“There is no nation on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” said Barack Obama in response to Israel’s retaliation against Hamas last week, and that is certainly true (although many countries have had to). “The tactic is deterrence. Our strategy is survival,” wrote Michael Oren Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. “Bound by its genocidal theology and crude anti-Semitism, Hamas cannot be induced to make peace. But it can be deterred from war.”
Whether Israel is acting within the legal and moral parameters of war and self-defense is a matter of opinion. What is a fact, however, is that Israeli firepower is killing non-combatants at 28 times the rate of Hamas rockets. Israeli and U.S. diplomats assert that this is a price that must be paid for a short-term cease-fire and an unsustainable peace.
No “Just War” theory justifies the killing of non-combatants in such a lopsided ratio. In a fascinating series last week, philosopher Jeff McMahon discussed current efforts to modernize the theory, which dates to Saint Augustine, “in ways that will bring it into closer congruence with the morality of war.” But the more we try to do so, the more we see that moral war is an oxymoron – 75 million people were killed in World War II, two-thirds of them non-combatants. That was “the good war.”
It seems inadequate simply to give thanks that I who write this and you who read it have not been innocent casualties in the insanity of war, so let's pledge to work to stop the carnage.