Comments: Unfair

Your points reminded me of this quote:

"They [Israeli soldiers] are very brave people... they are idealists... they want to serve their country and they want to prove themselves. The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself. They are in a lose-lose situation. If you are strong and fighting the weak, then if you kill your opponent then you are a scoundrel... if you let him kill you, then you are an idiot. So here is a dilemma which others have suffered before us, and for which as far as I can see there is simply no escape. Now the Israeli army has not by any means been the worst of the lot. It has not done what for instance the Americans did in Vietnam... it did not use napalm, it did not kill millions of people. So everything is relative, but by definition, to return to what I said earlier, if you are strong and you are fighting the weak, then anything you do is criminal."
--Martin van Creveld, in reference to the Israel/Palestinian situation (c. 2002)

And anything America does while fighting in Iraq is criminal.

Posted by Bolo at April 9, 2010 02:30 AM

Brilliant post, Jon. And absolutely true.

Posted by Chris Floyd at April 9, 2010 05:15 AM

Good post, but I would have put the bold on this: "What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would."

Posted by N E at April 9, 2010 09:27 AM
And since they could not reach the battleship, they found a more vulnerable target, the exposed Marines at the airport.

Doesn't that pretty much sum up one of the rationales of Osama bin Laden for the WTC atttack? To draw America into battle in parts of the world it was easier for al Qaeda to get to than "Fortress America"?

Posted by darrelplant at April 9, 2010 11:36 AM

I wouldn't say "overlook", it's more like actively suppressed. The propaganda machine goes to great lengths to explain "the muslim mind" and understand why they are inherently different from "us" and when they think differently and in fact do not react the same way we would (they don't even "value life" the same.) It makes it easier that way. It's a necessary prerequisite to being able to carry out these sorts of crimes (at least for people who were otherwise sane to begin with.)

Posted by john at April 9, 2010 11:38 AM

Time: September 11, 2001, 5:30PM

Place: Somerville, MA, while attending Harvard Divinity School.

Liberal Midwestern Presbyterian: "I'm so angry now, I hope we start a war against these guys."

Me: "Dude, what they did is identical to Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, except they all died."

LMP went slack jawed and silent.

Liberal Massachussetts Atheist: "Don't go around town saying that."

Next day I made flyers that showed the Death Star blowing up behind a plane flying into WTCI. Below it read: "Did you cheer when Luke blew up the Death Star?"

Posted by Solar Hero at April 9, 2010 12:24 PM

I'm also up to here with the use of the word "insurgent," which is defined as someone who resists legitimate authority. What constitutes "legitimate" authority in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. I ask.

Posted by catherine at April 9, 2010 12:27 PM

"if you are strong and you are fighting the weak, then anything you do is criminal."

But he forgot to mention, "...because if you are strong and you are fighting the weak then YOU STARTED IT."

Love the Deathstar thing btw.

Posted by DavidByron at April 9, 2010 01:37 PM

Not every thread can immediately get someone mentioning Osama bin Laden's "rationales" for 9/11 and then quickly get somebody else doing a Ward Churchill impersonation. Impressive!

Emmanuel Goldstein wants to know if anybody has figured out yet whether The Brotherhood exists.
Now the thread is complete!

Posted by N E at April 9, 2010 01:45 PM

Just going to bring up the obvious conversation in Clerks, about all the innocent workers killed in the destruction of the second Death Star:

Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed- casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. (notices Dante's confusion) All right, look-you're a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia-this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn't ask for that. You have no personal politics. You're just trying to scrape out a living.

Posted by saurabh at April 9, 2010 02:08 PM

DavidByron (Overton Window man)

The idea that the strong always start fights with the weak is usually right, but definitely not always, especially when the goal of the weak is to draw support for their cause either from a separate nation which is stronger still, or in the case of the United States, to affect public opinion in a way that hamstrings the US military and keeps it from using its full power. The latter is mostly what our post-Vietnam military is concerned with, because the only enemy capable of defeating the American military these days is the American public. (That's their view, not mine.) That's why we have those 1000+ PR people at Fort Bragg, and Lord knows how connected the CIA is these days.

Posted by N E at April 9, 2010 02:53 PM

Flying planes into buildings and killing 3000 people is called mass murder. Gunning people down in the street for helping a wounded man is also called mass murder, though in the US we're more likely to call it "a tragic accident of war" or some such nonsense. But you don't fight that bit of nonsense with another piece of nonsense comparing Mohammad Atta to Luke Skywalker.

Posted by Donald Johnson at April 9, 2010 02:56 PM

"But you don't fight that bit of nonsense with another piece of nonsense comparing Mohammad Atta to Luke Skywalker."

Oh indeed you do. That's how the Merit Class demonstrates its disagreement with disagreeable national policies. It conjures esoteric criticisms, morphed as in-jokes decoded with Ivy League dining club handshakes. See how superior we are! Those rubes don't get our jokes!

Posted by CF Oxtrot at April 9, 2010 03:16 PM

Lucas is elite culture now? The Ivy League just ain't what it used to be.

Posted by msw at April 9, 2010 04:02 PM

Dammit, Jon, you stole my idea for part of the blog post I'm going to write this evening. You're absolutely right, because I'm absolutely right.

Donald Johnson: "Flying planes into buildings and killing 3000 people is called mass murder." If the US did it, it would be called "humanitarian intervention," or at worst "a tragic mistake, but no one could have foreseen the consequences."

Posted by Duncan at April 9, 2010 05:19 PM

msw... I didn't say Lucas was "elite culture." I said the joke would be cryptic. Solar Hero's "joke" was exactly that. Why do you have such a tough time reading things clearly? Ivy grad, are you? Trying to create complexity where it ain't?

Posted by CF Oxtrot at April 9, 2010 06:16 PM

I think that Martin Van Crevald contradicted himself when he said "They [Israeli soldiers] are very brave people... they are idealists... they want to serve their country and they want to prove themselves."

It stands to reason that if someone is much weaker than yourself, then the only thing you've actually proven is that you're not brave, but a coward, which is exactly what the Israeli army is, especial when it "courageously" faces children with stones. Now that is the epitome of bravery, and if that were really the case, then Goliath would have been the hero.

Posted by Marlene at April 9, 2010 09:20 PM

Duncan--No one could have forseen the consequences is pretty good. You may have a bright career ahead as a writer of NYT Week in Review analyses. My own "tragic accident of war" is more the daily bread and butter phrase that would appear in the initial news article.

Posted by Donald Johnson at April 9, 2010 09:29 PM

Pat Lang, a former military intelligence guy who I read sometimes, says this--

"The Army does not think it has an obligation to inform the public when its people "screw up." "

Well, there's your problem right there.

Posted by Donald Johnson at April 10, 2010 12:25 AM

DonaldJ, maybe I should take on writing news analyses for the Times as a day job, or a way of earning pin money when I retire. Given that it largely consists of recycling cliches like "No one could have foreseen..." and "Only reflexive Obama-haters and pacifists would criticize the decision", I could probably do it in my sleep.

Posted by Duncan at April 10, 2010 12:04 PM

Donald Johnson

Pat Lang is certainly right, but the army also regularly goes well beyond failing to inform to outright deception. Then again, outright deception is common across most institutions, so they aren't alone, and they think it's necessary to protect the country, which is better than most reasons for lying.

Posted by N E at April 10, 2010 01:08 PM

The massive, gaping difference between the Death Star analogy is that the Death Star was largely a military base (hence, "fully operational BATTLE STATION") and the WTC was a civilian complex. But hey, whatever helps you guys justify your creepy ultra-liberal, and dare I say, anti-American, views. Otherwise, I agree with the majority of this article. I just think some of the comments are asinine.

Posted by Jeremy at April 12, 2010 08:37 AM

Yeah, this was a brilliant post that I found via Dennis Perrin. Thanks for it. I was dismayed tonight by an old friend on Facebook who was more outraged by the journalism style of than over the killing of innocent people

But the Death Star / 9-11 thing is way off. It's not like Luke and his friends blew up Lobot and the shoppers at Cloud City. The rebels were attacking a giant manned weapon that was seconds away from demolishing Yavin. Star Wars has always been fodder for cheap analogies but I usually hear them from right-wingers.

Posted by John at April 13, 2010 10:40 PM