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Friday, February 26, 2010

A Mouthful

I find this kind of surgical execution, however awful, to be morally superior to the collateral deaths of so many innocent children and civilians, as occurred in the Gaza war under the rules of conduct the IDF allowed. It's also morally more defensible than the US drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

-Andrew Sullivan

Boy, that's a mouthful, isn't it. Somehow, I don't think that is going to recapture the conservative soul.

Extra-judicial murder, assassination, is a dicey business. We open the door to lowering the standard for what we judge "innocent". Indeed, we can end up with an unmoored political definition of "innocent", one that so blurs the line that the oft-seen declaration of "there are no innocents among them" comes to mind.

It also potentially surrenders the moral high ground in a high stakes game of political pressure, the struggle for legitimacy in the eyes of crucial arbiters. For instance, suppose five American soldiers were kidnapped in "retaliation" for this assassination. Is that targeting 'morally superior'? Can one condemn it?

Suppose al-qa'ida were able to kill our President or, say, our Secretary of Defense. Would we consider that 'morally superior' to a mass attack of some kind? I doubt it would feel that way. Because of the symbolism of it, we'd all feel attacked, no?

Suppose 'insurgents' in Iraq start to hang citizen "collaborators". Just because it is organized, does that render it morally superior to killing people 'by accident' or 'at random'?

The drone attacks is a different analysis, maybe...

As for Gaza, why focus on that? It seems unnecessarily narrow for a general point (perhaps this is not a general point?). In any case, a 'connected criticism' would include an answer to what Israel was supposed to do in response to rockets from Gaza, even if they weren't enormously lethal. The best greenfield answer is to remove the Hamas from leadership, right? Or, is it - let's hear the opinions of those who'd make one. Of course, one can judge the execution of the incursion on its own merits, but one risks missing the forest for the trees, in doing so.