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August 8, 2014 11:11 am

It is Completely Moral to Fight a Justified War

avatar by Aryeh Spero

IDF soldiers discover a terror tunnel. Photo: IDF.

When a civilized country determines that for the sake of self-protection and survival it must retaliate against aggression or embark on war, the primary goal of its military should be the destruction of the threats to its country. And the foremost duty of that nation’s leader is to prioritize the lives and safety of those he has sent into combat.

This often forces an uncomfortable but necessary choice: minimizing the risk to one’s soldiers at the expense of the soldiers and population of the enemy. This is not only a civic and military responsibility, but a moral one as well, for the first principle of morality is fulfilling one’s prior commitment to those for whom we have freely chosen responsibility – an obligation that must surpass his feelings for general mankind.

The maxim of self-defense is not an abstract platitude, but a flesh-and-blood, real-life imperative. Death to a soldier is death no matter if coming from the enemy’s commandos or from citizens among its population: hence those representing us in the field should not be forced to jeopardize their lives in deference to anyone in the enemy’s camp.

A self-defense that is conditioned on too much caution not to harm those pursuing your death is a rejection of the whole notion of self-defense. Rules of engagement that place our soldiers in a precarious fighting dilemma so as to spare members of the enemy camp, or tie the hands of our soldiers thereby making them easy targets, betray a nation’s responsibility to its solders.

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The recent revelation that 3,000 Americans were murdered and countless wounded, partly as a result of Bill Clinton’s reluctance to strike an in-sight Osama Bin Laden – due to Mr. Clinton’s concern for some civilians purposely implanted near Bin Laden, is testimony to the errancy of those who consider this an act of morality. This misguided gesture of “momentary morality” yielded a longer term and permanent scar of irresponsibility, an act of immorality to the thousands of innocent American citizens the former president was responsible to protect.

No doubt, Hamas, as stated in its Charter, fervently wishes to murder the 6 million Jews living in Israel. If prior to WWII, the Jews of Europe could have stopped Hitler and saved 6 million Jews by taking up arms and fighting, resulting in the deaths of 2,000 Germans (some Nazis, some soldiers, some sympathetic bystanders), they would have been morally obligated to do so.

The unwillingness of some Western leaders to tolerate collateral damage to enemy civilians forecloses our ability to crush the enemy’s capacity to harm us and will ultimately cause, God forbid, the deaths of many innocents in America and the West.

Any Western leader unwilling to choose the safety of citizens entrusted to his care over those from the attacking country should not be in a leadership position. He effectively has declared “the blood of the enemy as sweeter than the blood of his own people.”

No doubt, there are some in Gaza who are truly innocent. But a mother who delights in her child being a suicide bomber is not innocent, but is herself a launching pad for rockets. Parents who teach their children to hate and actually hurt Jews and Christians because they are “infidels” are not innocent. Societies that elect governments they hope will destroy Israel, America, and the West are not innocent, just as many enthusiastic Germans were not innocent in those early, heady days of bellicose Nazism announcing upcoming victory over others.

A moral combat is one in which truly innocent civilians are not deliberately targeted. Guaranteeing, however, that civilians will not be killed in collateral damage has never been a requisite for moral combat. The Bible asks that we refrain in combat from cruelty for cruelty’s sake, that we not loot, rape, or deliberately destroy fruit-bearing trees, nor engage in blood lust. Wars should primarily be defensive and not for sport. Proportionality in war is doing that which needs to be done to permanently remove the source and scourge of aggression. This is what Israel has been doing and will, hopefully, do until it completes the job.

When we in the West begin heaping-on conditions resulting in a moral bar of combat so high we can’t adequately defend ourselves, we have turned morality upside down. Misplaced compassion often boomerangs and results in indifference and pain to the truly innocent, for example, the citizens in Israel and America.

The culture of death is cynically exploiting the goodwill and morality of those invested in our Judeo-Christian culture of life. If we fail to defend ourselves now, the question that we will be asked of this generation is not if we cared about the enemy’s life, but rather: Why didn’t we care enough about the lives of our own children and civilians?

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a theologian, is author of Push Back, a frequent commentator on FOX News, and president of Caucus for America.

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