Krauthammer’s “Morality”

Comparing the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Charles Krauthammer weighs in on the Israeli reponse:

“Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right — legal and moral — to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one’s security again. That’s what it took with Japan.”

Let’s apply the principle enunciated here to everyday human relations. Say I “capture” your wallet on a crowded bus, and make for the back in an effort to evade your attention. In pursuit, you push over a few old ladies, floor a woman carrying a baby, and trample several young and rather small children. Not only that, but you start shooting — and hit five or six people without landing a bullet on me.

According to the Krauthammerian moral doctrine, you are perfectly within your rights. After all, I am “hiding among civilians,” just as Krauthammer alleges is Hezbollah’s favorite tactic. Besides which, those “civilians,” who know perfectly well that I’m a pickpocket — this bus line has been plagued with them recently — have done nothing to stop me. They let me pass, and isn’t this a form of collaboration? As the Israeli “Justice” Minister Haim Ramon, in advocating that villages under attack by the IDF should be “flattened,” put it:

“Israel had given the civilians of southern Lebanon ample time to quit the area and therefore anyone still remaining there could be considered a Hezbollah supporter. ‘All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,’ Mr Ramon said.”

There aren’t “innocent civilians” in the back of the bus, and anyone who gets in your way is fair game. You finally get to the back row, and find I’ve locked myself in the bathroom. You’re out of ammunition, but luckily you remembered to take your switchblade: this is used to persuade the bus driver to hand over the key. You, of course, have a perfect right to hold all the passengers on that bus hostage: after all, you must “carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one’s security again.”

According to the logic of Krauthammer’s moral creed, you have the right to blow up the bus and everyone in it provided the threat to your security, i.e. the pickpocket, is eliminated, which is precisely what Israel is doing to Lebanon.


If individuals engaged in the behavior exhibited by Israel in Lebanon, they would be prosecuted and imprisoned in order to protect the public. No doubt Krauthammer believes Israel’s status as a state grants it transcendence over a legal and moral code meant for mere mortals. But of course a state can be guilty of war crimes, which Israel is surely committing as I write. (Or is Krauthammer now joining the “revisionists” in repudiating the war crimes trials at Nuremberg?)