Moral Equivalence in the Middle East

The West has developed a dangerous concern for ‘proportionality.’

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online


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19 thoughts on “Moral Equivalence in the Middle East”

  1. Obama is unable or unwilling to distinguish criminals from cops, riots from civic and civil order. He truly is postmodern in the sense that everything is everything and there is no longer any right wrong good bad morality or ethics.

  2. Mr. Hanson,

    You see clearly and explain in compelling terms the decline of the West and its root causes. “idle hands…

  3. I don’t think it’s possible to go back to realpolitik, raison d’Etat or common sense. It’s over. We’ll keep pretending that the only problem in the world are bad dictators. Let’s keep overthrowing the only people who are capable of holding a mess together: Ngo Dinh Diem, Saddam Hussein, Assad…

  4. The ruling elite insist that Western countries belong to the whole world and that our societies should be “colorblind.” These ideas have become tools of European demographic suicide. “No other race subscribes to these moral principles,” Jean Raspail wrote a generation ago, “because they are weapons of self-annihilation.” The politically correct permitted consensus opinion promotes de facto open borders. The West is hamstrung by guilt-ridden haters and appeasers “whose hold on the political power, the media, and the academe is undemocratic, unnatural, and obscene.” The “treason” of the elite class or traitor class, who despite their self-image as enlightened and rational are rootless, arrogant and cynically manipulative fifth columnists

  5. The problem of deterrence is the problem of a cost/benefit analysis. Since the opponent can inflict damage at random intervals in random places with massive effect, it is not possible to literally block those attacks (without consuming all the nations resources). One could say this is the classic problem of asymmetrical warfare. The classic solution, as VDH suggests, is the use of deterrence, the disproportionate response to a minor incursion, in order to communicate to the opponent that his attacks or incursions will incur a large cost to him. That is how the cost/benefit analysis is brought back to zero (i.e. into balance).

    I think there is another optional solution to this, what is essentially a Game Theory problem. That is to clearly and publicly pre-set the proportionate response to the incursion. This has the effect of “teaching” the opponent the consequences of his actions, and of breeding a resistance movement within the opponent, to the offensive actions that the opponent is performing. Note that to do this, you have to bring back the notion of Collective Responsibility / Collective Guilt. Here are some examples.

    Israel could stipulate that for every rocket fired from Gaza or the West Bank into Israel, ten hectares (or whatever) of the opponents land will be reclaimed and the buildings on it destroyed. In the beginning the effect of this stipulation will be minimal, however, Gazans would be able to witness a line of fencing or destruction, slowly advancing towards their homes. Once the line reached their homes and the opponents land became smaller and smaller, a resistance to the firing of rockets at Israel would build up, at the very least, from the newly homeless people.

    In the case of a knifer randomly stabbing his fellow Israelis, you stipulate in advance that his entire family would be held responsible and imprisoned for some length of time. Just as with the reclamation of land, the duration of the prison sentence would be adjusted algorithmically until the situation with the knifings is back under control.

    Of course, those Gazans whose homes are destroyed, are probably innocent of sending rockets into Israel, not least because the rockets are normally fired from safe central locations, not the outskirts. And of course, a family is probably innocent of the knowledge of what is going on inside the heads of it’s children, if one of them has decided to become a murderous jihadi knifer. So there is an absolute moral question here.

    Absolute moral questions are practically impossible to answer, so the best one can do is to try transform it into a relative moral question. We also have to say that guilt (and therefore cost) is generally implied by responsibility. So here are two questions of relative morality.

    * Is a random family living in Gaza, more responsible for a rocket fired into Israel than an Israeli family suffering the consequences of those rockets? Does the Gazan family have any more ability to limit the actions of the rocket firer, than the Israeli family does? Living and voting in Gaza, one would have to say yes. (Obviously we are leaving out here the option of intervention by the Israeli military.)

    * is the family of the jihadi knifer more responsible for his actions, than everyone outside his family (except his fellow conspirators)? Even though a family cannot be said to know what their children are thinking, they can be said to be MORE responsible for knowing what their children are thinking than other people (excepting the youth’s co-conspirators, who obviously will be dealt with if they can be identified).

    So I suggest that the question of the morality of this kind of pre-set publicly notified proportionate response, is not intractable. In any case, viewed as a problem in Game Theory, the moral question may be overlooked.

  6. It’s a war among three worldviews: a) Tribal Controlling, b) 1776 Tragic-Liberty and the “great evil” that took control starting slow in 1900 and dominate by 2015: c) Progressive-Retardnation.

    Strangely, “Progressive-Retardnation” is more prejudiced, more evil, more death-making than “Tribal Control.” It is not a fraternity of bloodline (Tribal Control) but rather a fraternity of brainlessness or lack-of-good-spirit… Kings had their supplicants. Ditto for companies getting Obamacare exclusions from king POTUS.

    The 1776-Tragic-Liberty worldview is the only worldview that fixes epic problems quickly and humanely… i.e. the US involvement in WWII was only 3 1/2 years! Though Roosevelt-Truman were of “Progressive-Retardnation” persuasion prior to the war, they persecuted the war as 1776-Tragic-Liberty men.

    Inevitably, the world will become peaceful and flourish again… but only when time allows 1776-Tragic-Liberty to be fully and knowingly embraced by the current idiots in Europe, the Middle East and the US who believe only in “Progressive-Retardnation” in all things taught in school, and all things seen or heard in media.

    What I am saying is this: None are so blind as those who do not want to see victory in 1776-Tragic-Liberty.

    1. Progressive-Retardnation is indeed evil. Vladimir Putin accuses the US of forming ISIS, letting them loose, and continuing to support them. Vladimir Putin:

      While his talk contains some special pleading, it is more realistic than anything the US administration has said in the last seven years. It is also more moral.

  7. 2VictorDavisHanson 4MoralEquivalence
    The notion of Moral Equivalence anywhere is bunk. It betrays dysfunctional reasoning or bankruptcy of perception bordering on clinical dyslexia. The configuration of parameters that define any and all issues of morality, although susceptible to being retrofitted into a generalized template always presents a set of attributes that defines individual determinism unique to itself.

  8. That said, it should be well known or common knowledge that the Obama Regime has functioned as a well oiled apologist, enabler and facilitator of Islamist causes even before its first Inauguration. And it has gotten only worse at every decision point respecting Islam/non-Islam contested issues.

  9. Pingback: Moral Equivalence in the Middle East | Newport Mesa Tea Party Patriots

  10. Michael Smith, M.A., History to 1000 A.D. SF State U

    Oswama is a hate-whitey, hate-America affirmative-action nothing, who never ran anything but his mouth, and cannot ever be projected by white-guilt into having any “policy” other than a high-school socialist’s parroting.of Marx’s 1848 nonsense.




  12. First, I am currently in Jerusalem at a hotel where scores of military police are billited. I figured out that if only the Arab terror was involved, there wouldn’t be such a presence of force around the city. But if this is a planned outburst, not by the loser Abbas, but by Iran and its proxies, then this would warrant such force. And this is what I believe has and is occurring. It’s encouraged by the direct negative attitude toward Israel by the US State Dept. and by the xxxx in the WHouse. Dr. Hanson mentions the scorn for Neanderthal use of brute force on the part of Washinton…and Israel tried to use sophisticated/incoherent force in Lebanon in ’06 and failed. The IDF learned and went back to the Neanderthal strategy, but wisely used tested infantry with clear goals and force needed to fulfill the objectives in Gaza’s Cast Lead, and it worked. I see the faces of the soldiers who put their lives at risk to protect civilians and they aren’t monsters…they’re like America’s sons and daughters asked to do a nasty job against a vicious, primitive and vengeful foe. The fact that Washington supports this terror with our tax dollars is nauseatingly disgusting. This same terror will come more and more to US shores, sadly to predict. But then again..Who’s in the WHouse?

  13. ‘Westerners….limbic brains’

    Pretty apt description. The West looks awfully confused. The result looks that it cedes the advantage to those of the authoritarian stripe who would gladly espouse and wish to foment chaos to push their power agenda.

    And if there indeed is ‘American indifference’ in the region the West can ill afford to dismiss lightly Putin’s current Syrian play. At this point the Middle East looks to be a chaotic sandbox. Will the West know how to ‘play well’ with the others under the circumstances?. I don’t know but it’ll be hell to pay if they’re sandbagged by autocrats on a mission.

  14. Proudly Unaffiliated

    Another excellent column from VDH and wonderful comments that followed, too. This blog is very high quality — content and readership. Maybe it is time to remind Obama of his own words spoken in the city of brotherly love, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

  15. A country tempts true peril when its top leader is incapable of defining good or evil. A more troubling thought is the state of common sense and wisdom in that country which picks such a leader a second time.

  16. Proportionality! The way one wins a battle is by applying DISproportionate force. If forces are equal, the skilful general seeks to create a local imbalance where his own forces can break through and break his enemy. Indeed, if one general is skilful and the other is feckless, a small force can beat a much larger force.
    Can you say, “Cannae?”

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