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The Unserious Left

11:04 AM, Jan 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The ground invasion of Gaza has begun. According to the IDF spokesman, Israel's aims are limited to "deal[ing] a heavy blow to the Hamas terror organization, to strengthen Israel's deterrence, and to create a better security situation for those living around the Gaza Strip that will be maintained for the long term." Of course, in order for the Israelis to plausibly claim success, any operation would have to deliver a heavy blow to Hamas and greatly diminish or halt entirely the rocket fire coming out of Gaza. As Martin Kramer explains, Hamas must ultimately be destroyed for the peace process to have any chance of success -- one cannot pursue peace with an organization that denies your very right to exist. If Hamas is not obviously weakened by this operation, then like Hezbollah in 2006, it will emerge with enhanced political credibility (even if its capacity for violence has been severely eroded) and will have advanced its prospects for diplomatic recognition.

Even on the left, there is agreement that the rocket fire must stop -- just disagreement about the best way to achieve this goal, whether diplomacy offers a better chance of success. There is also, one hopes, a broad consensus that Hamas will never be a partner in peace, and that it must ultimately be replaced by a more moderate regime in Gaza if there is to be any chance for a viable two state solution. What the left does not condone is Israel's objective of reestablishing a credible deterrent in Gaza. I wrote earlier this week that the ruthlessness with which Israel has carried out its air campaign in Gaza, including a strike that killed a Hamas leader, Nizar Rayan, along with all four of his wives and nine of his 12 children, was clearly an effort to change the calculus there:

The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it's not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions. Or maybe not, and the only way to stop Hamas is to eliminate its capacity for violence entirely.

This excerpt has provoked some bizarre reaction on the left. Glenn Greenwald, as hysterical and long-winded as ever, accuses me of possessing "the very same logic that leads Hamas to send suicide bombers to slaughter Israeli teenagers in pizza parlors and on buses and to shoot rockets into their homes. It's the logic that leads Al Qaeda to fly civilian-filled airplanes into civilian-filled office buildings." Another blogger accuses me of endorsing terrorist ethics, and the Atlantic's in-house gynecologist calls me a thug.

In fact, I was explicitly questioning whether such violence can be effective against a group like Hamas. The target of this strike had already sent one of his own sons into Israel as a suicide bomber. Greenwald presumes that I see Palestinians "as something less than civilized human beings" because I question whether they can be deterred "like us." But I wasn't talking about Palestinians in general, I was talking about the Hamas leadership in particular. If Greenwald believes that Hamas, a terrorist group, is itself the avatar of the Palestinian people, then he is the one who sees the Palestinians as less civilized than the rest of us. If not, then I wonder whether he is illiterate or simply disingenuous. But the Hamas leadership is not like us: Americans may send their sons to war, but they do not send them to certain death for the sake of slaughtering civilians.

It's also striking that Greenwald and his fellow travelers would use words like terrorist and thug to describe me while defending the rights of Hamas, an organization comprised of genuine terrorists and thugs. It's become common for the left to describe its ideological opponents as thugs, and the result, apparently, is the inability to recognize real thuggery when it's staring them in the face.

There is no doubt that Israel has the right to strike Nizar Rayan, even at the cost of killing so many women and children -- these civilians were not intentionally targeted. The question is whether or not this strike, in addition to eliminating a leader of Hamas (and the weapons depot in which he chose to house his family), will also deter Hamas from so brazenly ending the next cease fire. The fact that Greenwald & Co. would react so bizarrely to the mere posing of that question is precisely why their voices are being ignored in this debate. Just the other day Greenwald wrote of how he was perplexed by a poll showing that a majority of Democrats shared his views on Israel's assault, but still the Democratic party was almost uniform in its support for the action. Well, its possible for large numbers of people to hold views that simply aren't serious -- though of course a plurality of Americans still supports Israel's actions in Gaza -- and on this issue, like on telecom immunity and warrantless wiretapping, a large portion of the left simply isn't serious.