat guy to save the five?

    This is the classic moral dilemma and I know what I think is the moral shape of things, but I wonder what would happen criminally.

    BTW, listened to Ayn Rand clip. She shows her clarity of thought as usual, though I’m not sure I 100% agree entirely. But I’ll think about it a bit more.

  • bobby b

    @Fraser Orr: There are entire books on that exact question, entire law school mini-courses exploring the legal ramifications of switching the trolley over to kill one to save four, where burdens shift from a duty to protect to a duty to cause no direct harm. It is sort of a “how many lawyers can dance on the head of a pin” question.

    Which means, of course, there’s no one answer, except: Choose wisely, and accept the consequences. They never include that “eight years custody for manslaughter” issue in the hypotheticals.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Fraser: I am sorry, i see now that my comment was easily misunderstood.
    I quoted you:

    Regarding the Vietnam war, it seems to me that bombing the shit out of the poorest people on earth who had committed no violence against Americans is probably not a moral thing to do. Even if, god forbid, they want to go in a political direction we disagreed with.

    (My emphasis.)
    In the abstract, i agree with you on the ethical issue. Where i disagree, is the extent to which the highlighted sentence describes the reality of South Vietnam. It seems to me that it doesn’t, that the South Vietnamese would have resisted against invasion from the North, if given a chance.

    WRT the domino theory, i remember reading an essay by Lee Kuan Yew — I don’t remember what the essay was about, but i remember that a secondary theme was that delaying the invasion of South Vietnam gave much of the rest of South-East Asia crucial time to prepare to resist commie invasions and takeovers.
    Lee Kuan Yew should know.

  • Snorri Godhi

    For me, the trolley problem is of interest because it makes us put our moral intuitions into focus.

    For instance, I would pull a lever to kill one and save five; but i would not throw a fat one off a bridge to save five.

    Why is that?
    Perhaps the answer easiest on my conscience is: if people put their lives at risk by walking on a train track, it’s their own fault if they die; but it’s still better if only one dies. A fat man walking on a bridge is not putting his life at risk.

    But the reality might be simply that it is easier to pull a lever than to throw a man, especially if heavier than me, off a bridge.

  • SteveD

    But Israel faces an existential threat and cannot afford the luxury of “fighting fair.”

    You expect their soldiers to hide behind their civilians? I’m pretty sure that tactic won’t work.

    There’s fighting fair and there’s obeying the rules of war. They are not the same thing.

  • bobby b

    “But the reality might be simply that it is easier to pull a lever than to throw a man, especially if heavier than me, off a bridge.”

    You could simply dangle a good cheese off the edge of the bridge and let the fat man’s nature do the work. But I suppose that would be more akin to pushing a lever than a laying-on of hands.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I certainly would not feel guilty wasting the life of a man dumb enough to risk his life for a chunk of cheese, not in a good cause!

  • Snorri Godhi

    BTW there is a new hypothesis on the root cause of obesity.

    I am studying the original paper, slowly. I regret having forgotten so much of the biochemistry and physiology that i studied with interest.

  • PSOL

    The Trolley Problem, or variations thereof, has been addressed by Jewish jurisprudence over the course of centuries, or even millennia.

    A story I heard told in a Shoah Foundation video of a holocaust survivor:
    About twenty people were hiding in an underground bunker in a village in Poland, having prepared themselves because they know the Nazis were approaching. Among them was a mother and baby. The baby would not stop crying, and the people were worried that this would alert the Nazis to their hiding place. Some people suggested killing the baby to save the entire bunker, others disagreed. Eventually they agreed to send someone out of the bunker to ask the town Rabbi, who was hiding somewhere else, whether it was permissable. The answer came back that it was not.

  • Steven Wilson

    Why is it in discussions of Vietnam no one ever raises the example of Korea and how that worked out. And let’s not pretend that Vietnam wasn’t being invaded from the north in the same way that Korea was. It was less overt but infiltration is invasion just the same. Compare and contrast the results between the two countries.

  • Kirk

    @Steven Wilson,

    And, what was worse? The North wound up “going capitalist” just as soon as they’d won, and discovered that a.) their economic ideas didn’t work, and that b.) they’d become personally wealthy by siphoning off the labor of the “capitalists”.

    Basically, they were only a step removed from the nasty old “robber barons” of myth. Killed a few million of their own people just so they could sit on top of the heap, much like their hated “landlords”.

    The thing that just pisses me off about the whole thing is how nobody calls them out on the issue: Just what the hell was the Vietnam War about, if they just went capitalist roader within the subsequent decade? Seriously? You fought a war and killed that many of your young men and women, only to do exactly what you said you were fighting against? And, basically replaced all the old landlord class with good, proletarian communists, who now “farm” the business class with far more rapaciousness, and less honesty?

    I don’t think people pay enough attention to this crap. They are still wed to the idea of the “noble freedom-fighting Viet Cong and NVA”, while ignoring exactly what the hell they did during and after the war.

    I have a friend whose family operated a nice little hotel/guest house up in the cool highlands. They tried to remain apolitical throughout the war’s combat phases that came their way, but it did them no good after the South fell. The grandfather got put into a reeducation camp, the properties they’d worked so hard to build and improve were taken over, and the family left what was South Vietnam as impoverished “boat people”. The main building for their little hotel lasted about a year or two (apparently…) as a rest camp for NVA wounded, and then became a headquarters for the secret police that were basically ethnic cleansing the area, followed by it being “privatised” for pennies on the dollar to a retired secret policeman bigwig, and put back into service as a fairly successful vacation destination for rich Westerners.

    Basically, the whole exercise reduced the builder’s family to poverty in refugee camps, and the pricks who took over the country in the name of “socialism” confiscated the properties and then subsequently privatized them again, only in the hands of the regime apparatchiks who’d help loot the place

    Not quite the fairy tale you were told about “selfless VC and NVA soldiers fighting for Vietnamese freedom…” , now is it?

    Hypocrisy, I fear, is a major feature of any leftward political faction. You will never, ever hear a damn word about things like that from any of the usual suspects that laud the Vietnamese Communists, who were and remain a bunch of thieving rat bastards who really enjoyed what they did to other Vietnamese in the name of a philosophy and economic theory they couldn’t get to work.

    Creepy bastards, all of them. The Westerners who look at the VC and get their panties all wet are possibly even worse than the actual VC, because they won’t admit what they enabled, the sheer human misery that all their “activism” led to.

    They’ll do the same thing with regards to the various Arab terrorist organizations, if they were to “win” in Israel. “Oh, Hamas is so great… So is Hezbollah…”, while the two groups rape and pillage like the filthy animals they are. When it’s all over, and there isn’t an unraped or unenslaved Jew left in what was Israel, they’ll look the other way and very, very carefully never mention the aftermath or the result of what they were out on the streets protesting for.

    That sort of rape and pillage by proxy is just about as bad as taking part in the real thing, to my mind. I’m disgusted that these creatures retain citizenship and residency here in the US; they really ought to be deported back to the hellholes they’ve made for their kind, back where they come from. It’s ironic; they escape hell on earth, come to the US… And, immediately set about recreating that which they barely escaped with their lives.

    Scum. All of them.

  • Alisa

    “WTF, why would you possibly have restrictive gun regulation in a place like Israel.”

    20% of Israel’s population are Muslim. Given the undercurrents, they thought it was necessary to quell daily violence.

    The vast majority of Israeli Muslims do not serve in the IDF -> Having served in the IDF is the very first requirement for a gun license here -> The real reason for these restrictions is the same as everywhere else in the “enlightened” West.