Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The West Must Not Incentivize Violence by Accepting False Guilt

Jenny McCartney, a columnist for The Daily Telegraph, has a good blog post entitled: "Omar bin Laden has two messages: one for the West, and one for the Islamist world" in which she discusses the rather ambiguous messages coming from one of bin Laden's sons regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden.

She notes that Omar bin Laden tries to turn the West's commitment to the rule of law against it by trying to make Westerners feel guilty for retaliating against bin Laden in the same way bin Laden attacked the US. He asserts that he condemns his father's violence, although we have no way to judge the sincerity of his assertion, and this gives him an opening for criticizing the West.

I think McCartney has him all figured out:
Omar bin Laden publicly opposed his father’s ideas when Osama was alive: he still does, but has now taken up the metaphorical sword of familial defence. Yet whatever complicated psychological position Omar now finds himself in, it is clear that the US’s killing of his father was not at all arbitrary, in the sense of capricious or uncontrolled. The US is a nation that, unlike Britain, supports and regularly enacts the death penalty. Osama bin Laden, in 2004 and again in 2006, admitted directing the activities of the 9/11 bombers. If Osama’s execution was justified as an act of US self-defence – as President Obama argues – it was also broadly in keeping with that nation’s code of retributive justice.

It is a tactic familiar to terrorism, from the Provisional IRA in its heyday onwards, that it reserves for itself the right to wage a brutal and summary “war” against its opponents, but to be treated by them in return with all the complicated legal privileges of a liberal democracy. The US has declined, in the case of Osama bin Laden, to buy into that particular bargain, although President Obama has done well thereafter not to pander to the more ghoulish impulses of elements in the US population by touting death photographs as a trophy. Omar bin Laden can perhaps draw consolation from the fact that, unlike him, his father – who regarded the murder of thousands of blameless US citizens as a triumph – strongly approved of the principle of sudden death.

The US declined to resort to international law procedures in the case of bin Laden. It just killed him. But it was bin Laden who did it first. It was bin Laden who ignored the "rules of international law" by flying airplanes into skyscrapers and the US would not have done what it did if bin Laden had not done what he did first. So it is bin Laden who deserves the criticism and the US was perfectly justified in responding in kind.

This is something a lot of people either don't understand or are being willfully obtuse about. War is always a failure of diplomacy and a breakdown of the rule of law. War is about restoring the rule of law, but whoever attacks first has stepped outside the law and chosen to resort to force.

The next time the Arabs attack Israel, they need to understand that they are abandoning diplomacy, international law and all pretext of seeking justice. They are resorting to brute force. And when they did that in 1967 Israel seized the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza. It is ridiculous for the Arabs then to cry foul and demand the land back. It was they who chose to live by the sword, just as bin Laden did, and those who live by the sword die by the sword.

If the world community rewards the Islamists for using violence to get what they can and they demanding that their victims be punished for winning the battle, then the world community should expect that there will be a never-ending resorting to violence over and over again. If there is no fear that will face retribution and possibly lose land, they have every incentive to attack and no reason to hold back.

So, does the world want peace or war? Which is it? If you support the apologists for bin Laden in condemning the US for fighting back in self-defense, then you are supporting violence and make further war and terrorism more likely. If you support forcing Israel to give up defensible borders and the land they won in a defensive war to the aggressors, then you incentivize aggression and war.

It is rank hypocrisy to appeal to "peace" and "international law" in order to make war, terrorism and violence profitable. And it is not "Christian" or "moral" to do so either. It is folly.

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