Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is It Ever Justified?

I've been having the same debate with the same lefty at two different blogs. It started at Serial Extremist where ELAshley put up several posts in reference to the anniverary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It also came up during a discussion at Casting Pearls Before Swine. There, Mark was posting on illegal immigration, an issue that always provokes mention of WWII.

So my friend Dan, who is very confused about most things, is very concerned about war crimes. He is insistant that our leaders answer for anything considered outside the mandates of several conventions regarding proper behavior during wartime. He's a rock. He's unrelenting. He stands firm for the rule of law without question or exception. (Not really. Only about this.)

For my part, I insist that the action he won't tolerate might be justified. I think Truman was justified. Dan likes to cite two or three generals of the time who disagreed and I insist there were likely two or three who were in full agreement with Truman. Either way, the decision was Truman's and Truman's alone to make. He based it on what he felt were the likely consequences of action vs. non-action, drop the bomb vs. not dropping the bomb, and believed the non-action course to be the most risky to us and our allies.

Since that time, there have been many who claim that the bombings were not justified and that they constituted a war crime based on our own laws alone. Some, mostly those from the comfort and safety of sixty years later, insist that there's never a reason for such extreme action. Again, considering I was not cursed with making such a decision, I defer to Harry's judgement.

So the real question here is, what do honorable men do when faced with great risk and few options? Do they abide by the law even when doing so will result in the worse consequences? Or do they do what's necessary to preserve life, or as much of it as possible? There's a saying bandied about in the world of martial arts that goes like this: "I'd rather be judged by twelve men, than carried in a box by six." This has to do with the use of lethal force when confronted on the street and whether it is better to risk one's life or the judgement of a court of law. The same dynamic played out for Give 'Em Hell Harry Truman. I have every confidence that the leaders we elect are likely to make such judgements from the same place Truman was when he made his, rather than rashly. Thus, though the life saving actions they take may be on Dan's and the law's list of war crimes, rational men will spare them and pray that such decisions need never be made again. It's a good prayer to pray now.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Spinning Wheels?

In a move more symbolic than substantive, Ehud Olmert met with Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Jericho on Monday. This was the first time in seven years an Israeli prime minister visited a West Bank town. Very little was accomplished, other than Olmert expressing the desire that real peace talks begin soon.

But I have to side with columnist Chaya Gil who won't hold her breath given the history of such attempts, particularly if peace is contingent upon Israel giving up land. Since Israel has left Gaza, literally hundreds of Qassam rockets have rained upon Israeli towns. " ...on July 29, two terrorists tried to infiltrate Israel from Gaza and two rockets were fired-one landing on a college campus and injuring a woman. It is sheer luck, and perhaps the bad aim of the Hamas terrorists, that prevented more deaths of Israeli civilians."

Also from Gil's column:

"The Israeli public has shown countless times they want peace, they welcome peace, they are ready for peace. Israel's government has shown good faith in dealing with the Palestinians. Despite the continued terrorism, Israel recently released 250 prisoners who were members of Fatah. Israel allowed Gazans, who had fled to Egypt a few weeks ago to avoid the vicious fighting between Hamas and Fatah security forces and were trapped, to return to Gaza through Israel.
"Did you see the celebration on Israel's humanitarian gestures on the Arab street? No? That's because there were no celebrations and virtually no acknowledgment of Israel's efforts."

She goes on to express the sentiment that talk is cheap, and especially so in that region, and also that it can't be disregarded that the Hamas charter still calls for the complete destruction of Israel and the total occupation of that area by Palestinians.

I have to agree. Talk is indeed very cheap there and the hatred for all things Israel will be a difficult aspect to overcome. So I hope something comes of any talks and I hope it's truly satisfactory to both sides. I'm not holding my breath, either.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Now Is The Time, The Time Is Now...

I can't say that I held an aversion toward reading during my formative years, but I also can't say that I was a voracious reader. When told to read a book for whatever reason teachers tell kids to do so, I went ahead and actually read the book. And all along the way, there were books, mostly novels, that I enjoyed reading. I recall having to read "Great Expectations" in high school and thinking, "This is cool!", or sentiments to that effect. And I was always fond of "A Christmas Carol", so as I actually began to seek out books to read for pleasure, I chose Dickens. Thus far, I've read pretty much every book he's written and have most of them on my bookshelf. (I hope to complete the collection with copies from the same series by the same publisher, but have yet to try and contact them to see if they are still available. Otherwise, guess it's off to E-Bay.)

What I found most enjoyable was the way Charlie would spin a tale. He'd take his time with various details, such as meals and such. And I also like the way the main characters maintained such a sense of character and morals and honor and all the attributes that were once held so precious, at least in books, if not in real life. Currently, I'm reading "The Three Musketeers" for the first time (for pleasure I've decided to read "the classics"), and have found the same sense of what it means to be a man of honor and virtue (though the Dumas characters aren't really the most virtuous of men), or more plainly, what it meant to be a man. It is said that George Washington sought to be such a man and from most sources, succeeded.

What do we have now? We have anti-heroes. Stories of today, though often as riveting, often depict characters as heavily flawed, most likely in the belief that such people are more realistic. To have such people rise above their flaws and resolve the issues of the story line would possibly be something to which many might find easier to relate. It's like "real life".

Seems to me, that this parallels a theme in today's culture. I've been told that romantic notions of how people should conduct themselves is unrealistic and that it goes against human nature and that people just aren't like that. I suppose that might be true to some extent, but why accept it? That's where I have a problem. In so many ways, we're given to believe that mankind is incapable of better things. The weird part is when a person of faith speaks of us all as sinners, the same people who think that teens won't stop having sex, that people are unable to control their desires, those same people go nuts.

But I prefer to believe that while we all are indeed sinners, we are also indeed capable of transcending our base natures and rising to become something better. The classic novels that appeal to me describe without embarrassment the ideal man and woman, those possessing a will to attain that transcended Godly character that can only leave behind a better world for having existed as such. I not only believe we all are capable of becoming more like such characters, I believe it is imperative that we work toward such lofty goals. If we aren't actively and consciously seeking to become a force for good amongst our peers and in the world, can we possibly become better than a force for something far worse? I think it's pretty obvious the answer is "NO!". If an athlete doesn't work to become a better athlete, he will only be an inferior one. By the same token, we must always be aware of how we act, to what we lend our support, what we allow by our silence or inaction.

I don't know what of the above might provoke discussion. I just felt like rambling.