Israel and Gaza

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Passdagas the Brown
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

Teremia wrote: Even the example of the Yazidi people in Iraq (example raised by V) makes me sad and worried more than anything. Why are those people trapped on their mountain and threatened with slaughter by ISIS? Doesn't it ultimately have something to do with the absolutely disastrous US invasion of Iraq? And that violence was partly paid for by my taxes, which is part of the burden of responsibility and guilt that being an American seems to involve these days.
I brought up the Yazidi example first, and am perhaps guilty of helping osgiliate this thread! My apologies for that. But I agree with V's recent statement. Yes, it is likely that ISIS would not be threatening mass atrocities against the Yazidi had the US not invaded Iraq, and had Saddam Hussein still been in power (though its worth noting that Saddam Hussein didn't treat the Yazidi very well either, nor the broader Kurdish population - against whom Hussein participated in an attempted genocide via gassing). So while the Yazidi wouldn't have been on a mountain facing extinction at the hands of ISIS, they may very well have been in a position of brutal oppression at the hands of another man (and government) that had a history of attempted genocide against minorities in Iraq - particularly of the Kurdish kind (and the Yazidis are a Kurdish sect). As an aside, this video of the female Yazidi PM in the Iraqi Parliament, delivering an overwhelming and grief-wracked testimony the day before the US began its operation, is worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdIEm1s6yhY

But as V says, that's beside the point. The only point that's truly relevant is that the Yazidis were facing an imminent genocide, and a military action against ISIS, conducted by the United States, STOPPED that from happening.

IMO, it is at times like this that I feel truly proud of the role the United States can play in the world, if it has the stomach for it (and, yes, if it doesn't follow public opinion polling to determine what to do). We elect a President to make foreign policy decisions for us, and as long as those actions are not illegal under US law, or based on blatant lies, they are popularly legitimate (though I do prefer those actions to be legitimated by the UN Security Council as much as possible - which is sometimes nearly impossible due to Russian and Chinese opposition). Personally, I think conducting a "populist" foreign policy is a recipe for international disaster. Yes, most Americans don't want the US back in Iraq. But IMO, that has nothing to do with whether or not the Obama Administration should go back. Until the next election, that is (or unless the US were to reinstate a draft, in which case there would need to be far more buy-in for U.S. foreign policy decisions by the American public). But enough of this osgiliation...

On this question of military action vs. pacifism, Israel and Gaza is much thornier than Iraq, in a lot of ways. As long as Hamas continues to fire rockets (or threaten to fire rockets) into Israel, the United States will have very little room to suggest that Israel desist from military action in Gaza, even if that action results in the inadvertent deaths of thousands of Palestinian citizens. Yes, I think Netanyahu and Lieberman are bad for Israel. But Hamas is worse for the Palestinians. They are the worst thing that could have happened to the Palestinians. If only Fatah was more organized, and had more inspiring leaders, they may have been able to halt Hamas' rise... But that's water under the bridge now.
Last edited by Passdagas the Brown on Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:54 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Yes, I think Netanyahu and Lieberman are bad for Israel. But Hamas is worse for the Palestinians. They are the worst thing that could have happened to the Palestinians.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

I lied about no more osgiliating, and have to add just one last point on this broader topic of civilian deaths (which is relevant to the Gaza example, or course).

The distinction between "types of killing" in international law, which some here find offensive (for reasons I cannot understand), is, IMO, one of the greatest examples of humanitarian progress in the 20th century, and is one of the few things that stands in the way of future genocide (as long as that law is backed up with action - including military action when absolutely necessary).

All killing is awful. But killing civilians deliberately IS worse that killing civilians accidentally. Committing deliberate genocide against a specific group of people (defined by ethnicity or religion or other identifiers) IS worse than inadvertently killing civilians during the heat of battle. Killing civilians IS worse than killing enemy soldiers. Just as premeditated murder is deemed worse than manslaughter in the United States.

Today, a leader of a country that tries to commit genocide is almost guaranteed to find him or herself dead or in jail at the hands of the international community. That's progress.

These laws and/or international norms have led the world towards a greater level of civilization, not less. We should see it as an advancement, and try to build on it, not attack it for being less than perfect.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Beutlin »

Passdagas the Brown wrote:The distinction between "types of killing" in international law, which some here find offensive (for reasons I cannot understand), is, IMO, one of the greatest examples of humanitarian progress in the 20th century, and is one of the few things that stands in the way of future genocide (as long as that law is backed up with action - including military action when absolutely necessary).

Killing civilians IS worse than killing enemy soldiers. Just as premeditated murder is deemed worse than manslaughter in the United States.
As someone who has extensively studied the history of surrender over the last months, I can attest that attitudes towards civilians in warfare vastly changed over the course of history. Let’s just say that there was a time when the word “civilian” did not even exist theoretically. Everyone was put to the sword.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by nerdanel »

PtB's and and Beutlin's points illustrate how different the framing of laws and norms can be, depending on one's perspective.

For the idealist who takes the position that there should be no war, and therefore refuses to consider intermediate norms that might mitigate (but not end) the real-time carnage and devastation of war, the laws of armed conflict are a travesty. By removing legitimacy from certain forms of killing (e.g., civilians and prisoners of war) under certain conditions, they may implicitly seem to confer legitimacy on killing other people, killing in other ways, or killing at other times.

But the pragmatist recognizes that there are wars and will continue to be wars for a good long while - not because anyone of good faith likes bloodshed and death, but because it is naive and unrealistic not to account for those of bad faith in the world, those who do explicitly seek bloodshed and death, and against whom innocents must be protected. It is simply unreasonable to contend that innocents can be protected non-violently in every circumstance that currently exists in the world. In the face of this horrid reality, the pragmatist recognizes as a civilizing step the laws and norms that seek to place certain types of killing wholly beyond the pale even for people of bad faith - and certainly for those of good faith who must act violently to oppose them. Under this framework, the laws of armed conflict perhaps may be viewed as an incremental step towards a world without bloodshed, in which all types of killing will eventually be wholly beyond the pale.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Beutlin »

Passdagas the Brown wrote:But as V says, that's beside the point. The only point that's truly relevant is that the Yazidis were facing an imminent genocide, and a military action against ISIS, conducted by the United States, STOPPED that from happening.

IMO, it is at times like this that I feel truly proud of the role the United States can play in the world...
I generally do not want to write about politics on this forum but I completely agree with you on this issue. Given the chance, ISIS would kill and rape every single Yazidi, Christian, Shiite, and anyone else they deem a “Kuffar”. I tend to avoid moral judgments when it comes to foreign policy, etc. but it was the right thing to do for the United States to bomb those bastards.

Oh, and watch that (non-graphic) video of a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament pleading for help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qvqezt ... ZbLH5O0N4g
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Beutlin wrote:I generally do not want to write about politics on this forum
I for one would be happy to have your perspective on political matters in this forum.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Cerin »

Doesn't Israel play right into Hamas' hands when they respond this way? My line of thinking is . . . People have admitted that Hamas' attacks are largely ineffective, whereas Israel's response is effective. So you have a predictable outcome -- not many Israelis dead, lots of Palestinians dead. Is this perhaps Hamas' aim in the first place? Provoke a response that is out of proportion (in effect if not theory), to elicit sympathy and an international reaction against Israel? If so, it seems to be a very effective tactic.

I can understand Israel's tendency to respond in principle, but what is it gaining them?
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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"Idealism" and "pragmatism" aren't incompatible. I don't think anyone has said increased protections for civilians are a bad thing! I'm deeply grateful for every step toward a less cruel world.

I'm just saying that IF we reached that happy moment when non-combatants were truly left unharmed in wars (in itself, I think we can agree, a utopian and unreachable goal), THEN I would still be discontented, because actually I don't want soldiers to suffer either.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

nerdanel wrote:PtB's and and Beutlin's points illustrate how different the framing of laws and norms can be, depending on one's perspective.

For the idealist who takes the position that there should be no war, and therefore refuses to consider intermediate norms that might mitigate (but not end) the real-time carnage and devastation of war, the laws of armed conflict are a travesty. By removing legitimacy from certain forms of killing (e.g., civilians and prisoners of war) under certain conditions, they may implicitly seem to confer legitimacy on killing other people, killing in other ways, or killing at other times.

But the pragmatist recognizes that there are wars and will continue to be wars for a good long while - not because anyone of good faith likes bloodshed and death, but because it is naive and unrealistic not to account for those of bad faith in the world, those who do explicitly seek bloodshed and death, and against whom innocents must be protected. It is simply unreasonable to contend that innocents can be protected non-violently in every circumstance that currently exists in the world. In the face of this horrid reality, the pragmatist recognizes as a civilizing step the laws and norms that seek to place certain types of killing wholly beyond the pale even for people of bad faith - and certainly for those of good faith who must act violently to oppose them. Under this framework, the laws of armed conflict perhaps may be viewed as an incremental step towards a world without bloodshed, in which all types of killing will eventually be wholly beyond the pale.
Excellent post, nerdanel.

Under this framework, I would call myself a pragmatic idealist. The goal, the ideal, is a world where people are secure from the kind of physical violence that is not the result of a legitimate, fair and legal system in a genuinely democratic polity (though I also advocate the end of the death penalty, we'll leave that aside for now). The means of getting there, however, are far more complex, and one absolutely must be pragmatic on that path. In other words, a stepping stone to achieving this ideal of physical safety (i.e. peace) is killing certain people, particularly those like the ISIS fighters and leadership, Muammar Gaddafi and Adolf Hitler, who have all committed (and threatened) mass atrocities.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

Beutlin wrote:
Passdagas the Brown wrote:But as V says, that's beside the point. The only point that's truly relevant is that the Yazidis were facing an imminent genocide, and a military action against ISIS, conducted by the United States, STOPPED that from happening.

IMO, it is at times like this that I feel truly proud of the role the United States can play in the world...
I generally do not want to write about politics on this forum but I completely agree with you on this issue. Given the chance, ISIS would kill and rape every single Yazidi, Christian, Shiite, and anyone else they deem a “Kuffar”. I tend to avoid moral judgments when it comes to foreign policy, etc. but it was the right thing to do for the United States to bomb those bastards.

Oh, and watch that (non-graphic) video of a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament pleading for help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qvqezt ... ZbLH5O0N4g
I can't watch that video without tearing up. It feels like a punch to the stomach.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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Passdagas the Brown wrote: I can't watch that video without tearing up. It feels like a punch to the stomach.
Trust me when I say that it is so much more heart wrenching if you understand arabic and her pleas. :(

That being said, hopefully the worst is over for these poor souls: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/world ... -news&_r=0
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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The worst is very far from over. When they eventually manage to escape the 'mountain of death', where do they run to? Hundreds have had to either leave their loved ones behind or been separated from them.

The situation is absolutely desperate for Iraq's beleaguered minority communities: the Christians, the Yazidis, the Muslims who are the 'wrong kind of Muslims'. IS will hunt these people down. They want them out. They want them dead.

Here's the latest - the UN has declared its highest state of emergency:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28785725

What a mess. What a horrible, horrible mess.

I don't blame the Western powers for the militancy of IS. Their awful agenda, in its various forms, existed pre-9/11. I do think we bear a very heavy responsibility indeed for the bloody chaos into which Iraq has descended. If it was a terrible decision to invade and occupy, back in 2003, then pulling out the way we did seems even worse.

:(
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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I'm not sure what else we were going to do, though. The public mood was/is against occupation and the Iraqi government wanted us to leave. We'd been saying all along we'd go when it was time and since Iraq had a nominally functional government and that government was rather firmly showing us the door and the American people in general wanted to bring the troops home, there weren't many legitimate options.

The fact that the Iraqi army is so incredibly weak is not helping. Nor, I think, is the continued instability of Syria.

The Yazidis are being rescued by Kurds, who I gather have historically been their friends. They are being evacuated to a Kurdish part of Syria that is supposedly safe and quiet. For now. For as long as the gunrunners keep them armed, at least.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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I heard a story on the radio yesterday suggesting that France plans to send (sell?) arms to Kurds and that Australia may put troops on the ground.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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The US apparently flew some Special Forces helicopters over/around the mountain to decide if there was anything sending in ground troops could do and concluded that the Kurds had already more or less finished the rescue. Also, I think I heard on NPR a couple days ago that the State Department approved arm sales to the peshmerga. The general consensus among Iraq war veterans posting in the relevant threads on reddit is that the peshmerga are excellent fighters and, properly equipped, up to the task of rescuing the Yazidi. Kurds on reddit also agree with that assessment.

Reddit can be a very interesting corner of the internet at times. It needs to be consumed with caution, but there are things to be learned there. Also, one of the only perks to commuting by car is I now get lots of time with NPR.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

River wrote:The Yazidis are being rescued by Kurds, who I gather have historically been their friends. They are being evacuated to a Kurdish part of Syria that is supposedly safe and quiet. For now. For as long as the gunrunners keep them armed, at least.
Yazidis are Kurds. Just a particular religious sect among them who practice a religion related to Zoroastrianism.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

superwizard wrote:
Passdagas the Brown wrote: I can't watch that video without tearing up. It feels like a punch to the stomach.
Trust me when I say that it is so much more heart wrenching if you understand arabic and her pleas. :(

That being said, hopefully the worst is over for these poor souls: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/world ... -news&_r=0
Having studied modern standard Arabic for three years, I understand about 1/5 of what she was saying. :)
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Re: Israel and Gaza

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Passdagas the Brown wrote: Having studied modern standard Arabic for three years, I understand about 1/5 of what she was saying. :)
Oh well my apologies I didn't know! :oops:

Her accent is something that I'm not quite used to myself and I definitely had to concentrate more to understand what she was saying. Arabic is such an interesting language; in my humble opinion, it is a collection of languages which happen to be (almost) mutually intelligible. Many of my friends who grew up in the united states can only really understand the dialect they spoke with their parents. In the middle east however, migration and the media have greatly increased people's exposure to different dialects.
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Re: Israel and Gaza

Post by Passdagas the Brown »

superwizard wrote:
Passdagas the Brown wrote: Having studied modern standard Arabic for three years, I understand about 1/5 of what she was saying. :)
Oh well my apologies I didn't know! :oops:

Her accent is something that I'm not quite used to myself and I definitely had to concentrate more to understand what she was saying. Arabic is such an interesting language; in my humble opinion, it is a collection of languages which happen to be (almost) mutually intelligible. Many of my friends who grew up in the united states can only really understand the dialect they spoke with their parents. In the middle east however, migration and the media have greatly increased people's exposure to different dialects.
Nothing to apologize for. By saying that I understood 1/5 of it, I was essentially saying that I didn't understand it! :) Catching only 1/5 of any dialogue is almost worse than not getting any of it at all. Essentially, because I have started learning modern standard Arabic as an adult (for work purposes, primarily), it's taking a long time to get it right. For a native Indo-European language speaker, a Semitic language ain't east to pick up! :)
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