Archive for the ‘israel’ Category

the north wind and the sun

August 21, 2006

alternate titles here

say again?

if i had my way no arab would board a plane without undergoing a full luggage search and extensive searches of their persons… it causes only minor inconveniences to those involved while providing greater security to everyone else involved.  its a win win as far as i am concerned

and later on in our conversation…

it deprives them of nothing, and if they feel shame at being so treated i think that they should feel even more shame that there exists a rational basis for it

clearly, my friend is a racist jerk… but that isn’t the point. he also apparently no longer believes in the individual or the principles of our justice system… but that isn’t the point either. (both should be obvious.) my concern is that his being racist is threatening my life, and prolonging what should have been an easy war.

racial profiling makes america unsafe. in case that isn’t clear, let me start with the ideal.



israel, updated

July 23, 2006

the matthew kalman piece, observing that israel’s invasion of lebanon has been planned for some time.

and now – predictably – dershowitz is arguing that civilians killed in lebanon may not be so innocent. frighteningly enough, i heard this same argument on the train to newark last week. (with a subtle twist – by not kicking the terrorists out of their neighborhoods, the civilians were themselves involved in terror. the israeli message is something like “force the terrorists out – or else.”) which is a curious set of standards.

i suppose one of the reasons this scares me – and one of the reasons i can’t tell what israel is doing or how they justify it – is that it isn’t clear who they are fighting. nobody thinks hezbollah will be destroyed – and i still don’t know what bombing beruit has to do with that. apparently the brits see things similarly. of course, my confusion is probably a form of denial, given what juan cole’s take on events.

[update:  look at the photo in the washington post – worse here – moments like this make me wonder about humanity]

[update2:  others are drawing interesting parallels between the logic of the ira, even al qaeda, and dershowitz]

[update3:  genius response to dershowitz – i mean absolutely spot-on]

moral weights

July 21, 2006

do you kill one person to save ten?now this is a standard question in moral philosophy, one whose meaning has been explored by kant (no), the utilitarian (yes/maybe), and just about every uppity philosophy 101 student. it has many forms and variants (recently cropping up in organ harvesting – no pun intended), and is one of those things whose answers aren’t really all that interesting, but whose justifications are the real substance.

so why the phil spew? because i think some people’s weighting systems have gone a bit unbalanced and it is a good way to re-center them. from my dear conservative friend, on lebanon-israel:

conservative: part of me is scared shitless this is gonna escalate more than it has. but part of me, though, is sorta glad we’re seeing the extremists emerge here

me: yeah, that one requires some explaining

conservative: at least now we know what we’re really dealing with, ya know. before, it was the easy way of fixing the problem, hope a strong man who you can coerce or cajole fixes it for you. its like the argument you dems always make about s. america — [stop] funding the contras, fix the underlying causes and the contras won’t be needed. well, US foreign policy has for years favored the contras in the ME (ie arafat, assad, mubarak, prince __ of saud, etc) as opposed to fixing underlying causes.

now that we see what those underlying causes can result in we’re a step closer to fixing the problem. is that completely cracked out? its like the argument against rent controls in cities if the signal of how valuable the property is doesn’t get sent, then you will end up with less housing than you actually need.

hm. lemme check whats on cnn – troops at the border, families fleeing, civilians dead and wounded… ok, the washington post has a roundup: more civilian casualties… and the guardian has a piece on children killed and how ineffective the bombing has been… so if that is reality, then what in the world is he seeing? because ‘knowing the mideast has big problems’ doesn’t really count as an upside here. most of us knew that already.this isn’t just my friend – this is what the president thinks:

“The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace,” said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. “He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived.”

this (confirmed with this) is a dangerous shift from our “camp david” policies. ‘root causes’ here clearly doesn’t mean dependence on oil (that finances this conflict). or a history of mistrust (fueled by recent conflicts). it means the existence of hezbollah in lebanon. to them, the conflict is an opportunity to kill terrorists – a long term plus. between now and ‘the long term’, of course, we lose our role as an honest broker. predictably, the conflict can/will has escalated without us.but i started with the moral point. to even consider killing one to save ten, ‘we’ (philosophers, ordinary people) require a clear idea of what is lost and what is gained. the more vague, the more abstract the argument becomes (kill an undefined number now to potentially save more lifes in the future), the more we – rightly, i think – become unsettled. but in the fight between between israel and hezbollah (and by extension, lebanon), nobody has made even a vague case. to infer from actions, killing 306 to save 2 seems a bit unbalanced. accepting ‘collateral damage‘, to kill others (hezbollah) isn’t what i’d call a justification, either. as i understand it, this isn’t a game of counterstrike, where there are only so many terrorists we need to kill. these groups are always recruiting, and – unlike us – i imagine this conflict only fills their ranks (see the guardian reports, above). just killing and destroying isn’t an endgame. it is probably counterproductive. and it definitely won’t build peace. i could ramble on, but i think this makes the point.

i’m not saying don’t respond. i’m saying respond intelligently. think it through. philosophers may not agree on the answer (or even the question), but at a minimum a clear articulation is required. otherwise, it is running straight into misery. (there are, of course, additional benefits to clear statements in the field of public policy.)

[update: no, nevermind, my friend thinks this is all terrible and we need to address inequality in the region. see, now if everyone i know is being reasonable, why can’t the international community just do the same?]

you’ve spun yourself into immorality when…

July 20, 2006

i understand the need to put your best foot forward in politics. it doesn’t make sense to lose an argument, simply because the wrong words were chosen, or because the wrong argument was made at the wrong time. thats reasonable, and those are valid roles for media experts. but… this…?!?

…the reason the United States has been so slow in evacuating its citizens from Lebanon is that the public diplomacy (i.e., P.R.) issues raised by evacuating under Israeli assault are so complicated. Individuals within the State Department, I am told, have been reluctant to create an impression that the Israeli assault on Lebanon is as bad as it is or that civilian U.S. citizens are being threatened by U.S. ally Israel. If a conflict this severe had broken out in, say, Indonesia, the American embassy would have been shut down the next day and its personnel and families rapidly brought to safety. That’s how things normally work. (See Laura Rozen on the evacuation from Albania here.) In this case, however, the diplomatic message sent by shutting down the U.S. embassy in the face of Israeli bombing would have contradicted the U.S. government message of support for the Israeli mission against Hezbollah terrorists, which, when added to the general concern within lower-level diplomatic circles about ever creating a Fall of Saigon-style visual for the news media, have led the Americans to be slower than they could have been about getting U.S. citizens out of harm’s way.

if this thought has even crossed the minds of those in power, i’d say we have a real crisis in goverment. there is, of course, a chance that this is katrina-style failure. which is equally disturbing in my mind. either way, can someone in the media/congress look into this, its kinda important. (and a friend from college is there…)[whee – reading the comments from above, someone cites the Lavon Affair. since when did reality become a Tom Clancy novel / episode of 24? (the comment also cites the USS Liberty Incident, but i can’t make sense of that one.)]
[via shakespeare’s sister]