Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Blame and the Middle East

Brian Doherty at Reason tries to figure out who is to blame for problems in the Middle East. As Doherty demonstrates, there is much grey area involved when it comes to assigning blame, but we are obligated to wade the murky moral waters, lest we find ourselves in an endless cycle of violence.

From the conclusion

To bring the blame game back home, for those who can blithely excuse either side of this conflict—who think the life of an Israeli civilian is justly forfeit because of the actions of the Israeli state, or that of a Lebanese civilian because of its sort-of state's failure to curb Hezbollah—could you admit, even to your self, in the deepest most secret part of your blog, that any bomb dropped or missile shot by the U.S. government anywhere—Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Japan, Panama, Grenada—could possibly have been the moral equivalent of the ones Hezbollah lobbed at Israel, or Israel at Hezbollah, and suck it up and admit that you are to blame as your home and families are killed when someone decides to retaliate on our territory?

It might be that in a truly just world, we all are getting exactly what we deserve for moral crimes of commission and omission, for letting evils be committed by states in our name, for failing to stop whatever wrongs we could stop, or die trying. And in the face of recent Lebanese events, dithering online about who is to blame might seem morally suspect itself. But moral thinking about blame and responsibility (and attempts at finding such moral arguments that are convincing beyond national, ideological, or religious communities of affinity) is important even when the grim realities make morality seem the most ineffectual of phantasms: There will be many living aggrieved victims, and families of dead ones, of what is happening in Lebanon now.

And while some of them will just try to go on with life as best they can, some of them will want answers, and justice, and vengeance. And in the year 2025, if blogs are still alive, if armchair commenters still thrive, we will find another maddening, conclusionless, muddled discussion of morality and blame regarding a fresh series of bloody attacks and counterattacks in the Middle East.

No comments: