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April 20, 2004

Comments

Massimo

Gary, thanks for saying what apparently is impossible to say here in Italy and much over Europe.

Gary Robinson

Thanks for saying so. I'm glad someone over there feels the same way I do.

I still would like to hear from somebody who has a rationale for condemning Israel's actions. I was not being rhetorical -- I really don't get how someone could condemn them.

Again, the guy is head of an organization which EVERYONE KNOWS regularly kills defenseless Israeli civilians. And Israel is supposed to be MORALLY WRONG for taking him out?? It seems utterly absurd.

Gary Robinson

Note, I'm not taking Israel off the hook for the innocent Palestinians who have died as a result of Israeli actions either. That has happened too, and it does seem to me -- not that I am any kind of expert -- that Israel could be far more careful than they have been in making sure that they only target those individuals involved in harming Israel and its citizens.

My point is not that Israel is perfect, but that it seems to make no sense to condemn them for taking out someone who is personally responsible for suicide bombers killing innocent non-military Israeli civilians. What is Israel supposed to do, passively let him continue doing so? Israel's leaders would be more "morally correct" in taking such a course?

There could be a question about whether taking out such a person would make the situation even worse. However, that is not at all a foregone conclusion. For more on that issue see this earlier post.

Richard Kimber

One reason against the killing might be that it is not in Israel's interests to do it, because it *guarantees* further attacks on Israel. Kofi Annan is looking for ways to halt the escalation of violence.

Given that such killings won't halt the violence, they seem to amount to little more than "Let's stick it to someone" - sadly too common an attitude in the international relations of some powerful countries.

Gary Robinson

" Kofi Annan is looking for ways to halt the escalation of violence." But there is evidence that retaliation LESSENS the degree of violence, whereas without it, it stays the same. See this WSJ article. I think this information is important. Check it out. Really.

On a different track of reasoning, it the Rantisis of the world stopped ordering these killings of innocent civilians, my belief is that Israel would stop retaliating. They are only retaliating because their people are being killed. But the Rantisis will continue whether or not Israel stops, because they want to see Israel destroyed.

As far as I can tell, the above is, very simply a true statement. Do you disagree with it? Isn't it a simple fact that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist? Or has something changed without my noticing? Again, I'm not being rhetorical, I'm honestly asking for opinions.

Richard Kimber

There are some key mistakes in the article you mention.

Firstly, that we are all (and including the terrorists) rational calculators, working out the costs and benefits. This is clearly false.

Secondly, it is not true that children haven't been sent on suicide missions.

Thirdly, it asserts that terrorism is a top-down business, not vice versa. Some is and some isn't. For example, it's a mistake to see Al Quaeda as a tightly controlled top-down type of organisation. And there is no reason to think that all Palestinian terrorists are also organised in this bolshevik-style way.

On your other track - if you look at the issue in isolation, it may well be the case that Israel would not attack anyone if all attacks on it were to stop, with no prospect of future attacks. However,the situation is complicated by the fact that Israel persists in doing things (e.g.occupying territory) that the Palestinians feel they can only counter by using force. And so it goes on.

Gary Robinson

Oh boy, like any discussion of these topics, this is already flying off in many directions. Then it gets so huge and confused that there's no way for anybody to learn anything.

But let me respond to a few of your points.

"Firstly, that we are all (and including the terrorists) rational calculators, working out the costs and benefits. This is clearly false."

It depends on how you look at it. Some people believe that when they commit suicide while killing Israelis, they will have eternal life in paradise as their reward.

Now, in one sense, they are "rationally calculating" in order to achieve that result.

However, I would not call such a person a "rational calculator" because I believe that his premises are completely irrational. You can do rational calculation based on utterly false premises. You may use a process of logic, but you are NOT a rational calculator.

So I think that in a practical sense your statement that "we are all rational calculators" is false, although it is not without some truth in a more abstract sense.

"Secondly, it is not true that children haven't been sent on suicide missions."

I don't know the reality of that, but the statistics seem to be compelling that when Israel retaliates against the leaders, there are a LOT fewer attacks. When the article mentions the bit about children, it is offering some potential explanation for that phenomenon, but whether or not the explanation is 100% true with absolutely no exceptions, the phenomenon it is trying to explain seems to be true, and that is the relevant thing.

"On your other track - if you look at the issue in isolation, it may well be the case that Israel would not attack anyone if all attacks on it were to stop, with no prospect of future attacks. However,the situation is complicated by the fact that Israel persists in doing things (e.g.occupying territory) that the Palestinians feel they can only counter by using force. And so it goes on. "

Right, I agree. But I wasn't trying to solve the whole Palestinian issue in my original post. I was saying "Is Israel really morally wrong in taking out the leader of Hamas?"

You seem to agree that it may really be true that Hamas would do what its doing whether or not Israel stops retaliating. (Indeed Israel has tried cease-fires and the suicide bombings, which Hamas has claimed responsibilty for, have continued. So I know of no evidence that NOT killing Hamas' leadership would help end the cycle of violence. However, there is statistical evidence that it very significantly lowers the numbers of people killed by that cycle of violence. And we're supposed to think it's morally wrong?

I still don't get it.

Richard Kimber

My origianl point was that the retaliation might not be in Israel's own interest and my point at the end was really that I think you can't really look at the bombing/retaliation issue just on its own, you have to judge the whole picture.
The moral issue is complicated by the difference between relatialtion and pre-emptive striking. However one concludes on the 'moral' question, it still remains as to whether it's going to solve the issue. If one concludes that it's morally right, then one might get a nice warm feeling about it, but the problem is still there.
Of course one can regard a reduction in the number of bombings as an end in itself, but even here the article's statistics assume a simple causal model which may well not be correct. Bombings may have decreased,but one needs to be cautious about the reasons for it. The Palestinians (and the American government, which is also an element in the equation) had different policies at different times and this kind of context is not considered.
Ultimately I believe you have to view the problem in the round, it's certainly not obvious that if all the leaders were continuously culled the bombings would just stop. If you did that, how could they ever develop a leadership with a different policy? I fear the recent pre-emptive leadership strike might result in some massive attack.

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