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Spielberg and Munich:

I haven't seen the movie yet, but several reviews I've seen have accused Spielberg of using the movie to score political points against the Bush Administration make an ideological point about his distaste for the current American government strategy in the War on Terror. This interview should remove any doubt that these reviewers are right.

Spielberg: The film has already sparked off discussion in the USA about the Middle East and about the methods used today in the "war on terrorism" declared by George W. Bush ...

SPIEGEL: ... in which he repeatedly emphasizes that the enemy is evil incarnate and the enemies are not human beings. The effect of this dehumanization of terrorists ...

Spielberg: ... is that you also no longer have to treat them as humans.

Spielberg claims to be sensitive to the families of the victims of the Munich massacre, but I hardly think using their story as an allegory to promote a political agenda score political points against the Bush Administration shows them proper respect--especially if it's true, as I've read, that the movie spends a helluva lot more time "humanizing" the terrorists than "humanizing" their victims. And by the way, can anyone come up with a single example of when Bush has said that the "enemies are not human beings?" [UPDATE: note that this is precisely what the interviewer said ["empahasizes..."]; Spielberg himself didn't say this, though he didn't disagree, either.]

Another interesting part of the interview is that contrary to some press reports, Spielberg admits in the interview that the movie is based on the (discredited) book Vengeance by George Jonas. Why does Spielberg think the book is accurate?

I met the former agent described by Jonas and known as Avner, and more than once. We spent many hours together. I trust my intuition and my common sense: the man is not lying, he is not exaggerating. Everything he says is true.

Given Spielberg's fortune, do you think he might have actually spent some resources actually investigating the book's claims, rather than relying on "intuition and common sense?" [UPDATE: Spielberg has no obligation to make an "accurate" movie, but in the interview, he is clearly claiming that the book he relied on is accurate. If he just liked the book, he should say, "I liked the book, and I don't care if it's accurate."] I teach and write about expert evidence, and I've learned that when it comes to evaluating controversial claims, nothing is more dangerous than a judge who decides to rely on intuition and common sense instead of objectively considering the empirical basis for the claims in front of him.

UPDATE: Should I have seen the movies before writing about it? Yes, if I were writing a movie review. But given that my two points were (1) an interview with Spielberg shows that the content of the movie was motivated in part by opposition to Bush Administration policies; and (2) that Spielberg claims that the movie is based on an accurate book, but his evidence of accuracy is only his own uninformed judgment, I don't really see how viewing the movie would affect either of those two points.

Duncan Frissell (mail):
can anyone come up with a single example of when Bush has said that the "enemies are not human beings?

Evil is a characteristic of volition. Animals or hurricanes can't be described as evil. Humans and other volitional beings, devils, gods, figures of myth, aliens can be described as evil. Thus the use of the term evil as applied to our enemies in WWIV who seek world hegemony, is a statement of their volition, their humanity. Those who would rob them of their capability of being evil are the ones who would rob them of their volition and their humanity.

"We will give them more than they deserve.

We will give them Justice."
1.29.2006 10:59am
Cornellian (mail):
I'm not sure what point is being made here. The film isn't classified or marketed as a documentary. No one expects movies "based on" (or weaker still "inspired by" real events to be a 100% accurate depiction of those events. Is Richard III a reprehensible play because its portrayal of Richard III is wildly at variance with the historical record? If Spielberg read a book, liked it and wanted to make a movie out of it, a movie which is not being presented as a documentary, why does he have an obligation to hire a team of investigators to verify everything said in the book?

The point about "scoring points against the Bush administration" is an entirely separate issue. My reaction to that is "so what?" Hmm, filmmaker doesn't like the Bush administration, certain aspects of his latest movie could be read as being critical of the Bush administration. Is anyone shocked by this? Do artists have an obligation to praise the government of the day? (another Richard III scenario), to produce only art that is neutral towards the government of the day?

I haven't seen Munich and wasn't intending to see it, but whether it's critical of the Bush administration or praises it, or is neutral towards it does not have any impact on my decision. I'm not offended by the fact that artists have opinions, even when those opinions differ from my own, and even when those opinions find their way into the art they produce.
1.29.2006 11:09am
LTEC (mail) (www):
Why, specifically, do you say that the book has been discredited? I know that certain Israeli officials have said bad things about it, but do you have anything else?
1.29.2006 11:15am
Porkchop (mail):
I highly recommend former U.S. Army psychologist David Grossman's book, On Killing for a discussion of what it actually takes to fight and kill another human being. Much simplified, most people can't do it unless they dehumanize the enemy (and dehumanization is not as easy as armies generally would like). Cruelty does not come easily to people; the example given is the nearly universal aversion to the actual use of the bayonet -- most soldiers simply won't do it except under the most extreme circumstances. This is not new news. In any conflict, there must be reciprocal dehumanization (unless one side simply decides to give up). Defining the enemy as "inferior," "evil," "other," etc. is the essence of dehumanization.

I saw the movie just last night. I didn't take it as a criticism of the Bush administration specifically, so much as a commentary on the institutional inability of nations or groups to understand the perceptions of the enemy. In defining the "otherness" of the enemy, one simply looks past the reasons they perceive their actions as morally justified. That is not to say that if we are all able to stop this aspect of dehumanization, we will all live in peace, love, and harmony. Nevertheless, Spielberg does illustrate how both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian situation act in a manner that hardens the position of the other over time. There is no surprise here -- it happens in every war. If there is an implied criticism of the Bush administration, it is that it entered into a war with a very naive perspective on the nature of the Middle East. I happen to agree with that criticism.
1.29.2006 11:18am
Chris Brody:
Just to play devil's advocate, I assume that Spielberg, in accusing the Bush administration of dehumanizing terrorists, is referring to things like torture (Abu Ghraib) and the Guantanamo Bay detainees (who are apparently being held there without being subject to either US criminal law or the Geneva Convention).

Obviously this would be controversial in a number of respects. (1) It's not known to what extent the actions at Abu Ghraib represent Administration or DoD policy, as opposed to being the independent actions of some messed-up young soldiers. (2) We don't have a lot of information about what's going on at Guantanamo Bay. (3) There's clearly some disagreement about what kind of rights detainees there have, or should have.

However, Spielberg's point does not appear to be that the President or anyone in his administration has ever said that terrorists aren't humans, but instead that their actions toward those whom they suspect of being the enemy aren't consistent with how Americans have traditionally believed humans should be treated. As I say, this statement involves various assumptions, with which we may agree or disagree. But that's what I take him to mean.
1.29.2006 11:20am
davidbernstein (mail):
(1) As I've clarified above, the interviewer specifically said that the Bush has emphasized that the "enemies" aren't human. So it's perfectly reasonable to ask what evidence there is that Bush has ever said this.

(2) Spielberg could claim that he just liked the book, and decided to make a movie out of it. But now, he is claiming the book is accurate. All the other Mossad agents that have come forward and know the events first-hand say it's not accurate.

(3) Spielberg has every right to be critical of the Bush Administration. But he is using the Munich situation as an allegory to the current "War on Terror," while still claiming to respect the families of the Munich victims. If you used the story of the murder of my family member to score political points on something having nothing directly to do with that murder, I wouldn't call it "respectful." I especially wouldn't call it respectful if, as I've read (and I'm conceding here I'm going on accounts of the movie, not personal knowledge), the movie treats the victims as "extras," but the perpetrators' motives, etc. are discussed in great detail.

The movie may be a great work of art, and it may make telling points about human nature, and its view on the War on Terror could be quite thoughtful. But Spielberg is claiming both accuracy and sensitivity to the Munich victims, and the evidence from this interview suggests that he is wrong on both counts.
1.29.2006 11:39am
Chris Brody:
David: I stand corrected.
1.29.2006 11:47am
anon295641 (mail):
1. Munich was an excellent movie. I highly recommend it. Don't expect it to be a documentary. It was good because, like other good movies, it has a compelling story and intersting charecters.

2. In the movie violence leads to violence. First, the Munich kidnappings/murders, then the Isreali retaliation, and finally the terrorists counter-retalliation. I did not take this as a critique of Bush. It was a comment on human nature generally.

3. Please do not try to comment on something you have never seen. I would however be curious to hear people's opinions after seeing the movie.

4. To me it only makes sense, from a narrative standpoint, to discuss the perpetrators motives but ignore the victims. The victims are out of the story in the first 15 minutes. The movie is about the hunting down of the perpetrators, therefore they play a much more important role in the story. The point of view of the everyman Israeli is well represented in the movie just by other charecters. If Speilberg was writing a book perhaps he should have been more detailed but this is a 2 hour movie.
1.29.2006 12:00pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
' If you used the story of the murder of my family member to score political points on something having nothing directly to do with that murder, I wouldn't call it "respectful." '

Maybe that's why we don't allow relatives of the victim to be on a jury? They can't possibly sort out the facts.

"Nothing to do with that murder?"

I can't see how the actual events of Munich and 9-11 don't have everything to do with each other. You have the same cast of characters and the same goals -- kill Jews and destabilize the open cosmopolitan culture with which they are associated.

And btw, you haven't seen the movie? And yet you post on it with a firm opinion? That's as prime and humorous example of chutzpa as I have run across in many days. :) And no, you can't claim simply to be commenting on Spielberg's interview and not the movie itself; that dog simply won't hunt.

The real problem with the movie -- yes, I have seen it -- is that it is simply not very good. It is far too long, it rambles and it doesn't really have a clear POV of view at all. It is by no means favorable to the bad guys and yet it makes the good guys -- the Israelis -- look like bumblers, which may or may not be so but is also somewhat irrelevant. I sthat bumbling some moral flaw? Rooted in revenge? Or just ordinary human mistake? Who knows. The movie doesn't.
1.29.2006 12:00pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I saw the movie and thought it was very good. I read the Krauthammer piece on it, and was frankly mystified how he came to that conclusion -- that the movie had only humanized the Palestinians.

My only guess is that if you're looking for a movie to play up the evil involved in killing 11 innocent athletes, there's not much that can be satisfactory. The fact is, though, that to a great extent this movie did. It did portray heroism on the actual part of the athletes. It did, obviously intentfully, come back to the original murders throughout the movie so that we didn't forget what this was all about. No, it didn't tell their life stories, but of course, that's because the movie was actually about what happened after their deaths.

Certainly, anyone who sees this movie is going to take it in a different way. The fact is, though, that Spielberg obviously made a conscious effort to play up the evil involved in the initial killings. If it had been a truly neutral movie, he wouldn't even have done that -- the initial killing wasn't what the movie was about. Now, at the same time, he didn't want to make heavy-handed gestures about the utter mindlessness of all those who are involved in terrorism. He wanted, it seemed to me, to show that even normal-seeming people can engage in the most senseless kind of terrorism. Maybe some of us don't like that position, but I don't think we should equate it, even implicitly, with anti-semitism, which the innuendo regarding his motives seems at least to me to do. The movie, let's not pretend otherwise, was extremely anti-terrorism.

I think that people understand, more than Krauthammer realizes, that killing 11 innocent athletes is a bad thing. I don't think anybody could watch that movie and not feel that way. The movie did nothing to diminish that -- it only played it up. Sure, it spent more time "humanizing" the original terrorists, but that's because they are what the movie was about! He had to tell the story at some point.

I also don't think we should forget that this is a director who made Schindler's List. One can hardly accuse him of ignoring the big evils. Isn't he entitled, then, to make a provocative movie about other factors involved?
1.29.2006 12:08pm
Andy (mail) (www):

I'm not sure what point is being made here. The film isn't classified or marketed as a documentary. No one expects movies "based on" (or weaker still "inspired by" real events to be a 100% accurate depiction of those events. Is Richard III a reprehensible play because its portrayal of Richard III is wildly at variance with the historical record? If Spielberg read a book, liked it and wanted to make a movie out of it, a movie which is not being presented as a documentary, why does he have an obligation to hire a team of investigators to verify everything said in the book?


The problem with this statement is that an artists work is usually judged in relation to his or her past work, so Munich will invariably be judged alongside Amistad and Schindler's List. If Munich is shown to be playing fast and loose with the facts (while Spielberg is making claims about its historical truth), it only serves to embolden those who would like to challenge the truth behind the other two stories (i.e., Slavery appologists, Holocaust deniers.)

Shakespeare gets a pass with Richard III because there is no evidence that any of his other historical (or other genre) plays were designed to be an accurate representations of the events that they depict. Julius Ceaser contains anachronisms and invented characters, and the (true) events that inspired Hamlet were distorted and shifted out of context to make up that play's dramatic arc.

For a modern day example, imagine if Oliver Stone had made Munich: in light of JFK and Nixon, would anyone be shocked if he was accused of altering the historical record to make a political point?

Also, I haven't seen Munich (I'll probably wait for the DVD), but my cinemaphile friends have all told me that it is not that great as a work of art to begin with: they had problems with Eric Bana's performance (unconvincing) and with the pacing of the film (questionable editing choices.)
1.29.2006 12:13pm
steve k:
Filmmakers are certainly allowed to create whatever they want (if they can get the funding). However, they are properly open to criticism if their personal--and often shallow--politics get in the way of their story.
1.29.2006 12:16pm
GWU's Sister (mail):
DS: Where did the OP express a "firm opinion" on the movie that would involve him needing to see it?
1.29.2006 12:18pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
"dehumanizing", I suppose, is a psychological term; I doubt that it has any legal meaning. Mr. Spielberg's movie portrays non-legal vengeance. There is no significant legal process and the only "authority" calls itself into question. We presume that the athletes killed at Munich are innocent, and those targeted for revenge killing during the course of the movie are (morally) guilty.

The replacement or mediation of revenge and feud by law goes back to the ancient Greeks. Our Constitution and laws, and treaties with other nations, require legal process and accord individual people with legal rights in legal process. The exercise of government power is supposed to be constrained (and I suppose, rationalized) by laws and legal process.

President Bush has asserted that he, in his role as commander-in-chief, is legally unconstrained. He has asserted, on more than one occasion, that he is legally able to order torture, for example, laws and treaties to the contrary notwithstanding; he has never admitted doing so in a specific instance.

We do know that a number of people have been detained and denied legal process. We do know that a number of people, held as prisoners of the United States, have been tortured and some killed, in various circumstances. For there to be a controversy, someone has to assert that that's OK. Otherwise, these are simply crimes awaiting prosecution.
1.29.2006 12:20pm
twwren:
Your criticism of "Munich" would be more creditable if you would invest 2 hours 50 minutes of your time an actually see the movie.
1.29.2006 12:21pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I enjoyed "Munich" and didn't think it made the terrorists look too sympathetic. One part struck me as
totally rediculous, when the good guys and the PLO end up occupying the same safe house by mistake..would PLO terrorists really yell "PLO!!!!" as identification like they were FBI agents making a bust?? Stupid
1.29.2006 12:28pm
Justin (mail):
Does anyone else find it ironic, that DB, the author of "You Can't Say That?" is making an argument that he does not need to even consider the arguments of Spieldberg, nor even see the movie, because what Spieldberg has done might be offensive to people in theory? In other words, SPIELDBERG CAN'T SAY THAT!
1.29.2006 12:29pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Yes. In the poster’s world, the filmmaker does have an obligation to praise the current administration.

Let's look at heatrical films on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the last 40 years:

Cast a Giant Shadow (1966).

Little Drummer Girl (1984).

Munich (2005).

The first film is pro-Israel, the last two are anti-Israel. That's not very many films for such an inherently photogenic topic. One wonders why.

Critics of the contemporary cinema (or to identify it properly, the contemporary left-wing cinema) are merely suggesting that its prejudices should be highlighted as an analytical tool. Since Hollyweird obviously seeks the deconstruction of the US and Western Civilization and its replacement with Godess knows what, it is perfectly appropriate to point out the race, gender, affectional preference, and religio-philisophical backstory of film production.

What's sauce for feminist and queer theorists is sauce for the gander.

I'm shopping this screenplay about a world-girding conspiracy of the MLA, MESA, and the Screen Actors Guild to destabilize American society so that it can fall like an overripe fruit into the hands of its enemies. I like Keifer Sutherland as the lead -- a take-no-prisoners radio talk show host defending traditional American values ('but with a little sex in it', and a little torture).
1.29.2006 12:30pm
gr (www):

UPDATE: Spielberg has no obligation to make an "accurate" movie, but in the interview, he is clearly claiming that the book he relied on is accurate. If he just liked the book, he should say, "I liked the book, and I don't care if it's accurate."


The moview begins by saying 'inspired by real events.' How is that disclaimer? I'm under no impression that some of the details in it were real.

I don't know how humanizing the movie is, when our hero tells the terrorist that he is making himself out to be an animal and the terrorist replies that that is the goal. Seen the film yet?
1.29.2006 12:31pm
ChrisAllan (mail):
http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/calahan.htm

COUNTERING TERRORISM: THE ISRAELI RESPONSE TO THE 1972 MUNICH OLYMPIC MASSACRE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDEPENDENT COVERT ACTION TEAMS

by, Alexander B. Calahan, GS-12, Graduate Class, Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Military Studies

April 1995
1.29.2006 12:35pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Justin, send me your address and I'll send you a free copy of You Can't Say That!, so you won't be confused about the thesis anymore; no one is exempt from criticism, for any reason, and I never said Spielberg can't say what he said.
1.29.2006 12:35pm
Bobbie:
David, were you equally appalled at the Bush administration's attempts to use the 9/11 murder victims to score political points by putting them in campaign ads? I'm sure if I run a quick search, I'll find your scathing blog post.
1.29.2006 1:05pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
I don't see why Spielberg saying that his work *is relevant* to some controversy, is the same as him saying *it's an allegory.*

You say "an interview with Spielberg shows that the content of the movie was motivated in part by opposition to Bush Administration policies," but this is not at all what Spielberg said! He said the film has sparked discussion, not that that discussion sparked the film.
1.29.2006 1:43pm
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
Before you insinuate that Speilberg was insensitive to the families of those killed in the Munich massacre, you should see the movie. Unless you're Charles Krauthammer, if you did see the movie, you would probably think such an insinuation is ridiculous.

The movie contains graphic scenes where the atheletes, in a state of sheer horror, are savagely murdered. It is beyond me how anyone can watch these scenes and then say Spielberg downplayed the humanity of the atheletes or the depravity of their murder.

That said, the movie does show (argue) the Israeli response, hunting down the terrorists one by one, is extremely problematic. In making this point, it does humanize the terrorists, and it does spend more time on this than it does on humanizing the Munich victims.

So what? Is the movie flawed unless it spends an equal amount of time humanizing each side? Do you really need to spend the same amount of time humanizing innocent, murdered atheletes as you need to humanizine their murderers? I don't think so. In my view, the atheletes come off just as, or even more human than, their murderers.

After watching the movie, you could reasonably disagree on how balanced the movie is on portraying the depravity of each side. But you really need to watch the movie first.
1.29.2006 2:02pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
DB,

>(1) an interview with Spielberg shows that the content of the movie was motivated in part by opposition to Bush Administration policies; and (2) that Spielberg claims that the movie is based on an accurate book, but his evidence of accuracy is only his own uninformed judgment, I don't really see how viewing the movie would affect either of those two points.<

Maybe the movie makes the points in a way that is actually very appropriate and non-offensive to either side. Or at least that shouldn't be offensive to either side. That wouldn't matter?

Also, I think you're just assuming without basis that he didn't research. Simply stating that his intuition played a role isn't to say that he did no research. As an expert, also, you may not respect intuition, but I think Spielberg is not unusual in reyling on it.
1.29.2006 2:07pm
Cornellian (mail):
The moview begins by saying 'inspired by real events.' How is that disclaimer? I'm under no impression that some of the details in it were real.

I was unaware that the movie started with that phrase, since I haven't seen the movie. However, that being the case, how can anyone complain that the movie isn't historically accurate? Everyone knows "inspired by" means "don't rely on this movie for factual accuracy."
1.29.2006 2:23pm
Chris of MM (mail) (www):
There's a difference between using a historical situation as an allegory for a current one, for cautionary reasons, say, or even to help us understand the current situation (which is what Bush appears to be saying he's doing, in the interview), and using it to score political points. I'm surprised that you can't understand the difference.
1.29.2006 2:31pm
Kovarsky (mail):
this movie is the ultimate Rorschach test, and people's willingness to opine before seeing it, i think, reveals that observation to be pretty apt. below is, i think the best explanation for why i feel this way. i'd appreciate it if you'd take the time to read it.

the "big event" in the movie is depicted with meticulous accuracy (the terrorist attack itself). the undeniable fact is that this movie is one of many that identifies its story with a major historical event
but, except for that event, does not purport to depict an "actual happening." that may or may not be "right," but it is certainly not unusual.

i would point out, for example, that i know many of you liked black hawk down. the representation of those events relentlessly depict those africans as nothing more than nameless, faceless savages. that movie was the zenith of the modern concept of "war porn" (a very fascinating (concept). The "war porn" concept, however, is not my real point. In many african countries, the movie was hugely offensive and controversial. Ridley Scott spent no time depicting the conditions that led to the conflict in which the americans found themselves
intervening. the Myriad poltiical and socieconomic problems that country experienced were airbrushed and collapsed into an utterly uni-dimensional backdrop in order to depict "american valor." That was very offensive to a number of people.

it's a little odd to me that many are so worked up about Munich when the narrative liberties it takes are often taken with historical events all the time and with roughly similar degrees of distortion. one the one hand, i am actually pleased that people are thinking about
the relationship between the events depicted and the way they are retold, but on the other, i am a little discouraged by the naked selectivity of the contexts in which such an intellectual project occurs.

so i guess my point is this:

(1) the criticism that the movie depicts events inaccurately when it invokes those real-life events to contribute to its dramatic effect is
a perfectly normal argument (although I happen to disagree with it -
but that has to do with my attitude towards the relationship between
life and fiction).

(2) i think i react so strongly because these sorts of liberties are taken all the time with respect to all different sorts of people, and if in one instance you find the "factual distortions" argument sufficient to render a movie "bad," then you should probably adhere to
that rule across the board. the reply to that proposition is the rub - the reason you care about it in Munich but not in Black Hawk down is because of your identity with the group victimized by the depiction.
That's fine, but in making that response you reduce the assessment of this phenomenon ("factual distortion") to no more than how you feel about the political material depicted. at that point, the "factual distortion" criticism loses it's universality - you can't say that
other people who don't share your specific ethnic/religious sympathies are somehow irresponsible/incorrect.

****
i just reread the krauthammer article for the 3d time, and it is truly awful. and in precisely the way i mentioned before. i think the problem is that all the articles flying around are by politicians, political
commentarists, etc. while they may be good at what they do, there is absolutely no reason to believe that they're equally adept at analyzing fictional texts. there is a difference between analyzing a movie and analyzing a war. when analyzing a story, rather than an actual event (a war, a demonstration, an election), you have to first
say what "happens" in the movie before you analyze it. krauthammer and a lot of these other policy types weighing on the movie are not particularly good at analyzing what happened.

i've probably made this point before, but one example comes to mind. people repeatedly object to the conversation with gold meir because it
didn't "happen." well, it was a fairly effective narrative device conveying avna's real mother to be israel, rather than the woman giving birth to him. i think that's a painfully obvious point, but i
think frankly lost on the krauthammers who ar caught up in the historical accuracy thing.

***
or the brett stephens article:

take one example: the wah-wah it's unfair that the palestinian's get their position collapsed into an easy-to-digest monologue in the middle of the movie. first of all, presenting complicated philosophical positions in simple monologues like that is a narrative device anybody that has ever made a movie uses. second, and more importantly, stephens selectively omits that the palestinian dialogue is monologue out by it's israeli twin - a speech delivered to avner by his mother. neither monologue is particularly good or insightful, but israel "has a monologue too."

I can't help that but believe that so much of this hostility comes as a result of his authorship of schindler's list. He is reviled in some circles for being a traitor. One commentator (brett stephens) tells him to "phone home."

YES SPIELBERG, "PHONE HOME." PLEASE DO NOT FORGET THAT YOUR FILMS ARE ALWAYS TO CONFORM NEATLY TO THE POLITICAL INTERESTS OF THE GROUP WITH WHICH YOU MOST STRONGLY IDENTIFY ETHNICALLY. AFTER YOU INTERNALIZE THIS MESSAGE, PLEASE PASS IT ALONG TO SPIKE LEE, MARTIN SCORCESE,
JAMES JOYCE, AND MILES DAVIS.
1.29.2006 2:40pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
You make good points, Kovarsky.
1.29.2006 2:49pm
dk35 (mail):


(1) As I've clarified above, the interviewer specifically said that the Bush has emphasized that the "enemies" aren't human. So it's perfectly reasonable to ask what evidence there is that Bush has ever said this.


I think that DB is being too literal here. Assuming arguendo, without condeding the point entirely, that Bush has not actually said "the enemies are not human," he certainly has made references to them being evil (e.g. Axis of Evil, evildoers). Now, when someone who self-identifies as an extremely religous man spouts off about "evil," it seems fair to assume that he means (or should understand that his words can be taken by some as meaning) evil in the religious sense of evil. While being evil(as defined in religious terms) may not make a person not human in a technical sense, it carries for many an implication that they have made some "pact with the devil" (for lack of a better phrase) that fundamentally separates them from other god-fearing types. So, while DB may be correct on this point in a pendantic, technical sense, I don't think it necessarily undermines the spirit (no pun intended) of Spiegel's comment.


(2) Spielberg could claim that he just liked the book, and decided to make a movie out of it. But now, he is claiming the book is accurate. All the other Mossad agents that have come forward and know the events first-hand say it's not accurate.



What Spielberg, facing Spiegel's question, seems to say is that he actually went to the source of the book, the former agent, and talked extensively with that source. In other words, Spielberg seems to be saying that he did not just take the author's opinion at face value, but rather has decided to believe the story of that former agent as told to him by the former agent. Now, DB tells us that other former agents tell a different story. Well, that sounds like a "he said, he said" situation to me. Given the disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, this therefore seems like a non-issue.


(3) Spielberg has every right to be critical of the Bush Administration. But he is using the Munich situation as an allegory to the current "War on Terror," while still claiming to respect the families of the Munich victims. If you used the story of the murder of my family member to score political points on something having nothing directly to do with that murder, I wouldn't call it "respectful." I especially wouldn't call it respectful if, as I've read (and I'm conceding here I'm going on accounts of the movie, not personal knowledge), the movie treats the victims as "extras," but the perpetrators' motives, etc. are discussed in great detail.


Inasmuch as Spielberg is using Munich as an allegory to the current situation, the interview suggests that this is so only on a very general level. It seems to me that the general points Spielberg wants to make (and perhaps carry over to the "war on terror") are that 1) Terrorist acts are horrible; 2) The use of violent responses by Democratic Societies to terroristic acts can be understandable, and in some cases necessary, but may very well lead to unintended consequences; and 3) seeking a deeper understanding of the people who commit terroristic acts may help in ending the cycle of violence. You may disagree with one or more of these assertions, but I don't see how any of them objectively "disrespect" the victims of terroristic violence.
1.29.2006 3:35pm
ras (mail):
Spielberg is essentially saying that he looked into Jonas's eyes and saw the man's soul.

You'd think a guy in his profession would understand irony better than that.
1.29.2006 3:38pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>Spielberg is essentially saying that he looked into Jonas's eyes and saw the man's soul.<

Is that like Bush seeing Putin's soul?
1.29.2006 3:47pm
Kovarsky (mail):
it's worth pointing out that both surviving widows of the murdered authletes went on record supporting the movie and saying that it was not insulting.

also i didn't read the whole interview but the passage excerpted in the initial post just says that the movie has sparked a lot of bush criticism, rather than was motivated by it. those aren't the same thing.

also, the idea that this is primarily an anti bush allegory is absurd. i forgot who first made this point, but the movie is the ultimate in jewish self-absorption; the movie's about the effect of the assassinations on the israeli psyche, not on the palestinian flesh. and it's certainly not a movie about the american psyche.

i thought everyone agreed vengeance was bogus? where did spielberg say it wasn't? or is that an inference everyone's drawing from his statement about his interviews with real-life avner.
1.29.2006 4:02pm
Kovarsky (mail):
i just read the interview:

(1) spielberg does appear to believe vengeance to be true. i think that his "intuition" is against the weight of academic authority here. given that the movie does not purport to be historically accurate, i'm not sure why spielberg feels compelled to make this claim. the inaccuracies of the movie are wll known - while there was a campaign of reprisal, there were not "teams," but instead a multilayered system of intelligence gathering, situation planning, and execution.

(2) in that interview I don't see anything suggesting spielberg made the movie to attack the administration.
1.29.2006 4:13pm
steve k:
As so often happens with those who wax lazily on Bush's religion, dk35 is a bit off. He makes a whole argument about Bush calling people evil means he thinks they made some sort of pact with the devil. This sort of "argument" is almost too silly to respond to.

If you read Bush's speeches, he may refer to his faith occasionally, but he always gives solid secular reasons for everything he does. Bush had good and subtle reasons for calling our enemies "evildoers." First, it's correct. He's not even calling anyone evil, just saying their actions (e.g., intentionally killing innocents) are. Second, he needed some fairly generic term that wouldn't cause trouble. If he said "Arab" or "Muslim" it would inflame millions needlessly. If he said "terrorist" it would be both too small and turn off a lot of people who don't agree on the definition.

For that matter, since his Axis of Evil included Iran, Iraq and North Korea, it's not even just about the Middle East. In fact, that's one of the reasons North Korea was included--so the whole thing didn't just seem like a war against Islam. When it came down to it, "evildoers" fit the bill perfectly.

Even if you think Bush is an idiot-fundamentalist (which, by the way, would teach him that all people are fully human), try to argue as if he were smarter than you. Then you'll have a serious argument, not just a straw man.
1.29.2006 4:40pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I don't need Bush to dehumanize anyone. The scum that our soldiers are dealing with dehumanize themselves by their actions. Spielberg can clean them up as much as he wants, like he did in that farcical movie, but in the end they still are what they are.
1.29.2006 4:45pm
dk35 (mail):
Steve k:

Firstly, for an argument "almost too silly to respond to" you sure spent a long time responding to it.

Secondly, I never said or implied that Bush is an "idiot-fundamentalist." First of all, as I said before, Bush has self-identified as a deeply religious Christian? Am I wrong on that?

Then, if anything, one of Bush's most politically astute maneuvers throughout his presidency is speaking in language that is coded in such a way to have a specific meaning to his core constituency, which is made up of Christian fundamentalists. The "brilliance" of Bush's use of the word evil is that it can be spun off the way you did, while at the same time mean what I said it meant to Christian fundamentalists.
1.29.2006 4:49pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Brian G,

What a thoguhtful point.

By the way, we are fighting a war in Iraq. The "scum" in Munich are palestinian.
1.29.2006 5:02pm
Cornellian (mail):
Re Black Hawk Down, that movie was based on a book about that conflict, and the author of that book was an American with a lot more access to US troops than to the African locals. That being the case, it would hardly be surprising (or objectionable) that he spends a lot of time relating the point of view of US troops rather than African locals. The movie didn't ignore the African story in order to emphasize American valor. There was plenty of valor there to be displayed, regardless of what was motivating the Somalians.

Ridley Scott said he wanted to make a movie that would display what urban warfare looked like, and he did a very good job of it. He doesn't have any obligation to provide socio-economic background about Somalia to make that kind of movie. If he wanted to make a political movie about why Somalia was a basket case at the time, that would be a different situation, but that wasn't his point in making the movie. He didn't care why they were fighting, he wanted to portray what the fighting looked like.
1.29.2006 5:44pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
GWU's sister asks "DS: Where did the OP express a "firm opinion" on the movie that would involve him needing to see it?"

No matter how one tries to avoid it, DB's post is about the movie. It's farfetched to try to claim that his post is about anything else, such as Spielberg's views outside the movie or other people's opinions about the movie etc etc. That's because in order to assess such claims you have to refer back to the movie itself. Familiarity with the movie itself has to be the starting point for discussion of anyone else's opinion of the movie.

In fact DB wrote that "...but several reviews I've seen have accused Spielberg of using the movie to score political points against the Bush Administration" and then goes on to use an interview with Spielberg to try to prove his own assertion.

But none of it makes sense unless DB had already seen the movie itself. For example, Spielberg MIGHT (arguendo) have tried to make an anti-Israel movie (and from reading some of screenwriter Tony Kushner's statements that's not an impossibility) but the final issue is not what the auteur tried to do but what he succeeded in doing. And to determine that, and whether everyone else's view of the movie are reasonable, DB would have had to see the movie.
1.29.2006 5:52pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Here is another Spielberg interview:
I just feel that filmmakers are much more proactive since the second Bush administration. I think that everybody is trying to declare their independence and state their case for the things that we believe in. No one is really representing us, so we're now representing our own feelings, and we're trying to strike back.
I read this as Spielberg saying that he was trying to make some sort of anti-Bush statement.
1.29.2006 6:00pm
minnie:
And by the way, can anyone come up with a single example of when Bush has said that the "enemies are not human beings?"

I can't hear Bush's words. His actions are so loud they drown out his words.
1.29.2006 6:11pm
minnie:
But he is using the Munich situation as an allegory to the current "War on Terror," while still claiming to respect the families of the Munich victims.

If that is true, that is the central problem with the movie, and Spielberg's intent. The two situations are entirely different. Vigilante action against known murderers is a legal, not a moral crime.

The sadistic excesses of the War on Terror are moral crimes.
1.29.2006 6:18pm
peg (mail) (www):
DB--Before I would say anything else, I recommend that you do see the movie. I did not think that it was anywhere as "bad" as all the negative reviews I'd read had made it out to be.

I also did not think that the movie was "anti-Bush" - though some of Spielberg's comments from interview do seem to be. From my perspective, the movie focuses on the activities and mental state of those who set out to avenge the terrorism - and concludes that ultimately, becoming an killer tends to crush a person's humanity.

Yes, there's a scene that plays the violin strings of the palestinian viewpoint vis a vis "the homeland" too strongly. And Spielberg goes out of his way to demonstrate how those who orchestrated the athlete's killings have wives and children and are "human, too." But, in no way did Spielberg minimize the horror of the athletes' murders, nor diminsh sympathy for them.

What is wrong with the movie is this. Although surely he is correct that becoming an assassin must be a brutal way to live emotionally - and one can easily argue that it is wrong for any nation to use such methods - Spielberg does not evaluate other alternatives. What should Israel have done when the murder of innocent athletes occurred? Should Israel have ignored the murders? Should they have declared war? And - if so - upon whom? Trials? Where? And how would they get the alleged killers to trial?

Surely long and meaningful answers could not be put into a 2.5 hour long movie. Still - it would have been nice had Spielberg addressed even superficially that Israel faced, and continues to face those who wish to wipe it off the face of the earth. Thus, though some of Israel's reactions may seem brutal, we can only wonder: if not this - then what?
1.29.2006 6:33pm
anonymous22:
I thought Munich was overdone at points, particularly the ending, but I also don't think that cultural products should be evaluated on the basis of the political results they were supposedly attempting to produce. That is not to say that the political viewpoints of the author are irrelevant-- although Munich was written by Tony Kushner, not Spielberg, and Kushner has been rather open about his opinions on the Middle East-- but that this shouldn't bear on the quality of the product.
1.29.2006 6:48pm
gr (www):
Roger Schafly

I read this as Spielberg saying that he was trying to make some sort of anti-Bush statement.


Or a statement that has nothing to do with Bush
1.29.2006 7:23pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I wonder if an anti-Michael Moore movie had been made from the Munich massacre, if that would be offensive to conservatives. A movie that bluntly said, "hey, we have to fight these vilains, you sissies."

Would it be considered offensive by liberals, on the other hand? Not, I think, anything beyond the extent to which they disagreed with the actual message. Or at least it shouldn't be, if we're trying to be a little reasoable.
1.29.2006 7:34pm
Kovarsky (mail):
the movie is about the toll that retributive justice takes on the souls of the people that exact it. it's not about which side is "right." only a politician would read a piece of fiction that way.
1.29.2006 7:42pm
WB:
Does Spielberg need to cite an actual speech, or is it legitimate to take him as saying that the overall impression he gets from listening to Bush's speeches about the war on terror is that Bush considers his enemies to be less than human, and part of that nebulous inhuman blob of evil he calls "terror"? I don't think he did anything wrong.

On the accuracy point, he said that found the book credible. Perhaps a trial judge should demand more before deciding someone's fate or deciding that money should change hands, but for Spielberg to decide on the basis of "common sense" whether to make a movie and portray it as accurate, it seems perfectly fine to me. If he's wrong, no one is sent to jail wrongfully and no one is "denied justice." Instead, Spielberg loses credibility points for pushing something as accurate that turned out not to be.

Another thing is that part of what Spielberg found credible is the agent's description of how he felt about how he was doing. I think it's a little silly to suggest that Spielberg should have done further research to probe the accuracy of that.
1.29.2006 9:14pm
davod (mail):
It is one thing to support the rule of law but if the countries involved in laying down the law disobey their own law what law is there.

Those of you who decry the Israeli actions going after the Munich killers forget why they did it. The law did not work. The Germans let the killers go.

I would suggest that for some the actions of the Israelis at Entebbe would also be considered suspect.
1.29.2006 9:39pm
davod (mail):

Cris Allen refers readers to the following:
http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/calahan.htm
COUNTERING TERRORISM: THE ISRAELI RESPONSE TO THE 1972 MUNICH OLYMPIC MASSACRE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDEPENDENT COVERT ACTION TEAMS
by, Alexander B. Calahan, GS-12, Graduate Class, Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Military Studies
April 1995

I have not had time to read the paper in full. I would however point readers to the initial coments by Callahan where he thanks George Jonas for the extensive time he spent talking with him. If this is the basis for the paper then I would suggest that it is hardly an objective look at the situation. The fact that the paper is on the FAS site is also another reason the wonder at the neutrality of the paper.
1.29.2006 9:53pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
The more I consider this post, the more I think that DB might want to withdraw it until he has seen the movie. One can criticiize the movie as inartfully crafted -- as I do -- but the idea that it is an anti-Bush screed is farfetched. Spielberg may indeed dislike the President's policies but the movie contains no anti-Bush material.

The _only_ possible connection between Munich and Bush might be the closing scens which pans sententiously across the Trade Center towers. But the scene lacks clarity. I was puzzled. The pan was gratuitous and not connected clearly to the movie's narrative. The towers seemed tacked on like a caboose at the end of a passenger train.

So DB, go see the movie and then let's chat.
1.29.2006 10:20pm
ChrisAllan (mail):
davod,

I posted the link to the paper because I thought it might add something to the debate.

The author clearly credits clearly credits Jonas but he also credit numerous other people (see below).

And the author never claimed to be neutral as he clearly states that the paper is his opinion (see below).



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Mr. George Jonas for his candid conversation regarding Avner's team, which was so vital to this study. I would also like to give special thanks to my thesis advisor, Dr. James H. Anderson, my second mentor, Mr. N. Richard Kinsman, and my third reader and year-long faculty advisor, Dr. Donald F. Bittner. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge the military officers and civilian faculty of the U.S.M.C. University, Command and Staff College for allowing me the opportunity to participate in a unique learning experience.


THIS IS AN OFFICIAL DOCUMENT OF THE MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE. QUOTATION FROM, ABSTRACTION FROM, OR REPRODUCTION OF ALL OR ANY PART OF THIS DOCUMENT IS PERMITTED PROVIDED PROPER ACKNOWLEDGMENT IS MADE, INCLUDING THE AUTHOR'S NAME, PAPER TITLE, AND THE STATEMENT: "WRITTEN IN FULFILLMENT OF A REQUIREMENT FOR THE MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE."

THE OPINIONS AND CONCLUSIONS EXPRESSED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF EITHER THE MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE OR ANY OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY.
1.29.2006 10:28pm
Kovarsky (mail):
the movie omitted the fact that the mossad accidentally assassinated a moroccan waiter after mixing him up with a target. israel supported his family after botching it.

if the movie was going to be a mindless screed against the reprisals, why would it omit that occurrence.

davod, it's important to realize the role the germans played in the tragedy. from squabbling over jurisdiction to incompetently executing the rescue attempt to prematurely releasing the terrorists and putting them on a plane out of the country, it's behavior was truly reprehensible. if the movie does have a factual failure - and I define factual failures to occur only when the movie creates the impression in the audience that it is presenting it with an accurate depiction of events - it is the failure to show the failings of the german government.

i also don't agree with the proposition that people who decry the israeli reprisals "forget...." the notion that countries don't break laws to catch people who do is pretty important to some of us. i don't know whether that's a hopelessly naive view for israel or not. with the election of Hamas (effectively the death of neoconservatism as a justifiable intellectual experiment), i'm feeling more and more like it is (naive).

but i'm sure glad that someone is framing the question. the fundamental claim the film's political opponents make - that the movie somehow "equates" the moral culpability of the terrorists with the assassins - is asinine and far more irresponsible than anything spielberg did.
1.29.2006 10:33pm
Bezuhov (mail):
Failing to hold terrorists as accountable as one's fellow citizens is its own sort of dehumanization. Could one imagine Spielberg making such a movie about the KKK?
1.29.2006 10:36pm
Sonia Belle (mail) (www):
I have seen the movie and the idea that the film "Munich" (as opposed to Spielberg himself) is anti-Bush, is incorrect. The character of Golda Meir in the film is very much like Bush in real life, and she is presented very positively. The problem with the film lies elsewhere. Spielberg presents anti-terrorist actions as futile. He is suggesting that killing terrorists is counterproductive. The final shot of the film is unmistakable in its message - terror will go on, kill one terrorist and three will rise in his place.

Shame on you for writing about a film that you haven't seen. I shouldn't be telling you this. Your post could have been much more interesting and incisive if you had seen the film and criticized it accurately. Read this, yours is number 7
1.29.2006 10:37pm
Medis:
Just to confirm what others have written, the film actually repeatedly and pointedly reminds the viewer about the horrors of the events in Munich. It also deals explicitly with the difficult problem the events in Munich presented to Israel, and does not present Israel in general in an unsympathetic light. Indeed, I think the setup and structure of the movie encouraged the viewer to cheer the (fictionalized) Golda Meir's decision to order the assassination of those involved in planning Munich, and generally cast the desire of Israelis to defend their country in an extremely sympathetic light.

What the movie is about is the effects of Meir's decision, both on the people involved and on the greater struggle. And in my view, the movie didn't really promote much in the way of definitive answers, but rather intended to raise some troubling questions. Whether one actually found those questions troubling is a different matter, but to say this movie was pushing some particular anti-Bush or anti-Israel message seems completely at odds with the movie as I saw it.
1.29.2006 11:36pm
therut (mail):
I haven't watched a Spielberg movie and won't since his political views are so blantant. The new DVD release of ET took the handguns from the police. And in Schlinders(sp)List he left out where the Jews were given firearms. He is ssssssssssssssssssssoooooooooo PC. Sorry he lost a viewer. I'd rather read a book. If he remade Andy Griffin he would take away Andy and Barneys' firearms. I'm surprised he did not have the Isralies using a sling shot in this movie.
1.30.2006 12:10am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"...make an ideological point about his distaste for the current American government strategy in the War on Terror."

No I don't think that Munich does that either. The United States -- 30 years ago or now -- is simply not a presence in the movie. It is not really all that political -- it's about the pressures of revenge on individuals more than any ideological stance. It's very sympathetic to Israel, a hint of acknowledgement to the Palestinians but it is mostly about a few human beings. It's not an ideological movie. To tease any grand message out of it is difficult. The best one can do is "violence is not good," a sentiment so bland that Cindy Sheehan and George W.Bush could both agree about it.
1.30.2006 1:31am
therut (mail):
I disagree that violence is not good. Sometimes violence is necessary and good and moral. The left always states it is nuanced and sees shades of gray and not absolutist. Violence is not good is a absolute statement. No nuance there. Why do you see what was done as revenge? How about Justice. Not all Justice is done in a court of law. Not all that is done in a court of law even comes close to Justice. Not even in our system. Unfortunately.
1.30.2006 3:36am
magoo (mail):
"If he remade Andy Griffin he would take away Andy and Barneys' firearms."

Andy didn't carry a gun. He was the quintessential "Sheriff Without A Gun," which was the name of the proposed movie someone once tried to make about Andy. And he made Barney keep his gun unloaded, with a single bullet tucked safely in his shirt pocket in case of emergencies (which gave rise to the stock phrase "Andy, can I use my bullet?"). True, they kept rifles under lock and key in the office, but I suspect, taken as a whole, the original show would suit Spielberg's sensibilities.
1.30.2006 8:59am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Davod. Ref. Entebbe.

If you recall the date, the Jews managed to trump the US' bicentennial. I never met a soldier who wouldn't have sold his left whosits for a seat on that ride. That was righteous.

So, I was shocked, in a disappointed manner of speaking, a couple of years later. I was in a dentist's office where he had old news magazines. I read the letters to the editor and had forgotten the number of people whose names were not Arabic or German who though Israel had committed a terrible crime by raiding Entebbe.
Astounding.
1.30.2006 10:13am
Medis:
therut,

I think you are at a disadvantage in this discussion for not having seen the movie (which is up to you, of course, but it makes it difficult for you to comment in an informed manner on the movie).

For example, you say: "Violence is not good is a absolute statement. No nuance there. Why do you see what was done as revenge? How about Justice. Not all Justice is done in a court of law."

There is an extended scene in the movie where Golda Meir essentially makes this same point, and as I noted above, I believe that we viewers are intended to cheer on her decision. Of course, the movie does then raise a series of questions about the effects of that decision, but I don't think it is fair to say the movie comes to a definitive conclusion about Meir's reasoning. Rather, I think the movie is trying to suggest that the potential conflicts between law, justice, peace, and so on all run in multiple directions--meaning, for example, that our interest in law could conflict with our interest in justice, but in turn our interest in justice could conflict with our interest in peace.

Anyway, in that sense I think it is a mistake to try to reduce the movie to a simple message. Rather, I think the movie is all about suggesting these underlying conflicts between values we hold dear.
1.30.2006 11:25am
Neal Lang (mail):
This movie had already been made in 1986 in a made for TV movie named "Sword of Gideon". It dealt with the subject very appropriately, IMMHO, including the pyschological problems due to moral and ethical issues that eventually affected the Mossad assassins sent to dispense justice on those behind the 1972 Munich Massacre, the Black September terrorist organization.

I have not seen the movie "Munich", and doubt I will until comes to HBO. However, I understand its biggist failing is making the Israel executioners the "moral equivalent" of the Black September terrorists who murdered innocent Israeli athletes. Unfortunately today's entertainment media does not have a good bearing on what is truly "good" and what is truly "evil". The intentional murder of innocents is always "evils". On the otherhand, the execution of the guilty, while it might be regretable, is not, in fact, "evil". I understand that this important distinction is lost in "Munich".
1.30.2006 1:59pm
Neal Lang (mail):
the movie omitted the fact that the mossad accidentally assassinated a moroccan waiter after mixing him up with a target. israel supported his family after botching it.

if the movie was going to be a mindless screed against the reprisals, why would it omit that occurrence.

Perhaps because the idea that Israel "supported his family after botching it" contrasts too much with terrorists' senseless, intentional murder of the innocent Israeli athletes, thus highlighting why the terrorists are not really the "moral equivalent" of those who set out to exact justice upon them.
1.30.2006 2:09pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Neal,

Just a sniff test here - do you really think Spielberg omitted the accidental assassination of the Moroccan waiter because he could not present that accident without present the subsequent fact of the Israeli's support and such support would, contrary to his purpose to demonize Israel, reveal them to be more humane than the terrorists?

Or is it just more likely that he didn't include the incident because he wasn't really interested in serial editorializing against Israel?
1.30.2006 2:12pm
Neal Lang (mail):
the movie is about the toll that retributive justice takes on the souls of the people that exact it. it's not about which side is "right." only a politician would read a piece of fiction that way.

Of course, this is exactly why the "moral equivalence" tone of the movie is harmful. If anyone truly thinks that the intentional murder of innocents is equivalent to hunting down the guilty to deliver a much needed "reckoning" than they have a completely warped sense of what is "right" and what is "wrong".
1.30.2006 2:21pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Just a sniff test here - do you really think Spielberg omitted the accidental assassination of the Moroccan waiter because he could not present that accident without present the subsequent fact of the Israeli's support and such support would, contrary to his purpose to demonize Israel, reveal them to be more humane than the terrorists?

Or is it just more likely that he didn't include the incident because he wasn't really interested in serial editorializing against Israel?

From what I heard about the film, "Munich", its major problem was that attempt to make the "Black September" terrorists the "moral equivalent" of the members of Mossad team dispatched to mark their accounts "paid in full". In order to make this case I believe that including the accidental death of an innocent and the resultant reaction by both the assassins and the Israel government may have been seen as counterproductive. If you make a film whose theme is that executing the guilty is the "moral equivalent" of INTENTIONALLY murdering the innocent - then one's reaction to the accidentaly killing of an innocent might just be too telling.
1.30.2006 2:32pm
Kovarsky (mail):
O MY GOD.

"From what I heard."

So you haven't seen the movie either?

Let me assure you that whatever the films foibles, moral equation of the two acts is not among them. Perhaps the Israeli reprisals are presented in a light less flattering than they could or should have been, but that's not the moral equivalence you're talking about.

To be honest, I'm not sure how much credibility anybody who hasn't seen the movie can have on the "moral equivalence" issue.
1.30.2006 2:37pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I have seen the movie and the idea that the film "Munich" (as opposed to Spielberg himself) is anti-Bush, is incorrect. The character of Golda Meir in the film is very much like Bush in real life, and she is presented very positively. The problem with the film lies elsewhere. Spielberg presents anti-terrorist actions as futile. He is suggesting that killing terrorists is counterproductive. The final shot of the film is unmistakable in its message - terror will go on, kill one terrorist and three will rise in his place.

While I haven't seen "Munich", I have read several reviews, including yours. Based on your own critique - apparently, besides making the "bad guys" actions (in murdering the innocent athlete) the "moral equivalent" of the Mossad team's executing the guilty terrorists - the film makes the point that: 1. anti-terrorist actions are futile; and 2. killing terrorists is counterproductive. I suggest that inasmuch as a major part of President Bush plan in the War on Terror is that 1. anti-terrorist actions are necessary; and 2. that best anti-terrorist actions are killing terrorists, that by anyone's definition this movie has to be "anti-Bush". If not overtly then at least subliminally.
1.30.2006 2:47pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Please do not attribute those comments to me. They were made by someone else. Golda Meir was absolutely, positively, not portrayed as a Bush proxy. To whatever degree the movie can be read on the Bush administration, it isn't because Meir is a stand in for Bush.

Also, the logic that a movie that makes a proposition in tension with an administration is "anti-administration." is flawed. For example, Coppola's "The Conversation" is not an anti-Bush movie just because it considers a particular subject matter.

I don't know that the message of the movie is that killing terrorists is counterproductive (See, e.g. the monolgue Avner's mom delivers to him). The much clearer message is that killing terrorists takes a psychological toll on the people killing them, whether it's productive or not.

The notion that the movie suggests all anti-terror actions to be futile is nonsense. If anybody who has seen the movie thinks this is a viable point I'll happily respond to it, otherwise I'm going to save my time.

Even if all your suppositions were true, and the movie portrayed reprisal assasinations as futile, I cannot for the life of me understand how that equates the moral culpability of Israel with the assassins.

I would prefer if someone who has seen the movie would respond, though.
1.30.2006 2:56pm
Kovarsky (mail):
excuse me,

" cannot for the life of me understand how that equates the moral cuplability of Israel with the terrorists.
1.30.2006 2:57pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
IMO, leaving out the background of "Blackhawk Down" is a good thing.

As to how Somalia got that way, do you really want to go there?

When the Americans were pulling out, a journalist who was watching got caught up in the event. "Go," he said, "and never come back. These people aren't worth it."
1.30.2006 2:58pm
Medis:
I find it hard to understand people who claim there was a "moral equivalence" in the movie between the Munich killings and the subsequent assassinations. I saw no such moral equivalence--indeed, the movie frequently contrasted the nature of the Munich killings with the nature of the assassinations.

I can only assume that people are reading "moral equivalence" into the fact that the movie makes some effort at explaining the motivations of those who committed the Munich massacre (although not much--the vast majority of the movie is about the thoughts and feelings of Israelis). But I think that people who see that as "moral equivalence" are very much missing the point--the movie isn't trying to promote their viewpoint, but rather is presenting the fact that the terrorists themselves do not believe that they are acting immorally.

And regardless of what one feels about the general situation, surely that is a pragmatic point worth remembering (that terrorists do not generally see themselves as evil).
1.30.2006 3:05pm
Kovarsky (mail):
In agreement with Medis, but perhaps put a little more extremely, this whole issue of "humanizing the terrorists" - given how I understand that term - strikes me a little naive.

If "humanizing" the terrorists means "making their actions seem humane," then of course I agree that such an enterprise would be apalling.

If, on the other hand, "humanizing" the terrorists means acknowledging that their actions are a product of an identifiable set of social, political, religious, cultural, and economic phenomena, I just don't understand what the controversy is? Is the point that we would be better off pretending that these guys were just wackos from Pluto?

The objection to "humanizing" terrorists in this second sense strikes me as a profound intellectual denial - a denial to attribute fundamental cognitive properties to terrorists: fear, anger, hatred, suffering, revenge, etc. The product of this mix is explosive, violent, and morally reprehensible, but how on earth are we going to address it if we can't say what it is, and how can we say what it is if we're not allowed to frame the question?
1.30.2006 3:16pm
Neal Lang (mail):
To be honest, I'm not sure how much credibility anybody who hasn't seen the movie can have on the "moral equivalence" issue.

Again, I based by comments on reviews of the film such as those below. If you have a problem with that, well I sorry but that is the way it is.
Spielberg’s dishonor goes even deeper. It isn’t just that he places wanton killers and avengers on the same moral plane, he also badly distorts the underlying issues and seems to accept the Arab version of reality, that is, that Israel’s founding was somehow illegitimate. “No one would give it to us, so we had to take it” explains Avner’s mother about the land of Israel in a key scene. This is consistent with screenwriter Tony Kushner’s view that establishing a state means “f***ing people over.” That is a lazy and stupid misreading of history. From: Mona Charen: Spielberg’s Moral Confusion. Munich’s problem

In an interview with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Spielberg responded to the central charge by Jewish critics that his film depicts the Israeli and Palestinian causes as morally equivalent. "Frankly, I think that's a stupid charge," he told Ebert. "The people who attack the movie based on 'moral equivalence' are some of the same people who say diplomacy itself is an exercise in moral equivalence, and that war is the only answer. That the only way to fight terrorism is to dehumanize the terrorists by asking no questions about who they are and where they come from. What I believe is, every act of terrorism requires a strong response, but we must also pay attention to the causes. That's why we have brains and the power to think passionately. Understanding does not require approval. Understanding is not the same as inaction. Understanding is a very muscular act. If I'm endorsing understanding and being attacked for that, then I am almost flattered." From: SPIELBERG RESPONDS TO CRITICS OF MUNICH

The alarm bells went off like crazy when Steven Spielberg hired Tony Kushner last year to rewrite the script of a movie about Israel's clandestine — and lethal — response to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Kushner's main claim to fame is as a playwright — he'd never written a movie before Spielberg came calling — so one can't help wonder why Spielberg would turn his film over to a novice, unless there is something about Kushner's worldview that Spielberg finds appealing.

It is a worldview that has inspired Kushner to declare, "I think the founding of the State of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity.... I wish modern Israel hadn't been born."

It is a worldview that had him tell the Times of London, "I deplore the brutal and illegal tactics of the Israeli Defense Forces in the occupied territories. I deplore the occupation, the forced evacuations, the settlements, the refugee camps, the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people; Jews, of all people, with our history of suffering, should refuse to treat our fellow human beings like that." From: Spielberg's Leftist Muse

When you made your film about this painful tragedy - a pain so close to the Israelis and to the Jews of the world, I was hoping that you would take the opportunity to make a strong point that inexcusable barbaric acts of terrorism (which are still supported by many Arab countries and radical Islamic leaders today) will not be tolerated in our modern world, and will not fly By without justice being pursued.

Your movie disappointed me and so many of us by appearing to promote a moral equivalence between Israeli victims and the terrorists in your film.

You gave time for a Palestinian terrorist in the film to present his "case" for terrorism, without allowing legitimate, natural rebuttal response from the Israeli side, as though there was no response. The movie embraced a moral equivalence between justice and international law on one hand and the terrorists on the other.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MORAL EQUIVALENCE WHEN IT COMES TO TERRORISTS!

When you allow the terrorist in your film to make an excuse for his barbaric acts (an excuse which is a lie) without a clear and a strong response, the lie becomes the truth to the millions of people who will see your movie. This may be the only history of that time that they learn! From: "The Film Munich" Creates opinion

If Steven Spielberg had made a fictional movie about the psychological disintegration of a revenge assassin, that would have been fine. Instead, he decided to call this fiction "Munich" and root it in a historical event: the 1972 massacre by Palestinian terrorists of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Once you've done that -- evoked the killing of innocents who, but for Palestinian murderers, would today be not much older than Spielberg himself -- you have an obligation to get the story right and not to use the victims as props for any political agenda, let alone for the political agenda of those who killed them.

The only true part of the story is the few minutes spent on the massacre. The rest is invention, as Spielberg delicately puts it in the opening credits, "inspired by real events."

And Munich. Munich, the massacre, had only modest success in launching the Palestinian cause with the blood of 11 Jews. "Munich," the movie, has now made that success complete 33 years later. No longer is it crude, grainy TV propaganda. "Munich" now enjoys high cinematic production values and the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg, no less, carrying the original terrorists' intended message to every theater in the world. From: 'Munich,' the Travesty

What Spielberg didn't bother to tell us in his manifesto for moral equivalence -- the film's clear and oft-repeated theme that, as Warren Bell succinctly summarized it, "When good guys kill bad guys, they're as bad as bad guys" -- is how the world responded to the Munich massacre which we now know marked the birth of media-covered terrorism. Avery Brundage, head of the International Olympic Committee, the same "courageous" leader who in 1936 had insisted on sending an American delegation to "Hitler's Games" in Berlin, reacted to the Olympic carnage by stressing that the most important consideration was now that "the games must be saved."

The Olympics, as a microcosm of the world, sent a clear message: Terrorists get publicity, not punishment. Jewish victims may be quietly mourned but their deaths don't require measures that will prevent their reoccurrence. From: Munich is a distortion of truth and morality.

Well, you get the picture.
1.30.2006 3:39pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I'm familiar with the arguments thanks.

I just find it unusual that somebody would argue so fervently without testing the positions advanced in the articles against the film itself.

There is, of course, a response for each and every idea presented in your excerpts above, but it seems sort of pointless to discuss them because you have no first-hand familiarity with the underlying subject matter.
1.30.2006 3:55pm
Neal Lang (mail):
The objection to "humanizing" terrorists in this second sense strikes me as a profound intellectual denial - a denial to attribute fundamental cognitive properties to terrorists: fear, anger, hatred, suffering, revenge, etc.

As compared to the murder of innocent Israel athletes at the Munich Olympic Games, exactly what act of Israel with regards to the Palestinians is the "moral equivalent" so as to be the catalyst for the terrorists' "fundamental cognitive properties" of "fear, anger, hatred, suffering, revenge, etc."

If the terrorists of Black September were truly interested in exacting "revenge" for their "fear, anger, hatred, suffering, etc.", then they would have taken the Jordanian athletes hostage and not the Israeli, because King Hussein of Jordan, and not Israel, was cause of the event for which the group was named:
September 1970 is known as the Black September in the Arab history and sometimes is referred to as the "era of regrettable events". It was a month when Hashemite King Hussein of Jordan moved to quash an attempt of Palestinian organizations to overturn his monarchy, the attack resulted in heavy civilian Palestinian casualties. The armed conflict lasted until July 1971

The number of casualties in what resembled a civil war is estimated at tens of thousands, and both sides were involved in intentional killing of civilians. From: Black September in Jordan

Of course, had they taken the athletes from Jordan they would have earned the censure of the Moslem World.

As for humanizing the terrorists, unfortunately the movie's idea of making these terrorists "human" is "morally equate" their brutal murder of innocents, with the "reckoning" exacted upon them by Israel for their guilt in murdering the athletes.
1.30.2006 4:09pm
Medis:
This is all amusingly reminding me of Tom Townsend in the movie Metropolitan, who critiques in detail the novels of Jane Austen, and then later reveals that he has never read any of her novels, but rather that he prefers to read literary criticism.
1.30.2006 4:10pm
Neal Lang (mail):
There is, of course, a response for each and every idea presented in your excerpts above, but it seems sort of pointless to discuss them because you have no first-hand familiarity with the underlying subject matter.

It is only "pointless" if your rebuttal doesn't hold water. I would love to hear why you believe that the brutal murder of the innocent Israerli athletes is the "moral equivalent" of the Israelis exacting their retribution by executing the Black September terrorists.
1.30.2006 4:15pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Medis,

There's a similar update of that trope in "The Squid and the Whale," where the adolescent boy parrots his lit-wimp father by continually noting that "This Side of Paradise" is "minor Fitzgerald" without ever having read it.

It's really, really funny.

K
1.30.2006 4:19pm
Neal Lang (mail):
This is all amusingly reminding me of Tom Townsend in the movie Metropolitan, who critiques in detail the novels of Jane Austen, and then later reveals that he has never read any of her novels, but rather that he prefers to read literary criticism.

Hmmm! If literary critiques and movie reviews are such unreliable means of judging books and films, why are they so popular?
1.30.2006 4:21pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Neal,

Please stop addressing me directly. I have repeatedly stressed not only do I find the attack and the reprisal to be morally equivalent, but also that I don't take the movie to be saying that either.

You keep asking me to defand that which I expressly disclaim, and it's getting irritating.
1.30.2006 4:21pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Woops,

I have repeatedly stressed that they are NOT morally equivalent. If your confusion involves my similar failure to include a "not" at some prior point in the conversation thread, I apologize.
1.30.2006 4:23pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I can only assume that people are reading "moral equivalence" into the fact that the movie makes some effort at explaining the motivations of those who committed the Munich massacre (although not much--the vast majority of the movie is about the thoughts and feelings of Israelis). But I think that people who see that as "moral equivalence" are very much missing the point--the movie isn't trying to promote their viewpoint, but rather is presenting the fact that the terrorists themselves do not believe that they are acting immorally.

Apparently the movie accomplishes "presenting the fact that the terrorists themselves do not believe that they are acting immorally" by comparing them favorably with those Israel who are hunting them down and killing. I believe fits the definition of "moral equivalence".

And honest presentation would have been that the two motives are diametrically morally opposed, one was "right", while the other was "wrong". When it comes the motivations to kill, it is truly that simple. It is neither complex nor difficult. To do any less is to equate the two morally.
1.30.2006 4:31pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I have repeatedly stressed that they are NOT morally equivalent. If your confusion involves my similar failure to include a "not" at some prior point in the conversation thread, I apologize.

I didn't say that you thought that they were "morally equivalent". Kindly relate what it was about the protrayal of these characters that indicted that terrorists motivation was inferior to that of the Israelis. Of course, you apparently got from the movie that the "cognitive properties to terrorists" were "fear, anger, hatred, suffering, revenge, etc." Arguably the motivations for the Israelis included "anger, hatred, suffering, revenge" - to this extent I would say that movie made you see the two were "moral equivalent", at least to the extent that motivations were the same.
1.30.2006 4:39pm
Medis:
The joke in Metropolitan, of course, is not on those who read literary criticism, but rather on those who entirely substitute reading such criticism for reading the literature itself.

Of course, one of the great things about this joke, and the movie Metropolitan in general, is the way in which it satirizes an entire subculture. I think that parallel is particularly apt here, where it appears that multiple members of a certain subculture are echoing certain specific criticisms of Munich without bothering to actually see the movie.

Indeed, I find this parallel even more amusing in light of the fact that I doubt this latest subculture would appreciate the comparison with the prior subculture (namely, young, naive, self-important, upper-class New York City socialites). And yet I think the subcultural dynamics are in fact remarkably similar.
1.30.2006 4:41pm
Lawstsoul:
I'm not reallly a movie critic, but I play one on Volokh Conspiracy. Munich definitely portrays the terrorists who slaughtered Israeli athletes as the moral equivalent of the agents who tracked them down and assasinated them. Several noted reviewers have made this point as well, while I'm not aware of any who have taken the opposite position. OBTW, the reason the movie was made was to slam GWB, so I'm not going to bother seeing it.
1.30.2006 6:17pm
Porkchop (mail):

The objection to "humanizing" terrorists in this second sense strikes me as a profound intellectual denial - a denial to attribute fundamental cognitive properties to terrorists: fear, anger, hatred, suffering, revenge, etc. The product of this mix is explosive, violent, and morally reprehensible, but how on earth are we going to address it if we can't say what it is, and how can we say what it is if we're not allowed to frame the question?

Precisely, Kovarsky. I haven't posted since the beginning of this discussion, because you have done such a good job of dealing with the willfully ignorant.

Whether one believes that the Palestinians as a group have legitimate grievances or not, the fact remains that they think they have one and that they think the rest of the world ignores it.

It is a fundamental precept of military strategy, going back to Sun Tzu (if not earlier), that one must understand one's enemy in order to engage him effectively. What is the problem with that?

It is not exactly news that retribution of the type in Munich can be counterproductive. If killing 9 terrorists produces 900 because of outrage in the community they came from, then it hasn't solved a great deal. It doesn't matter whether Israel (or the United States) or the people of either feel that such a response is inappropriate or illogical or immoral. There will still be more people with weapons and the desire to use them. No one "wins" a war like that without annihilating the enemy, and annihilation is not an option that is likely to work for either side.

Spielberg, through Avner, asks a fair question at the end of the movie: What did all of this accomplish?
1.30.2006 7:53pm
Neal Lang (mail):
It is not exactly news that retribution of the type in Munich can be counterproductive. If killing 9 terrorists produces 900 because of outrage in the community they came from, then it hasn't solved a great deal. It doesn't matter whether Israel (or the United States) or the people of either feel that such a response is inappropriate or illogical or immoral. There will still be more people with weapons and the desire to use them. No one "wins" a war like that without annihilating the enemy, and annihilation is not an option that is likely to work for either side.

Why is it that only the terrorists are entitled to retribution? The so-called "Middle East Problem" began in 1947-8 when the British and the UN allowed the Jews a tiny sliver of Palestine Mandate. At the same time, the British and the UN allowed the Arabs vast tracks of the Palestine Mandate. The Jews accepted this solution, the Arabs didn't. There ensued a war that pitted the Armies of the Arab Nations against a militia and irregular forces of Israel, with the result that the Israelis held and even expanded slightly its territory when the UN called a Cease Fire.

Since then, Israel fought its Arab neighbors in 1956, 1967, and 1972. In 1957 and 1967 captured Arab terrority, like the Sinai Penninsula (returned to Egypt by agreement twice). In 1967 Israel took the West Bank from Jordan. Had Jordan not attacked Israel along with Egypt, Syria and Lebanon in 1967 the West Bank would still belong to Jordan. The 1967 ended officially with UN Resolution 242, the Arab-Israeli peace settlement that called for peace and recognition of the "right of every nation to live free from threat within secure and recognized boundaries", in return for Israel's withdrawal "from territories"; not "all the territories", nor "the territories captured in the course of the recent hostilities." The Arabs met at Khartoum and agreed to a Resolution known as the Khartoum Resolution which adopted the dictum of no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

In October 1973, a year after the Munich Massacre, the Arabs again attacked Israel and were once more defeated. Since then, Israel has signed a Peace Treaty with Egypt and returned the Sinai Penninsula (again) and Gaza Strip to Egypt. In 1970-71 the Palestinians that had left the West Bank in 1967 and went to Jordan attempted to overthrow the Jordanian King and King Hussein ran them out of Jordan, killing many of them. The Palestinians call this Black September. These Palestinians became refuges throught the Middle East where no Muslem nation accepted them.

In 1993 Israel signed the Oslo Accords and allowed the refuge Palestinians to return to the West Bank. Jordan agreed with Israel to cede control of the West Bank to serve as a Palestinian State. In 2000 the Israel agreed to turn over control of virtually all the West Bank to the Palestine Authority. The Nobel Laureate, Yasser Arafat, refused the deal and declared the al-Aqsa Intifada which killed some 1,000 Israels, mostly innocent women and children in suicide bombing attacks.

To tuly appreciate the terrorists in the Middle East Crisis you have to realize that first, they only understand military power, they break every agreement they have made with Israel, and prefer to murder innocent Israel children because they realize that their enemy is a moral people who value human life. Now unless these terrorists have a change of heart and learn to live in peace with their neghbors and begin to value human life, I suppose that "annihilation" may be the only solution.

BTW, exactly what was it that Israel did to the Palestinian terrorists that produced the al-Aqsa Intifada and the 1,000+ innocent dead, besides agreeing to meet 99.9% of their demands. The real problem in the Palestine, of course, is not the people themselves, but their leaders, who the people a steady diet of irrational hate beginning with the children in schools. Of course, the reason these leaders can get away with this, is because the UN and most of the leaders of the World are willing to ignore their actions. As for your continued attempt to justify the irrational actions of the Palestinians by attributing to them the moral highground of legitimate grievances, all I can say is the Israel were truly their "moral equivalent", they would have been anniliated them long ago. Anyone unable to accept that "truth", must be "willfully ignorant".
1.30.2006 11:22pm
Medis:
To use one of my favorite new words, it appears that the notion that Munich portrays the terrorists and the Israeli assassins as "moral equivalents" has sufficient "truthiness" that certain people won't bother seeing the movie to determine if such claims are actually true.
1.30.2006 11:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If killing 9 terrorists generates 900 terrorists, what have we accomplished?
Well, since we don't have a way to rerun the experiment and not kill the nine bastards, we're kind of stuck with the planted axiom of the question.

I'd suggest this: If nine terrorists could get away with that, wouldn't it enthuse the wannabe terrorists to the number of 9000?

My question is as good as the first. And it doesn't require a nation accept being killed as a useful tactic.
1.30.2006 11:55pm
Porkchop (mail):

If killing 9 terrorists generates 900 terrorists, what have we accomplished?
Well, since we don't have a way to rerun the experiment and not kill the nine bastards, we're kind of stuck with the planted axiom of the question.

Fair enough, but there doesn't seem to be shortage of new terrorist recruits, either. Why is that? An irrational desire to die (nodding to Neal)?

If overwhelming military force were the answer, the "Palestinian question" would have been answered long ago. Instead, it has continued for decades. Is that some kind of clue, do you think?
1.31.2006 12:23am
gr (www):

Of course, this is exactly why the "moral equivalence" tone of the movie is harmful


What 'moral equivalence tone'? Did you say you hadn't seen the movie?
1.31.2006 12:30am
Kovarsky (mail):
I never thought Colbert would climb out of Stewart's shadow, but with the "truthiness" term, he's done it in under a year.
1.31.2006 12:40am
Medis:
Kovarsky,

And I believe that was actually "The Word" in Colbert's very first show.

Although to be honest, Colbert benefits from having a great subject to satirize. Indeed, as this thread demonstrates in its own small way, much of what he ridicules is only a knife-edge away from parody in the first place, and he just has to bring it on over the last little bit.
1.31.2006 1:04am
Medis:
In fact, come to think of it, Colbert has a "Films that are Destroying America" segment in which he critiques movies he hasn't seen. I believe that the one movie he has liked on that basis is Transamerica (which, after all, has America right in the title).
1.31.2006 1:15am
Medis:
Sorry, it is "Movies that are Destroying America", and he also liked the sound of Brokeback Mountain (it's about cowboys, so little boys should love it).
1.31.2006 1:24am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Porkchop. WRT your question about overwhelming military force. I used to be an Infantry officer and I've followed military history for years--decades.
You want to start over? Might be smart.

But in case you don't take the hint, here's the situation:

Israel has but does not use overwhelming military force. Overwhelming military force is the Allies going into Germany, or making it unnecessary to actually invade Japan.

Israel does not kill everybody in a square mile. They have built missiles with smaller warheads than ordinarily used so they can avoid collateral casualties when striking some bozo in a car. From time to time, before bombing some PA facility, they call ahead to tell the folks to leave. Their rules of engagement are so restrictive that even a liberal would be appalled, if you didn't tell him they were for Israelis. If you told him they were for Israelis, he'd be hollering about Nuremberg, but that's another story.

One military officer at an international conference suggested to an Israeli that they ought to mass bomb one of these parades of armed militants. The Israeli said that would annoy Europe. The other said, then you will die. The Israeli said, "I know." Before you get all tied up in the literal issue, it was about Israel's kid-glove (metaphor alert!!!) treatment--relatively speaking--of forces which want to destroy it and are killing civilians for choice as a tactic. And it had to do with people who don't mind the killing of Israelis but really hate to see a suicide bomber thwarted--by which we mean western liberals. And it had to do with the absolutely astonishing fact that the Israelis feel they need to be worried about western liberals.
Anyway, if the Israelis used their overwhelming military force, things would get really quiet.
Why a continuing source of terrorist recruits? Many reasons, one of them being the vile and hateful education to which they are subjected. There are other reasons worth whole books of speculation.
But the idea that there would be fewer terrorists if the ones who showed up were able to get away with it seems silly.
1.31.2006 8:40am
Porkchop (mail):
And I used to be naval officer, and I have a degree in history, having studied under a very fine professor of military history and written a detailed paper on the German invasion of Russia, Richard, so don't start preaching to me about your superior qualifications.

The point Spielberg makes is that the current approach isn't working. From time to time, the Israelis have used overwhelming military force, but they ended up withdrawing. There's a reason for that: they can't absorb the economic, political, and diplomatic costs of occupation.

You can blame a vile educational systeu, but you don't seem to have a solution for that. It's not much of a response to tell the Palestinians, "Stop raising your kids the way you do." I suspect that 60 years of refugee camp life skews one's perspective a bit, and no solution I have heard heaf really addresses that. It might be nice to try to figure out why the terrorists keep on coming, don't you think? It would be a whole lot better to cut off the source instead of hunting them down after the fact, but you can't do that if you refuse to try to get inside their heads.

As an infantry officer, you might keep in mind that winning on the ground isn't the end of a war. We kicked ass militarily in Vietnam, and where did we end up?
1.31.2006 9:01am
Kovarsky (mail):
And I am but a poor farm boy, poor and perfect. My ship was captured by the dread pirate roberts, and everybody knows the dread pirate roberts never takes prisoners.

And it had to do with people who don't mind the killing of Israelis but really hate to see a suicide bomber thwarted—by which we mean western liberals. And it had to do with the absolutely astonishing fact that the Israelis feel they need to be worried about western liberals.

Do you really think western liberals hate seeing a suicide bomber thwarted, or are we conducting this conversation on a rational plane of discourse.
1.31.2006 10:27am
Porkchop (mail):
Kovarsky wrote:


And I am but a poor farm boy, poor and perfect. My ship was captured by the dread pirate roberts, and everybody knows the dread pirate roberts never takes prisoners.


The Princess Bride, one of my (and my kids') favorite movies. An appropriate quotation, K. Perhaps the example of Inigo Montoya as a single-minded pursuer of justice is one that we could discuss here as well: "Compare and contrast the characters of Inigo Montoya and Avner Kaufman. It is not necessary to have seen either film to have an opinion."

Kovarsky wrote:


And it had to do with people who don't mind the killing of Israelis but really hate to see a suicide bomber thwarted—by which we mean western liberals. And it had to do with the absolutely astonishing fact that the Israelis feel they need to be worried about western liberals.

Do you really think western liberals hate seeing a suicide bomber thwarted, or are we conducting this conversation on a rational plane of discourse.


I believe that he does. Not only that, but anyone who disagrees with him or questions his views in any regard is, by definition, a "western liberal."

BTW, apologies for the typos in my previous post. I didn't have my reading glasses on. (I'm old . . .)
1.31.2006 10:46am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Porkchop. Then you ought to know that the last time we or the Israelis made the enemy spend their principle was WW II.
In Viet Nam and in the Middle East, we forced the enemy to spend the interest only. That can go on forever.

I have a book on strategy by Liddell-Hart. At the end of it, he appends a letter from a friend in the Israeli army. It had to do with the '48 war. The Israelis were chasing the Egyptians back out of Israel and, at the time they were about to catch them, the outside world stepped in. The writer seemed both resigned and angry.

So, at least we've reached an agreement that overwhelming military force, 1, doesn't work unless it's used, and, 2, it isn't being used, and, 3, the situation can go on forever, because, 4, the overwhelming military force isn't being used, so, 5, mentioning overwhelming military force is a joke, not to mention misleading.

And, as you point out, we kicked ass in South Viet Nam while leaving Hanoi free to continue until we got tired.
That is not all the strategy there is in war.

The wars against Israel are what are known in the insurance business as "no-fault". The Israelis occupied nobody's capitol, hanged no head of government, and allowed most of the enemy manpower to survive. The oil ticks refilled the coffers of the confrontation states while the Soviets sold them fresh material. The misogynist society bred fresh, expendable men and twisted their minds. All fixed, in five years.

You know of any other people who've been refugees for sixty years? Try WW II for example. I recommend Hulme's book, "The Wild Place", reviewed on Amazon. They got it done in five years.
Who uses the Palestinians as cannon fodder, perpetually bleeding against Israel? Whose idea is that? The Palestinians are a tool, and they are mad at the wrong people.

There's no mystery about the terrorists, or getting inside their heads. It's not rocket science. What puzzles me is the Israelis.

Kovarsky: What's the liberal view of the security fence? If you believe the ostensible reasons for opposing it, I'm sorry for you. What gets more ink as mean-spirited, checkpoints or murders of civilians?
Which gets more ink in the west, strikes to kill terrorists or suicide bombings in Israeli pizzerias? Well, considering the movie which started this discussion, you have your answer.
1.31.2006 10:50am
Porkchop (mail):
In order to separate the discussion of the psychology of terrorism from the politics of the Middle East, I’d like to give you all an example from my own past. The point I am trying to make here is that the kinds of distrust and hatred involved in the Palestinian situation last generations, and unless they are addressed outside the context of killing the next terrorist, the problem will remain intractable. So here goes:

I’m Scandinavian – Danish on my father’s side. My paternal grandparents came to the United States in 1912, and never returned to Denmark, even for a visit. There was no contact with relatives, because there were none left there.

In the mid-1960’s, I was in high school. One year, I studied German under an exchange teacher from Germany, a very nice man of about 30 or so – too young to have taken part in World War II. He rented a house down the block from my widowed grandmother, who was 79 0r 80 at the time. The German teacher’s wife developed appendicitis and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Upon seeing this, my sweet, saintly grandmother stated to me, “I hope she dies.” I was shocked, of course. I asked why. She said, “She’s a German. I hate Germans.”

I assumed at the time that it must have something to do with World War II and the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It was only later that I found out that it had nothing to do with that at all. My grandmother was born in 1888. She hated Germans because when the Prussians under Bismarck and Wilhelm I unified Germany during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, they took by force the German-speaking duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, which had been ruled by Denmark for centuries. This was essentially the last chapter in the decline of Denmark from its 18th century status as a great power. (The destruction of the Danish fleet by the British at the Battle of Copenhagen during the Napoleonic Wars was arguably the beginning of the end.)

My grandmother grew up hearing about the injustice of what had happened 18 years before her birth. Nearly 100 years after the dust had settled, that resentment was still ingrained in her character. And she had left Denmark 50+ years earlier! I think there’s a lesson in human nature there.

It is no surprise to me that there are lingering, festering resentments among the Palestinians – it’s been less than 60 years. Until those resentments are addressed, there will continue to be individuals who turn to terrorist activity. Killing terrorists may satisfy someone’s sense of justice, and it may solve an immediate problem, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. In legal philosophical terms, it satisfies the goal of specific deterrence because a dead terrorist is unable to kill again, but it appears not to satisfy the goal of general deterrence, because the death of one terrorist does not seem to prevent others from going forward with their own acts of terror.
1.31.2006 11:31am
Medis:
Richard,

Have you actually seen Munich?
1.31.2006 11:36am
Medis:
By the way, regardless of what one decides is the right strategy for confronting terrorists, it seems obvious to me that understanding what they feel, believe, and think is going to be an important part of that strategy. For example, even if you just intend to hunt and kill terrorists, understanding what they feel, believe, and think will help you hunt them.

So, I just don't think there is a serious objection to trying to understand terrorists, no matter what conclusions you ultimately draw with respect to strategy.
1.31.2006 11:46am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Porkchop. Seen the same thing in my family. "Wearin' of The Green" and something about somebody who wouldn't talk after the Black and Tans got him. Kevin Barry, maybe
So?
Fixing today doesn't fix yesterday, nor, as you point out, does it fix attitudes learned yesterday.

Fixing today in the ME would most easily be done by letting the Jews all be killed. Except, all that hate would still not be slaked. But it would be a start.
I belong to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and I am convinced most of the hierarchy could manage to fake outrage and grief for probably a week. In the meantime, they're schmoozing it up with terrorists and referring to the "apartheid wall".

If we want to fix the Palestinians, we do what has been done with other folks in their position: We send them around the world to start new lives. Will they or nill they. We do not allow them to set up in insular communities as in France and Sweden.
We take them from the power of the fanatics and their Arab brethren and the UN who all need them to stay as an ulcer, bleeding themselves, and bleeding Israel.
That's a bit outside the box for those committed to nice-ing their way through the status quo.
If you think about this, it can't be done peaceably, which means it won't be done.
So the next way to deal with this is to stop dealing with the interest and kill the principle. That means regime change in a number of ME state, mass executions of terrorist leaders, and leave the Palestinian people to find their own way without the nefarious influence of the world's anti-Semitism and Stockholmed liberals.
I happened to be reading "Theodore Rex", and discovered that when TR made a couple of comments against lynching, he got a huge ration of crap from southern pols and editorialists. I was, as the Brits say, gobsmacked. Not that lynching was going on, but that the power structure in the first couple of years of the twentieth century got mad as hell about somebody saying it was a bad idea. In America.
Well. Today, many republicans are desperately hoping Condi changes her mind.
Progress is possible, but it has to be facilitated and, in the ME, that means some serious, difficult, and bloody actions.
In no way will it be facilitated by insisting on one more concession from Israel, and then one more, and then one more after that.
1.31.2006 12:02pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Medis. I didn't see the movie. If you look carefully, I'm not talking about the movie.
But, if you insist, I will say one thing. This movie is not about the massacre. It's about the chasing and killing of the bastards who killed the Israelis. If it were about the massacre, it would cover a day or so, and would have to be padded out with lead-ins.
And this discussion is about chasing and killing the bastards. Is it right or wrong? Moral or immoral?
Without this movie, people would have to be reminded of Munich in 72. "Wasn't it one of those times somebody killed Jews? It was a long time ago. What's your point again?"
The massacre's obviously no biggie.
1.31.2006 12:06pm
Medis:
Just an aside, but it turns out that effecting "regime change" in the Middle East is an extremely costly proposition. Of course, maybe the benefits would be worth the cost, but in any event the cost of any particular strategy has to be included in our decisions.
1.31.2006 12:07pm
Medis:
Richard,

I was just wondering if you were basing your characterizations of the movie on any actual knowledge--I would be interested in having a discussion about the movie with someone who makes your sort of claim and who has actually seen the movie. Unfortunately, to my knowledge no such person has yet appeared in this discussion.

Incidentally, I will note again that the massacre in Munich is a very prominent and important part of the movie, and indeed the movie returns to scenes from Munich throughout. But since you haven't seen the movie, you obviously aren't in a position to discuss those scenes and what they meant.
1.31.2006 12:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Medis. I wasn't characterizing the movie.
I made the point that nobody would have made a movie about the massacre. Hardly anybody remembers it.
I was talking about other matters, related to the issues some find in the movie.
There would have been no movie without the main theme being the chase and execution and the moral issues involved.
Again, my point. Killing Jews is background noise. Killing terrorists is where the Professionally Incredibly Wonderful get involved.
1.31.2006 12:31pm
Porkchop (mail):

If we want to fix the Palestinians, we do what has been done with other folks in their position: We send them around the world to start new lives. Will they or nill they. We do not allow them to set up in insular communities as in France and Sweden.
We take them from the power of the fanatics and their Arab brethren and the UN who all need them to stay as an ulcer, bleeding themselves, and bleeding Israel.
That's a bit outside the box for those committed to nice-ing their way through the status quo.
If you think about this, it can't be done peaceably, which means it won't be done.
So the next way to deal with this is to stop dealing with the interest and kill the principle. That means regime change in a number of ME state, mass executions of terrorist leaders, and leave the Palestinian people to find their own way without the nefarious influence of the world's anti-Semitism and Stockholmed liberals.

Uh, maybe we ought to see how "regime change" actually works out where we are before we start branching out.

In addition, any of the actions you suggest are virtually guaranteed to take "moderate" Muslims off the fence and turn them to active hostility. So, that adds, what, 1.5 billion people to the enemies list? Sounds like a pretty high geopolitical cost to me. Technological superiority only gets you so far in fighting a war, after all.
1.31.2006 12:32pm
Medis:
Richard,

You originally said: "What gets more ink as mean-spirited, checkpoints or murders of civilians?
Which gets more ink in the west, strikes to kill terrorists or suicide bombings in Israeli pizzerias? Well, considering the movie which started this discussion, you have your answer."

I was just wondering if your "consideration" of Munich actually involved seeing Munich.

You later said: "This movie is not about the massacre. It's about the chasing and killing of the bastards who killed the Israelis."

Whether you call these claims about the movie a "characterization" of the movie is not important to me. My point is that I would be interested in having a discussion with a person who made such claims after seeing the movie, but unfortunately you are not such a person.
1.31.2006 12:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Prokchop.
It would be difficult.
The identification of Muslims with one another is a phenomenon not seen in the west among any group. Sami al Arian might have bought himself some big time if it weren't that a Muslim FBI agent refused to wear a wire to entrap a brother Muslim. Being Muslim trumps a good deal more than, say, being Catholic. Nobody expects an Irish Catholic FBI agent to balk at trying to entrap a supposedly Catholic Mafia boss because they both look to Rome from time to time.

However, if we don't do it, what do we do?
My question requires an answer which has several characteristics: It should probably work. It is not informed by wishful thinking that the status quo is going to get better.

You will note that a Muslim kids' textbook calls for the return of Seville. What the the Spaniards do wrong? What should they do to mollify the Muslims? How can they protect themselves against violence aimed at retrieving the tragedy of al Andalus? And once they do that, what do they do when somebody decides the ummah used to and should again include Madrid, too?

This is DIFFERENT, folks, from anything we've faced before. Or at least, as somebody said in the eighteenth century, "cannon and fortifications have rendered Europe safe" meaning in Austria and Hungary and the Balkans and safe from the Turk. Different from what we've faced in the west.

Part of the Palestinian problem is the world-wide offensive of radical Islam. The Palestinians are tools in that struggle, in addition to and mixed up with their local problems. Anybody who thinks the Palestinians will be allowed by their radical masters to be nice just because the Israelis start allowing suicide bombers free access to Jewish nursery schools is absolutely nuts. And if the Israelis don't allow suicide bombers free access to Jewish nursery schools, we will continue to hear howls about the "occupation".
The PA has generated an entire population of nutcases.
They are no more susceptible to reason than somebody's sweet old grandmother who hated Germans.
Difference is, Grandma wasn't raising her boys to kill German infants.
As Lincoln said, the doctrines of the quiet past, and so forth. It ought to be obvious that some new doctrine might at least be worth a look, considering how well the old ones have done.
1.31.2006 12:57pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Well, Medis. You got me. I said I hadn't been talking about the movie, but I went and did, didn't I?

Okay. Find me a movie made about the massacre by itself.

You may recall that there was a TV movie about this years ago, which actually included the killing of the wrong guy up in Norway.

But nothing about the massacre by itself.
1.31.2006 12:59pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Kovarsky: What's the liberal view of the security fence? If you believe the ostensible reasons for opposing it, I'm sorry for you. What gets more ink as mean-spirited, checkpoints or murders of civilians?
Which gets more ink in the west, strikes to kill terrorists or suicide bombings in Israeli pizzerias? Well, considering the movie which started this discussion, you have your answer.


Uh, dude. I don't have a liberal view of the security fence. Actually, I don't really understand what you're talking about. I just made the point that western liberals don't pull out their pom-poms for suicide bombers. How on earth is it that some of you people can't distinguish between questioning the optimality of an Israeli and supporting the terrorists? I mean this in a sort of psychological-anthropological kind of way - do you not understand the position? do you not believe it? do you understand and believe it but refuse to acknowledge it because doing so leads to undesirable political consequences?
1.31.2006 1:04pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I hate when I leave out words. Should read:

How on earth is it that some of you people can't distinguish between questioning the optimality of an Israeli RESPONSE and supporting the terrorists?
1.31.2006 1:11pm
Joe Jordasche (mail):
if you haven't seen the movie, you don't have any standing to comment about the political subtext.

i'd like to see a restaurant critic describe the subtleties of food he or she had never tasted. it would be ridiculous.

munich is a pretty decent movie though. if an eminent director like spielberg isn't allowed to make a make the astute observation that even bad guys have feelings, then what the hell is wrong with this world?
1.31.2006 1:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The fact is, Kovarsky, I do question the optimality of Israeli responses.
The use of the term "apartheid wall" or " apartheid fence" is not an optimality issue. Ya think?
My church, the aforementioned PCUSA, is talking about divestment from businesses doing business with Israel because of the fence. Believe me, there are no police or terrorism experts at our HQ worrying about the optimality. Our delegations meet with terrorist groups and grouch about the pesky Jews who are so hard to deal with. Our groups worry about the fake Koran desecration stories, not the intentional desecration of the Church of The Nativity.

I suspect that optimality questions about the wall will say something like, sure the number of attacks is down by ninety percent, but if you did X (X is always horribly dangerous), there wouldn't be any.

There is a concept I've heard of recently. "Intentionality" supposedly means that we presume that a person actually intends the result his actions seem most likely to bring about. I gather intentionally is only for meanies. I think people whose actions seem likely to bring about a certain result must either seek the result or consider it a meaningless side effect of whatever else they seek.
People who claim that if Israel makes more concessions, makes itself more vulnerable, or lets down its guard, there will be no more trouble cannot actually believe that. Cannot. Therefore, they seek the damage to Israel which must result. That they claim something else is interesting but hardly worth bothering about.
1.31.2006 1:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Joe. Who said anything about not allowing?

Is that a mistake or an attempt to misrepresent a position?
1.31.2006 1:48pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Richard,

I do not understand what you are saying, so I can only restate my point. Saying that there may exist more desirable Israeli responses is not tantamount to equating the Israeli government's culpability with that of terrorists.
1.31.2006 1:51pm
Medis:
Richard,

I don't have an encylopedic knowledge of all movies ever made on tap (unless you count my knowing the address for the IMDB), but as I recall there was a movie made in the late 90s called "One Day in September" that was specifically about the events in Munich.

Although honestly, I'm not sure what your point is anymore. This movie, "Munich", is not SOLELY about the events in Munich, but it is also not SOLELY about the assassination squads. As I have noted many times, the movie is about BOTH of these things, and indeed it frequently returns to the events in Munich (basically, through flashbacks) throughout the movie.

So, your original point was something about which actions get "more ink", and you seemed to be claiming that "Munich" was evidence for your claim that Israeli actions get "more ink" because "Munich" was only about the assassinations. But, in fact, "Munich" is also about the events in Munich. So, it doesn't really show that the actions of one "side" or the other get "more ink," because the movie gives "ink" to the actions of both sides.

On the other hand, I do think the movie is a lot more sympathetic to the Iraelis--as opposed to the terrorists--and it certainly spends a lot more time presenting the Israelis's deliberations and discussions about why they are doing what they are doing. Ironically, other people here (who also haven't seen the movie) seem to think the movie suggests a "moral equivalency" between the terrorists and the Israelis. In my view, based on actually seeing the movie, I think that claim is also wrong.

Indeed, I think the same scenes that I have noted to you--the movie's recurring depictions of the events in Munich--also serve to refute any supposed moral equivalency. But the people here making these claims are also in no position to assess these scenes in the movie precisely because, like you, they haven't seen the movie.
1.31.2006 1:51pm
Porkchop (mail):
Richard Aubrey wrote:

Therefore, they seek the damage to Israel which must result. That they claim something else is interesting but hardly worth bothering about.

Well, I guess that pretty much concludes the discussion and answers all questions, Kovarsky.
1.31.2006 1:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Kovarsky. I don't understand you. I think there are many better families of response the Israelis should be using.

I do not think, for example, that when responding to a terrorist attack by bombing a headquarters they should call ahead to make sure everybody is out. The ME is full of concrete, rebar, and Saudi money. What's another building? In other words, what's the lesson the terrorists learn? Kill a Jew, lose a building that hadn't been cleaned in weeks, anyway.

The point is whether the suggested options actually look as if they'll work.
Certain suggestions look a lot like advice to bend over and kiss ankles. Historically, that has never worked for anybody dumb enough to take the advice, although his enemies sure appreciate it.
1.31.2006 2:10pm
Porkchop (mail):
Richard,

The problem with retaliatory strikes on buildings in inhabited areas is that there is usually collateral damage to noncombatants. Everytime that happens, there's another childhood memory just like dear old Grandma's. 15 or 20 years from now, manipulated or not, there's another recruit for the terrorist side. Somebody has to start thinking outside the box here, or this thing simply won't end until one side or the other is annihilated. We can all throw up our hands, but the problem is not going away.
1.31.2006 5:40pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Fair enough, but there doesn't seem to be shortage of new terrorist recruits, either. Why is that? An irrational desire to die (nodding to Neal)?

And just what is rationale the 100 to 1 recruitment to death ratio? Because those with "an irrational desire to die" are reinsured that we will fulfill their desire? Does this ratio only apply to Palestinians, or may it be applied to all male, Islamist terrorists (because of the 72 virgins thing)? If so, does that mean there now be some 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 insurgents in Iraq based on the CNN estimate that we have killed between 10,000-15,000 Iraqi insurgents? If so, has anyone told the US Military?
1.31.2006 6:36pm
Neal Lang (mail):
The identification of Muslims with one another is a phenomenon not seen in the west among any group.

You forgot about the Free Mason.
Sami al Arian might have bought himself some big time if it weren't that a Muslim FBI agent refused to wear a wire to entrap a brother Muslim. Being Muslim trumps a good deal more than, say, being Catholic. Nobody expects an Irish Catholic FBI agent to balk at trying to entrap a supposedly Catholic Mafia boss because they both look to Rome from time to time.

Well an Irish FBI agent maybe, but what about an Italian FBI agent?
1.31.2006 6:43pm
Neal Lang (mail):
From time to time, the Israelis have used overwhelming military force, but they ended up withdrawing. There's a reason for that: they can't absorb the economic, political, and diplomatic costs of occupation.

If they couldn't "absorb the economic, political, and diplomatic costs of occupation", how do explain the fact they have done just that for nearly 40 years. The "withdrawal" from the West Bank and Gaza just happened last year - and split the ruling party.

Israel occupied Sinai from 1967 until 1978 when the US offered them $3 Billion to give it back to Egypt.
1.31.2006 7:17pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Somebody has to start thinking outside the box here, or this thing simply won't end until one side or the other is annihilated. We can all throw up our hands, but the problem is not going away.

Hmmm! "Throw up our hands", indeed. So you are recommending what? Surrender, perhaps?

Again you you to strike a "moral equivalence" of the two sides. Israel has never insisted on or even purpose the "annihilation" of the Palestinians. The same cannot be said of the Palestinians. Don't you find it troubling that the maps of Palestine used in PA schools do not show Israel. Thinking outside the box when the Palestinians recognize the right of Israel to exist. In 2000, when Israel offered Arafat virtually everything he wanted, costing Ehud Barak his job, and still the Palestinians wanted more - the wanted the death of Israel and the Jews.

It is Palestinians that de-humanize the Jews, something not done by Israel. What do you do when you are faced with an intractable enemy? Harry Truman dropped 2 Nukes. Perhaps that may be the only solution in Palestine. Is that "outside the box" enough for you?
1.31.2006 7:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Porkchop. You're right about the memory, but wrong about what it means. The Japanese no doubt have memories of Hiroshima. What it means to them is to never, ever eff with the US, because we will flat kill you dead by the hundreds of thousands. It's worked so far. You can probably read about it in the papers.

You misunderstood my point about destroying the building after insuring it was empty. There's no reason to think the terrorists would evacuate the neighborhood--indeed, since they need dead civilians, they almost certainly wouldn't--but they would evacuate themselves from the HQ the Israelis have told them will disappear in a couple of hours. Thus, for them, killing Jews is about as dangerous as paintball. The folks on the block would be dead either way. This way, the Israelis get to kill civilians and miss terrorists. That's one of the areas where I have complaints about optimality.

Now, for the big no-no. What if wiping out one side is the only way? Is there some law which says there is always another way? Where do you find that, outside of wishful thinking?

To extend the thought that if we don't retaliate upon being subject to a terrorist attack, we won't be recruiting even more terrorists: Let's say that is true. But the point is, since the original terrorists aren't going to be dead or even inconvenienced by our new tactic, they don't need any more help. We just need to give them weekends off, since running around with bombs and stuff gets wearing after a while. They'll get old and tired killing us, but at least there won't be any new enthusiasts.
IMO, if we make it so easy, the folks who aren't quite up to facing death, but are permanently annoyed with us--which no doubt comes to quite a large number--might want to get involved. Maybe it would be like a, I dunno, senior trip deal or something.
Sure, we could do SOMETHING. But your point fails if even one Muslim gets annoyed at our attempts at self-defense. We've made a new enemy. We defend against him and the original guy, and we've doubled, and then quadrupled. Your point can't stand us putting up even the slightest resistance.

And it doesn't need to be violent resistance to being killed that will make the new enemies you fear. See the foofaraw about the Danish cartoons. Or the faked Koran desecration stories.
Or the Austrian school where the local Muslims are insisting the female teachers wear cover and that the Muslim kids won't use the formal address-since the women don't rate it.

Since we're going to make enemies, we may as well have some fun in the process.

This is bigger than Palestine. Southern Thailand is a war zone with at least a thousand non-Muslims killed by radical Muslims. Such schools which are not shut down are staffed by soldiers. Ran out of teachers, I believe.
The Bali bombing had as its first complaint that the Aussies had taken the lead in shutting down the Muslims' cozy little slo-mo genocide (about 180,000 dead Christians) on East Timor. The major complaint listed after the destruction of the short-lived UN office in Baghdad was that the head of the place was involved in stopping the violence in East Timor.
Christian school girls are being beheaded in Indonesia.

The Palestinians no doubt think they have a legitimate beef. But even if we connive in the destruction of Israel, their masters will see they have new complaints.

I don't see the bendoverkissankle thing as having the effect you seem to think it will have.
1.31.2006 7:35pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I didn't see the movie. If you look carefully, I'm not talking about the movie.
But, if you insist, I will say one thing. This movie is not about the massacre. It's about the chasing and killing of the bastards who killed the Israelis. If it were about the massacre, it would cover a day or so, and would have to be padded out with lead-ins.

And this discussion is about chasing and killing the bastards. Is it right or wrong? Moral or immoral?
Without this movie, people would have to be reminded of Munich in 72. "Wasn't it one of those times somebody killed Jews? It was a long time ago. What's your point again?"
The massacre's obviously no biggie.

There was a 1999 documentary named One Day in September.

Like films or news clips abot "9/11" - "Wasn't it one of those times somebody killed stockbrokers? It was a long time ago. What's your point again?"

With regards to "9/11", Showtime made a pretty decent Docu-drama called DC 9/11: Time of Crisis in 2003. Of course, Showtime plays Michael Moores garbage Fahrenheit 9/11 all the time, but hasn't shown DC 9/11: Time of Crisis for over a year.
1.31.2006 8:12pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I don't see the bendoverkissankle thing as having the effect you seem to think it will have.

If I recall correctly, the last time this was technique was actually tried was in September 1938, interestingly in Munich. Known as the Munich Agreement, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Britain sold out 2.5 million Czechs in the Sudetenland to the good graces of Adolf Hitler, and then promised the World "Peace in our time!" Unfortunately for Mr. Chamberlain, his negotiating partner, Adolf Hitler was emboldened by this appeasement, took the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and soon after invaded Poland, igniting the conflict that killed over 50 million.
1.31.2006 8:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It has been said that, accidentally or not, Chamberlain bought time for British rearmament.
Skipping over the reasons that it was necessary to RE arm insted of remaining armed, it appears that it didn't really happen.

Rebecca West, discussing this in her "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" said, "but we built no planes".
1.31.2006 9:12pm
Neal Lang (mail):
It has been said that, accidentally or not, Chamberlain bought time for British rearmament.
Skipping over the reasons that it was necessary to RE arm insted of remaining armed, it appears that it didn't really happen.

Rebecca West, discussing this in her "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" said, "but we built no planes".

After the invasion of Poland in the September, 1939 Hitler didn't unleash Blitzkreig on France and the Low Countries until Spring of 1940 - a time known as the "Sitzkreig" or "Sitting War" but the Allies called the Phoney War. The Battle of Britain did not start until August 1940, after Dunkirk.

When Chamberlain went to Munich in September, 1938, it has been said, had he delivered an "ultimatum" from the Allies to Hilter to get out of the Sudetenland, and Austria or else, that the German High Command would have promptly overthrown Da Führer. They hated and didn't trust him. However, when the Allies "backe down", the military saw Hitler in a new light. Like the Democrats now, Chamberlain's Conservative Party (a.k.a. Tories) where pacifists except for a few, such as Winston Churchill, who pragmatically understood that you can't appease bullies.
1.31.2006 10:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Neal. I had heard that except it was about the French caving on the ocupation of the Rhineland in 36. I believe everybody including Hitler knew it was a bluff because the French by themselves outgunned the Wehrmacht at that time. Including the generals. Who saw a jumped-up corporal and street agitator who'd been in power for three years by that time.
Lot of people dead who didn't need to be.
When we were kids, we learned not to inquire of our parents whatever happened to so-and-so who was in your fraternity, or played center with you in high school. That was another time and it was separate, another glorious universe.
My father still has tough memories of being an Infantry platoon leader in Europe. Lots of dead guys who deserved to live and get old surrounded by grandkids.
Hard to think sympathetically of the appeasers and self-deluders of those days. Really, really hard.
Which may explain a couple or three things.
1.31.2006 11:53pm
Porkchop (mail):
Gee, I sign off the Internet overnight and the whole argument changes. We started out discussing Munich, Israel and the Palestinians, and whether Spielberg had an agenda when he made the movie, and we end up discussing terrorism wherever it may be found, the Iraqi insurgency, the practicalities of genocide, nuclear Armageddon, and pre-WWII appeasement. The latter are all worth subjects, but I think it is a mistake to conflate the Palestinian question with terrorism generally or with radical Islam.

I certainly agree that the Palestinians as a group are manipulated shamelessly by non-Palestinian radical Muslims and secular Arab states (i.e., Syria and, formerly, Iraq), but I don’t think that really addresses the fundamental problem of some Palestinians’ willingness to fight and die for whatever it is that they perceive to be worth that sacrifice.

A war of annihilation is not going to take place in Israel/Palestine -- not in the near future anyway, at least not if Israel has any say in the matter. Leaving aside the issue of whether Israelis would believe that it was right as a matter of principle, conscience, or morality (kind of parallel with the theme of Munich, which I recommend), it is decidedly not in Israel’s interest to start such a war. Whether intended or not, it would be taken by the Muslim world as an attack on Islam. It would be virtually impossible for Egypt and Jordan to stay out of such a war. I suspect that other Muslim nations would join in as well. Given the demographics, Israel would eventually lose. The Muslim nations only have to win once – Israel has to win every time in order to survive. If one is going to bet the farm, one had better be damned confident of turning up an ace. Under such a circumstance, one might want to consider hedging one’s bets.

Neal Lang wrote:

[Quoting me] Fair enough, but there doesn't seem to be shortage of new terrorist recruits, either. Why is that? An irrational desire to die (nodding to Neal)?

[Neal]And just what is rationale the 100 to 1 recruitment to death ratio? Because those with "an irrational desire to die" are reinsured that we will fulfill their desire?


The 100 to 1 ratio was in the form of a question -- it’s a rhetorical device, a hypothetical. It doesn’t matter whether it is 100 to 1 or 2 to 1. The point is, they keep on coming after all these years. Whatever the ratio may be, it seems to be at least at replacement level. The point is that if the short term solution provides long term motivation to the adversary, then you haven’t solved the problem. In any event, no one (I’m not sure who “we” refers to here) has to reinsure a suicide bomber’s fulfillment of his/her desire to die.

Neal Lang wrote:


If they [Israel] couldn't "absorb the economic, political, and diplomatic costs of occupation", how do explain the fact they have done just that for nearly 40 years. The "withdrawal" from the West Bank and Gaza just happened last year - and split the ruling party.

Israel occupied Sinai from 1967 until 1978 when the US offered them $3 Billion to give it back to Egypt.


When I spoke of the use of “overwhelming force” I had in mind the incursions into Lebanon and subsequent occupation of parts of southern Lebanon. That was a millstone around Israel’s neck as long as it had troops there.

It is ironic that the US paid the Israelis $3 billion in conjunction with the withdrawal from the Sinai. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, the US delivered ~$11.5 billion in aid to Israel during the period of the occupation. Maybe that’s how they could absorb the costs?

Neal Lang wrote:

[Quoting me] Somebody has to start thinking outside the box here, or this thing simply won't end until one side or the other is annihilated. We can all throw up our hands, but the problem is not going away.

[Neal] Hmmm! "Throw up our hands", indeed. So you are recommending what? Surrender, perhaps?


Actually, I think the shoe is on the other foot here. I think that you are throwing up your hands. The theme of your seems to be that there is no other choice but to continue or expand upon policies that clearly haven’t solved the problem. I would call that throwing up one's hands. You recall the old saw about one definition of insanity being to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, don’t you?

Neal Lang wrote:


It is Palestinians that de-humanize the Jews, something not done by Israel. What do you do when you are faced with an intractable enemy? Harry Truman dropped 2 Nukes. Perhaps that may be the only solution in Palestine. Is that "outside the box" enough for you?


You have taken the word “dehumanize” far, far out of the context in which it was used. I suggest again: read On Killing by Grossman.

Richard Aubrey wrote:


Porkchop. You're right about the memory, but wrong about what it means. The Japanese no doubt have memories of Hiroshima. What it means to them is to never, ever eff with the US, because we will flat kill you dead by the hundreds of thousands. It's worked so far. You can probably read about it in the papers.


True enough, Richard, but there are a lot more Muslims today, spread out over a far wider area, than there were Japanese in 1945. Even assuming that “we” decide on the nuclear option (which “we” didn’t do when we had the USSR to worry about), where do you propose we drop those nukes?

The Japanese reaction (to greatly oversimplify) is one of two possible reactions. The other is to vow revenge and bide one’s time. My readings on Islamic history and culture lead me to believe that some significant number of Muslims would tend to go for option 2. There are substantial cultural differences between the Japan of 1945 and the Middle East of today. For one thing, the Japanese had been ordered by their emperor to lay down their arms; for another, they viewed MacArthur as a demigod-conqueror-viceroy; third, the Allied occupation left them with a system that worked. I don't see any parallels in the Middle East.

In addition, if the lesson that one wishes to teach is “don’t ever f*** with us again,” then one needs to have the ability to back it up. Since this discussion seems to have expanded to the United States involvement in the Middle East, I think that we have to realize that even the US has limitations. In order to expand operations to do what you propose, either one needs to start lobbing nukes hither and yon, or one needs to expand boots on the ground. I don’t want to get into the debate over whether the US Army is “broken,” “strained,” “tired,” or “just fine, thank you very much.” Nevertheless, it is not, at this point, big enough to take on a significantly larger war. To do that, you need to expand the authorized force levels in a big way and increase recruiting. The recruiting effort seems to have mixed success lately. Would the US accept conscription again? That’s going to be a really hard sell, in my opinion. Would the US accept the economic consequences of the real war economy that would be necessary? I have my doubts. If it is forced upon us by future events, the situation may be different, but if the argument is that “we need to go teach those b****rds a lesson now,” then I don’t think it would fly politically. Does that mean that we have become soft and weak? Maybe it does.

Appeasement:

Well, first of all, we do seem to have finally complied with Godwin’s law – Hitler finally showed up.

I have always admired Winston Churchill, but I seem to recall that he was the one who advocated, and finally ordered, the British abandonment of Iraq in the 1920’s due to the intractable insurgent activity of the local population. Which Churchill do you want to heed?
2.1.2006 12:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Porkchop.

The issue of making enemies of the rest of Islam is sort of like referring to the Arab street. It's the go-to excuse, the Swiss Army knife of excuses to do nothing.

The Arab street was quiet when we went into Afghanistan, ditto Iraq. The Arab street turned out when Hariri was assassinated and when the wedding was bombed in Amman.
See a pattern here?

The pattern tells me we should be able to defend ourselves without raising the Arab street. And, when we defend ourselves in an Arab land, we are performing what one guy said was judo. We let the Arabs experience their buddies' viciousness. If a terrorist kills twenty Iraqi civilians, how many antiterrorists does that generate? Is it a hundred to one? Ten to one? I think we're netting out ahead.

The Israeli ops you refer to remained a matter of forcing the opposition to expend some but not all of their interest and not a scrap of their principle. No resolution will be forthcoming.

If it were not for radical Islam and anti-Semitism, the Palestinian people as a people would not exist. They were invented to be a tool in the confrontation. So to say they have their own concerns is both correct and irrelevant to the question of the larger struggle. The terrorism against Israel has two goals: One is to wear at Israel. The other is to force Israel to defend itself in ways that, no matter how humane in such contexts, can always be considered oppression by western liberals and by the locals who've been brainwashed and infantilized for the purpose. Thus generating more resentment.

And keep in mind: You don't need to actually defend yourself with your fist, say, to enrage a radical Muslim. Just not zoning for another mosque would do it.
Or building a wall to keep terrorists from civilians is a crime against humanity, although it does not actually hurt anybody BUT TERRORISTS. There is absolutely nothing you can think of to do other than complete passivism that would not annoy some radical Muslim who wants to mess with you.
2.1.2006 12:44pm
Phoebe (mail):
1. I saw the movie; spoiler alert (kind of).
2. I'm responding to the bit that complained that it humanized the terrorists but not the victims.

a. It did humanize the victims. It humanized the athletes by showing their fear, attempts to fight back, and pre-victimization jollity. What more do you want? It humanized the targets of the Israeli team, and it even humanized the ho who killed the one dude. She lurched for her cat right after she got shot, for crying out loud.

b. So what if it humanizes terrorists? Terrorists are bad, victims are inherently sympathetic. Humanizing terrorists is much more interesting because it goes against the kneejerk. I hate it when victims get humanized just to yank my chain. You can even tell when some chain-yanking movie is going to kill some heretofore-minor-character off, because he gets a letter from his mom, or his wife and kids suddenly pop up - this doesn't annoy you?

c. Not only is it way more interesting to humanize the terrorists, but much more useful if we're going to fight them. We do want to know how they tick, right? I hope you don't believe that granting them a point of view other than "must..be..evil..grr!" is the same as endorsing their point of view, and if you do believe this then I hope you don't make movies or foreign policy.
2.1.2006 4:32pm
Medis:
Phoebe,

Not only do they not make movies, they aren't even interested in watching them. Apparently, actually watching the movie would only be a hinderance to whatever point they want to make.

And yes, that does suggest some disturbing things about how they would approach foreign policy decisions--eg, I suspect that actually learning something about a foreign country would be deemed unnecessary when making policy decisions with respect to that country. Of course, while I describe such an attitude as disturbing, it is not exactly news.
2.1.2006 4:41pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I hope you don't believe that granting them a point of view other than "must..be..evil..grr!" is the same as endorsing their point of view, and if you do believe this then I hope you don't make movies or foreign policy.

And your "pointof view" being what? That the terrorists that murdered the innocent Israeli athletes at Munich are not "evil..grr"?

Personally, I allow the terrorists to define themselves. If they murder innocent wedding guests in Jordan, innocent children at a pizzeria birthday party in Israel or getting candy from GIs in the street in Iraq, or office staff working in the Twin Towers in New York - they have identified themselves as "evil". I don't need to understand them any further than it takes to hunt them down and present them to God for His judgement.
2.1.2006 6:47pm
Neal Lang (mail):
And yes, that does suggest some disturbing things about how they would approach foreign policy decisions--eg, I suspect that actually learning something about a foreign country would be deemed unnecessary when making policy decisions with respect to that country. Of course, while I describe such an attitude as disturbing, it is not exactly news.

I will stack my knowledge of foreign countries up against the vast majority of those who work for the US State Department, most of who have never left the US, and those who do, mostly never leave the Embassy Compound or Embassy Row in the Capital City where they might be assigned.

I have slept and ate in the homes of Moslems, Christians and Animists in West Africa in large cities and in small rural villages. Some these friends have been guests at my home in the US. My daughter and son have taken them shopping and entertained them when they visited the us. I have attended and celebrated their sons and daughters' weddings. I went with them to attend religious services and discussed theology with them. I include amonst my friends Africans of all stripes from Emirs and their Viziers, Federal and State Govenment Ministers, civil servants, and military officers, to house servants, stable grooms, and cattle drovers. One of my closest friends was an Inspector General of the National Police, who was trained during the '70s in Washington by the CIA. I attended a university commenment at Muslim University where the featured speaker was was a radical who promoted the idea of building an "African Nuke".

I have taken the time to visit their street markets, holy places and museums, and I have read their history and studied their culture (because I enjoyed learning about them). I have discussed politics (both domestic and international) with their UN Ambassador, government officials, businessmen, and houseboys who got their news on the BBC and Voice of America and knew more about US politics than most Americans. My wife cried with sincere emotion at a Durbar attended by over 100,000 citizens (mostly poor) of Gombe Emirate paying homage to the Emir of Gombe, Usuman Shehu. The Emir, who is a Civil Engineer by education (in England), would have preferred to forego his father's title and followed an engineering career, but he was compelled by family tradition and duty to his people to pickup his father's mantle. Usuman is a fine gentleman, and I am proud to call him my friend.

BTW, periodically some local imam with declare Jihad and sometimes over a 1,000 Christians will be murdered by Muslim mobs doing what they perceive to Allah's will.
2.1.2006 8:01pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Neal. I had heard that except it was about the French caving on the ocupation of the Rhineland in 36. I believe everybody including Hitler knew it was a bluff because the French by themselves outgunned the Wehrmacht at that time. Including the generals. Who saw a jumped-up corporal and street agitator who'd been in power for three years by that time.

Actually, the appeasement began in March 1935 when the Saarland, after a plebiscite was held in the territory on January 13, 1935, became part of Germany. Following the re-annexation of the Saarland, Hitler was quoted as saying:
"Germany has solemnly recognized and garanteed France her frontiers as determined after the Saar plebicite... we thereby finaly renounce all claims to Alsace-Loraine, and land for which we have fought two great wars." Adolf Hitler, May 21st 1935

Alsace-Loraine was annexed by the German Third Reich in 1940.

Re-militarization of the Rhineland, a region that was demilitarized under the Treaty of Versailles as a "buffer" between Germany and the rest of Western Europe, took place in March of 1936.

One the bloodiest battles of the European Western Theatre for US forces took place in the Rhineland:
For five months from September, 1944 until February, 1945 the U.S. First Army fought a costly battle to capture the Hurtgen Forest. In terrain which negated Allied advantages and enhanced those of the German defenders, 24,000 US soldiers died. The value of their sacrifice has been argued over by military historians.

A pretty good TV movie, When Trumpets Fade, was made around this battle in 1998. The reason that Hurtgen Forest battle is considered by many historians as being a terrible waste is because the area was "flood protected" by some damns that could have easily been taken by the US forces, making the forest itself untenable for the German defenders. Several of the divisions beatened up in the Hurtgen Forest were sent to a quiet area in the Ardennes for R&R just before Christmas 1944. They were some of the first US divisions hit by and destroyed in the German Ardennes Offensive, more commonly known as the "Battle of the Bulge".
2.2.2006 11:26am
Neal Lang (mail):
Appeasement:

Well, first of all, we do seem to have finally complied with Godwin’s law – Hitler finally showed up.

Actually, the Hilter-Chamberlain anology works pretty well for the similar appeasement accorded Saddam Hussein by France, Germany, Russia, etc. - as evidenced by the secret dealings of these countries with the "Butcher of Baghdad" in stealing much needed food and medical relief from the Iraqi people un the "Food for Oil Program". Therefore such an analogy would be perfectly appropriate under "Godwin's Policy", to wit:
There are also many situations in which Godwin’s Policy is not violated by bringing up the Nazis. For example, it would be nearly impossible to write about actual Nazi practices involving birth control, abortion, women’s rights, gun control, military weaponry, or mass murder without using the words “Nazi” or “Hitler.”

In what situations are modern-day comparisons to the Nazis likely to follow Godwin’s Policy of being useful, rather than trivial or hyperbolic? There are several obvious cases for which the Nazi comparison is neither hyperbolic nor trivial, even though the case in question may have some significant differences from the Nazis. This list is meant to be suggestive, not comprehensive:

1. When discussing followers and leaders of a political movement that is explicitly founded on Nazi principles or my admirers/allies of Nazism. These would include some, but not all, of the racist hate groups. These also include the Ba’ath parties of Iraq and Syria, since Ba’ath was founded as an Arab nationalist syncretic blend of Nazism and Stalinism.

2. When discussing somebody who adopts the nickname “Hitler,” as well as followers and cohorts of such a person. This would include Zimbabwe, where the late right-hand man of the tyrant Robert Mugabe was Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi. It also includes the Fatah Party in the Palestinian Authority, one of whose members of the national assembly, Jamal Abu Roub, sports the nickname "Hitler."

3. People who publish and read Mein Kampf not as an exploration of an evil mind, but because they like its agenda. This group apparently includes a huge number of Arab and Turks.

4. People who attempt to delegitimize the Jewish need for a national homeland by denying that the Holocaust took place. This does not mean that everyone who disagrees with the creation of Israel is fit subject for a Nazi analogy. I am referring only to people who implicitly defend the Nazis by denying the historical reality the Holocaust.

5. People who advocate for (or rule) dictatorships and who simultaneously espouse extreme forms of anti-semitism--as in “God hates Jews” or regret that Hitler didn't finish killing all the Jews.

So even if a Nazi comparison can be invoked consistently with Godwin’s Policy, there is still room for legitimate debate what lesson can be gleaned from the comparison. For example, it is widely (although not universally) agreed that Neville Chamberlin’s policy of appeasement towards Hitler was a mistake. Ever since the early Cold War, there have been people who argued that various forms of accommodation or non-resistance to totalitarians was bound to lead to disaster, as Chamberlin’s policies did. Sometimes the anti-appeasement analogy seems to have worked well, as in the U.S. policy of deterring or stopping Communist aggression in Western Europe and South Korea.

Nice try at ducking the issue, though!
2.2.2006 11:43am
Phoebe (mail):
Neal:
I'm not remotely talking about whether anyone is evil, remember, I started out with "terrorists are bad" as a premise. I was talking about the phenomenon of people equating someone's attempt to understand a thing with an endorsement of that thing. The "evil..grr" bit, that was me saying that if you ask someone "what is your motivation here?" he isn't going to say, "I just want to be evil, ok?" At least, not outside the comic books. This was not me saying that nobody's evil. Wanting to know someone's point of view is not the same as endorsing that point of view, and certainly not the same as endorsing any/all decisions made from that point of view. That seems to be the hang-up people are having in their reactions to this movie. They go on and on trying to figure out what the point of view of the movie is, so they can disagree with it or whatever. What I saw the was a very deliberate attempt to make me empathize with everyone in it, and agree with maybe no-one. Lots of people call this style "cop-out", but I like it coming from Spielberg, who is usually a bit of a hammerhead. Now, here's what I didn't like at all: that scene of Avner having sex while thinking of the athletes being killed. Yikes. That there was bad.
2.2.2006 1:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Phoebe.
The movie is fiction. Therefore, any understanding of the terrorists' motives will be that inserted by the screenwriter. We would end up understanding the screenwriter. We have only an inference that the screenwriter has a clue, as opposed to an agenda.

The problem with understanding these folks is that it makes them seem worse. If we just figured them for a non-specific, evil "other", it wouldn't be so bad. Bad enough, I expect, but not as bad as finding out what they really think. Which is that freedom of speech is not okay, but female genital mutilation is. That Jews--not just Israel--are the enemy. That the problem with the infidel is not his aggressiveness at resisting the ummah, but the fact of his breathing. Better for the appeasers that we not have a clue until too late.

Careful what you ask for, my grandmother used to say.
2.2.2006 2:01pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Gee, I sign off the Internet overnight and the whole argument changes. We started out discussing Munich, Israel and the Palestinians, and whether Spielberg had an agenda when he made the movie, and we end up discussing terrorism wherever it may be found, the Iraqi insurgency, the practicalities of genocide, nuclear Armageddon, and pre-WWII appeasement. The latter are all worth subjects, but I think it is a mistake to conflate the Palestinian question with terrorism generally or with radical Islam.

But of course they are intimately related. Just ask the recipiants of Saddam's $25,000 "Homicide Bomber Bonuses".

Regarding Spielberg political motives for "Munich", what do you make of his comments at Sundance?
One of Steven Spielberg's statements is particularly telling.

"Maybe I shouldn't get into this. [Pause] I just feel that filmmakers are much more proactive since the second Bush administration," Spielberg shares, adding the qualifier, "I wouldn't just say Bush. The whole neo-conservative movement."

Hmmm! The "whole neo-conservative movement", eh! Funny they look Jewish!
A war of annihilation is not going to take place in Israel/Palestine -- not in the near future anyway, at least not if Israel has any say in the matter. Leaving aside the issue of whether Israelis would believe that it was right as a matter of principle, conscience, or morality (kind of parallel with the theme of Munich, which I recommend), it is decidedly not in Israel’s interest to start such a war. Whether intended or not, it would be taken by the Muslim world as an attack on Islam. It would be virtually impossible for Egypt and Jordan to stay out of such a war. I suspect that other Muslim nations would join in as well. Given the demographics, Israel would eventually lose. The Muslim nations only have to win once – Israel has to win every time in order to survive. If one is going to bet the farm, one had better be damned confident of turning up an ace. Under such a circumstance, one might want to consider hedging one’s bets.

If you believe the PA/Hamas/PLO rhetoric (and founding documents) Israel is already in a "War of Annihilation". Interestingly Israel has so-far not "joined the battle", however, you make a pretty good case as to why they should.

As for the rest of the Muslim nations joining in - well where have you been since 1948. Egypt and Jordan have participated in most, if not all, the Israel conflicts, along with all the other regional Islamic countries, with the result that Egypt lost the Sinai (twice) and Jordan the West Bank. Frankly, only the PA (and you) believes that "Israel would eventually lose", or else they would have accepted the 2000 "sweetheart" agreement Clinton brokered for them.
The 100 to 1 ratio was in the form of a question -- it’s a rhetorical device, a hypothetical. It doesn’t matter whether it is 100 to 1 or 2 to 1. The point is, they keep on coming after all these years. Whatever the ratio may be, it seems to be at least at replacement level. The point is that if the short term solution provides long term motivation to the adversary, then you haven’t solved the problem. In any event, no one (I’m not sure who “we” refers to here) has to reinsure a suicide bomber’s fulfillment of his/her desire to die.

Actually, I suggest that your point is much more "hyperbole" than "hypothetical". However, I can understand why you choose "hyperbole" over "fact" as "100 to 1" is much more "sexy" than "at least at replacement level". BTW, suicide is not a very practicle means of conducting warfare, something that Japanese learned only too well in World War II.
When I spoke of the use of “overwhelming force” I had in mind the incursions into Lebanon and subsequent occupation of parts of southern Lebanon. That was a millstone around Israel’s neck as long as it had troops there.

It is ironic that the US paid the Israelis $3 billion in conjunction with the withdrawal from the Sinai. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, the US delivered ~$11.5 billion in aid to Israel during the period of the occupation. Maybe that’s how they could absorb the costs?

If they were such a "millstone around Israel's neck", why did it take them from 1978 until 2000, long after the US and the "Multinational Force" left, to finally pull-out? By my calculations that's 5 years longer than the US was in Vietnam. Of course, when Israel moved into Southern Lebanon in 1978, it was to counter Syria's invasion in 1976. Another example of of your "hyperbole" perhaps?
Actually, I think the shoe is on the other foot here. I think that you are throwing up your hands. The theme of your seems to be that there is no other choice but to continue or expand upon policies that clearly haven’t solved the problem. I would call that throwing up one's hands. You recall the old saw about one definition of insanity being to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, don’t you?

While these policies haven't "solved the problem" they certainly haven't exacerbated it, either, as have the appeasement that has been tried and failed.

As "Exhibit A" I offer the appeasement policies of the Carter Administration, and their aftermath. Carter "mollified the mullas" (the original Islamo-Fanatics) in Iran when he had the CIA talk the Iranian military leaders of our only true ally in the Persian Gulf, the Shah of Iran, to keep their troops in their barracks during the up-rising that put the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution in charge of Islamic Republic in 1978.

Apparently the Shah's sins were:
The Shah's reform is known as the "King and the people's" or White Revolution. It also abolished the feudal system (causing consequences such as breaking up property owned by some Shia clergy - which reduced their income) and it gave suffrage to women (which was protested by the clergy as being a plot to "bring the women to the streets").

If I am not mistaken, Ross Perot's company, Electronic Data Systems (EDS), was working on a Iranian Social Security System for the Iranian People at the same time, maybe that was Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi real sin.

Khomeini repaid Carter's kindness when in Novemebr 1979 his Republican Guard terrorists invaded and destroyed the US Embassy; took 66 American Diplomats hostage; and held them for 444 days. Carter's lone military to rescued these captured America's ended in disaster in the Iranian desert, with the death of 8 US Special Forces troopers and the wounding of 4 others. This covert operation, named "Operation Eagle Claw", has been known as amongst US Special Ops types ever since as the "Jimmy Carter Desert Classic"! The minor fallout was that Carter lost his Presidency to Ronald Reagan in 1980. The major repercussions are still being felt, to wit:

1. The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan - After the fall of the Shah, in December 25, 1979 the Russians deployed their 40th Army into Afghanistan, beginning an invasion that lasted until February 15, 1989 (by my calculations less time than the US was in Vietnam and the Israel Defense Forces were in Lebanon). This would not have happened, IMMHO, if a strong US ally and US bases were still in Iran. Fallout of this included:
a. No Soviet Invasion - No foreign mujahadin fighters
b. No foreign mujahadin fighters - No Osama bin Laden
c. No Osama bin Laden - No Rise of Islamo-Fanatism
d. No Rise of Islamo-Fanatism - No al Qaeda
e. No al Qaeda - No Taliban
f. No Taliban - No "9/11"
g. No "9/11" - No Operation Enduring Freedom

2. Iran-Iraq War - The war began when Iraq invaded Iran on September 22, 1980 and lasted until August 1988. The war included terrible civilian casualties, with each side attacking the other's cities with missiles and bombers. The conflict cost the lives of some 1,000,000 on both sides. This war would not have happened, IMMHO, if Iran was still a strong ally of the US. The fallout of this war included:
a. No Iran-Iraq War - No Persian Gulf Arms Race
b. No Persian Gulf Arms Race - No Iraq/Iran WMD Programs including Nukes
c. No Iraq/Iran WMD Programs including Nukes - No Iranian Nuclear Crisis
d. No Iran-Iraq War - No heightened US Involvement in Saudi and the Persian Gulf
e. No heightened US Involvement in Saudi and the Persian Gulf - No Tanker War
f. No Tanker War - No USS Vincennes shoot down of Iran Air Flight 655
g. No Iran-Iraq War - No Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait
h. No Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait - No Gulf War
i. No Gulf War - No US Bases and Presence in the Persian Gulf
j. No US Bases and Presence in the Persian Gulf - No Infidels Desecrating the the Holy Land of Mohammed
k. No Infidels Desecrating the the Holy Land of Mohammed - No al Qaeda
m. No al Qaeda - No "9/11"
n. No "9/11" - No "War on Terror"
o. No "War on Terror" - No "Operation Iraqi Freedom"
p. No "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - No Neo-Cons
q. No Neo-Cons - No reason for Speilberg to do "Munich"

Please tell how the appeasement policies of Jimmy Carter solved anything, and perhaps I may not "throw up my hands" - like a French War Hero.
You have taken the word “dehumanize” far, far out of the context in which it was used. I suggest again: read On Killing by Grossman.

My use of the word "dehumanize" is in the exact same context as Palestinian Authority TV treats the Jews in its "religiously?" oriented programming, to wit:
Sheik Ibrahim Mudayris in a Friday sermon, PA TV, September 10, 2004:

"The Prophet said the Resurrection will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. The Muslims will kill the Jews, rejoice. Rejoice in Allah's Victory. The Muslims will kill the Jew, and he will hide.

"The Prophet said: 'The Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: O servant of Allah, O Muslim this is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!'

"Why is there this malice? Because there are none who love the Jews on the face of the earth: not man, not rock, and not tree - everything hates them. They destroy everything! They destroy the trees and destroy the houses. Everything wants vengeance on the Jews, on these pigs on the face of the earth, and the day of our victory, Allah willing, will come."

Of course, declaring someone a "pig" is a particularly vile "dehumanization", even to someone of the Jewish faith. Some might call it genocide, but "dehumanization" works, as well.
True enough, Richard, but there are a lot more Muslims today, spread out over a far wider area, than there were Japanese in 1945.

Your point being what? That ALL Muslims are the same mindless murderers as the "homocide bombers"? Isn't that the exact same bigoted mind set of FDR that lead to internment of so many "patriotic" and "loyal" Nisei Americans during WWII?
I have always admired Winston Churchill, but I seem to recall that he was the one who advocated, and finally ordered, the British abandonment of Iraq in the 1920’s due to the intractable insurgent activity of the local population. Which Churchill do you want to heed?

If I not mistaken, unlike the 2 week, US lead "Operation Iraqi Freedom", the Brits' campaign in WWI to take Mesopotamia (Iraq) began on November 6, 1914, and lasted until November 14, 1918 when they finally took Mosul - 4 years later! Most of the campaign is highlighted by British defeats, no catastrophes. By the end of 1918 the British had deployed 410,000 men into the area. Like the US in 2003, the Brits remained in control of Iraq (which they named) until it was granted independence in 1932 after the British installed a Hashemite monarchy (a.k.a. New Government - sound familar) that lasted until 1958. Obviously the British people didn't heed Churchill's reservations about their Mesopotanian Mandate.

Perhaps a more familar quote of Churchill with regards to Iraq is the following:
"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using [it] against uncivilised tribes." Winston Churchill, Secretary of State, British War Office, 1919, authorising use of chemical weapons against Iraqis.


The real question is "Which Churchill do you heed - Ward or Winston?"
2.2.2006 2:48pm
Porkchop (mail):
Since we’re way off topic here (and your self-aggrandizing description of your many cosmopolitan friends and your worldly sophistication was way off topic, Neal), let me try this from another angle – a simplified two-part economic analysis.

Let’s assume (reasonably, I think) that there will always be some who think that terrorism is the appropriate response to their particular grievance. In order to translate that into action, though, they need someone to do the work. There’s the demand side. I want to talk about the supply side. You may or may not agree with my earlier suggestion that retaliation may create more terrorist recruits than the number of terrorists it removes from the fray. (And in any event, without further study, it is an open question – but a question that should be asked, because they are coming from somewhere.) If there is a mechanism to cut off the supply of new recruits, then the demand won’t be satisfied. Now, granted that terrorist leaders may find other ways to “recruit,” such as coercion or bribery, (and that already happens, according to news reports I have read), but the transaction costs are higher. Either it costs money to pay someone for an act of terror, or it costs effort to engage in coercion (“Take this bomb and go blow up X, or I will kill your sister). In either event, it is probably more costly than if Ali Baba walks in the door and says, “Hey, can I have one of those explosive vests?” Why then is it a bad idea to try to understand why AB wants a vest? Maybe there is something that can be done (short of surrender) that will dissuade him and others like him. It might not end terrorism, but it certainly might reduce it.

Some Palestinians (and by the way, Richard, whether they called themselves “Palestinians” or were a formally organized group, they were still there on the land in 1948, so it is disingenuous to say that they “wouldn’t exist” except for the efforts of radical Islamists, etc.), for example, are simply beyond that. But are they all? Maybe some of them are more along the lines of the young Muslims burning vehicles in Paris – the number one complaint was no jobs; the turn toward radical religion was fueled by “nothing else to do.” During my stint in the Navy I spent a fair bit of time with Saudi officers – no one partied harder on Friday night(except maybe the Iranians from the old Imperial Navy); what I got from them over beer at the officers’ club was that, when they were home, they went to mosque on Friday because there was nothing else to do.

Look at it from the other side: There are costs to the victims from acts of terrorism, and there are additional costs to hunt down terrorists, whether before or after the fact. Some of those costs are fixed – say, the cost of running checkpoints. Others are variable – the cost of retaliation in money, arms, equipment, personnel, and (sometimes) diplomatic capital, as well as the damage caused by acts of terrorism. (The cost of retaliation is also a significant element of Munich -- $350,000 per hit, not to mention the casualties and collateral damage.) If there are fewer recruits, and, therefore, fewer terrorists to hunt, then the variable costs of fighting terrorism should decrease. Please note that I don’t argue that the objects of retaliation don’t deserve it – they do. I do question whether the way in which retaliation is carried out gives the optimal result.

What I hear from some here is that there is no point in even asking whether there is a way to reduce the supply of recruits. Instead, the only response is to keep on shooting them as they come. Well, that is a response, and it has kept matters at pretty much of a stalemate in Israel for the 40-odd years since the Palestinians really started to become really violent. If one believes that stalemate is the way to go, then definitely stick with the program.

A stalemate is broken only when one side or the other succeeds in a definitive way – it has been suggested here that annihilation or forced emigration is an option. Theoretically, it is the perfect solution. If either the Palestinians or the Israelis were wiped off the face of the earth or scattered to its far corners, the conflict would be over. The Israelis may even have the weapons and manpower to do it. There would no doubt be other conflicts elsewhere, but that’s not the point here. The discussion was, at least initially, about Palestinians and Israelis. I don’t think that annihilation would actually work for either side, and I don’t see the Israelis falling all over themselves to be the first to go into the camps shooting. There must be a reason for that.

I also think I hear an undertone here that we might as well draw the line between Islam and the West and fight it out now, because we’ll have to fight it out sooner or later. I don’t buy Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis lock, stock, and barrel as some apparently do. If y’all want to hold an Armageddon party, I think maybe you ought to consult all of the potential guests to see if they really want to come. I’d prefer to pass on it myself. It seems like a lose-lose proposition to me.
2.2.2006 2:48pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Since we’re way off topic here (and your self-aggrandizing description of your many cosmopolitan friends and your worldly sophistication was way off topic, Neal), let me try this from another angle – a simplified two-part economic analysis.

Actually, I wasn't addessing my "foreign country knowledge" - "bona fides" to you, but rather to relieve the concern of your boyfriend, Medes, who seemed to find that my lack of "cosmopolitan friends" and "worldly sophistication" so "disturbing".

Your "economic analysis" (BTW, would you mind sharing your economics "bona fides" that permits you to even make an "economic analysis" - sorry, couldn't resist) is wrong for two telling reasons:

First, you can't put a price (economic cost) on innocent human life.

Second, there have been Moslem Palestinians that have lived peaceably (and voted) in Israel since 1948. This is why virtually all the terroists attacks since at least 2000 have been launched from either the West Bank, Lebanon, or Gaza. Once Israel finishes the wall separating themselves from the Palestinian Authority controlled areas, the terrorists will have no option, if they wish to continue murdering folks, but to murder each other.

Of course, you might say that the terroists in the PA terrority may launch rocket attacks against Israel with the full blessing of the terrorist run Palestinian Authority. And you are correct, however, with no more "settlements" outside the wall, the IDF retaliation will not be pretty. The question then may be an economic one - if the US pulls its financial supports from the PA, just how long do think they will last?

BTW, I successfully completed a "finance minor" in college, just in case you were wondering.
2.2.2006 3:18pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I also think I hear an undertone here that we might as well draw the line between Islam and the West and fight it out now, because we’ll have to fight it out sooner or later. I don’t buy Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis lock, stock, and barrel as some apparently do. If y’all want to hold an Armageddon party, I think maybe you ought to consult all of the potential guests to see if they really want to come. I’d prefer to pass on it myself. It seems like a lose-lose proposition to me.

Perhaps you wouldn't be so hasty if you read: Belloc’s The Great Heresies, to wit:
Back in the 1930s, when white men were preparing for another round of mutual slaughter, few of them paid any attention to the Muslim world. They assumed it to be a backward region that history had long since passed by.

One man saw it differently. The great Catholic polemicist Hilaire Belloc, an Englishman of French ancestry, remembered Islam's past and predicted, in his book THE GREAT HERESIES, that it would one day challenge the West again. As late as 1683 its armies had threatened to conquer Europe, penetrating all the way to Vienna; Belloc believed that a great Islamic revival, even in the twentieth century, was altogether possible.

Belloc saw Islam not as an alien religion, but in its origins as a Christian heresy, adopting and adapting certain Christian doctrines (monotheism, the immortality of the soul, final judgment) and rejecting others (original sin, the Incarnation and divinity of Christ, the sacraments). Its simple, rational creed had a powerful appeal to Arabs who had known only the arbitrary gods of grim pagan religions. It swept the Arab world, then made converts -- and conquests -- far beyond Arabia.

Islam was a militant religion from the start. Mohammed himself conquered the entire Arabian Peninsula in just a few years. The new faith was torn by violent internal divisions even as it continued to spread. But spread it did, with incredible rapidity.

Christians had good reason to fear Islam, which soon conquered Spain and held it for centuries. But because Islam has little attraction for Christians, the West has generally failed to grasp its appeal for others, its profound and permanent hold on the minds of believers. Unlike the Christian West, the Muslim world has never had crises of faith like the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

Islam is a simple religion, easily understood by ordinary people. Its commandments are rigorous but few. When it conquered, its subjugated people often felt more liberated than enslaved, because it often replaced burdensome old bureaucratic governments with relatively undemanding regimes -- and low taxes. As long as its authority was respected, Islamic rule was comparatively libertarian. It offered millions relief from their traditional oppression; for example, no Muslim could be a slave.

Belloc distinguishes sharply between Islam and such barbarous conquerors as the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan. The Mongols were purely destructive; they were known for slaughtering whole cities and making huge pyramids of severed heads.

Such savagery was alien to the Muslims. Where they conquered, daily life usually went on much as before and culture thrived. In many respects the Muslim world was far more civilized than Christian Europe for centuries. The West hated and dreaded Islam, but nobody would have thought of calling it backward.

That contemptuous image came much later, when modern Europe's science, technology, and -- above all -- weaponry had eclipsed those of the Arabs. We are apt to forget how recently this development occurred; and, as Belloc warned, it is not irreversible.

Man, especially irreligious man, is apt to equate power and progress. Many of those who say America is "the greatest country on earth" really mean only that America has fantastic military might, capable of annihilating any other country -- and some of them, at the moment, are in the mood to do some annihilating. To the pious Muslim this attitude seems crass and barbaric. He may conclude from it that the decadent West understands only one thing: force.

And would he be far wrong? Belloc admitted that the idea of a new Muslim challenge to the West seemed "fantastic," but only because the West was "blinded" by "the immediate past." Taking a longer view, he saw Islam, though inferior in material power, as having a great advantage: its religious faith was still strong, while the West was losing its religion and consequently its morale. He thought it entirely possible that Islam would catch up technologically, while he doubted that the West would undergo a spiritual revival.

Are we seeing the beginning of the fulfillment of Belloc's prophecy? If so, the current uproar over Islamic terrorism may turn out to be a mere superficial symptom of a much larger historical drama. The West is still strong, but it is dying. Islam is still weak, but it is growing. Never mind the terrorists; check the birthrates. From: Belloc’s Prophecy - his view of Islam as a Christian Heresy

There is an "on-line edition" here: The Great Heresies
2.2.2006 3:39pm
Porkchop (mail):
Neal,

I’m confused. Have we now come to the “self-hating Jew” part of the argument? Spielberg is, after all, Jewish. Or is it the point at which criticizing Neo-Conservative thinking is “anti-Semitic”? Maybe “un-American”?

Your abuse of history is truly amazing. I could pick any of hundreds of events going back centuries and construct an argument that if any one of them had been different, we wouldn’t have the problems we have today.

If Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had not abolished the Caliphate in 1923, we might have something like Muslim “pope” who could definitively say what is or is not “Islamic” behavior. Osama bin Laden can gather followers and issue fatwas because there is no central structure in Islam that can authoritatively say he is wrong. Let’s blame Ataturk, shall we?

The United States supported the Afghan mujahedin in the fight against the Soviets; the Afghans accepted the foreign mujahedin reluctantly. If the first Bush administration had not pulled the CIA out of Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, then we might have been able to assist the establishment and maintenance of a moderate pro-Western government from the outset, leading to:


“b. No foreign mujahadin fighters - No Osama bin Laden
c. No Osama bin Laden - No Rise of Islamo-Fanatism
d. No Rise of Islamo-Fanatism - No al Qaeda
e. No al Qaeda - No Taliban
f. No Taliban - No "9/11"
g. No "9/11" - No Operation Enduring Freedom”

Let’s blame Bush 41, shall we?

The last time I checked, Egypt and Jordan were still adhering to their commitments under the peace treaty with Israel. Did I miss something in this morning’s paper?

Neal Lang wrote:


Your point being what? That ALL Muslims are the same mindless murderers as the "homocide bombers"? Isn't that the exact same bigoted mind set of FDR that lead to internment of so many "patriotic" and "loyal" Nisei Americans during WWII?


Actually, I thought that was your point. My point is that one might want to think before deliberately pissing off 1.2+ billion people, who have for the most part not done anything to anyone, but who might decide to change their peaceful ways if they are convinced that their religion really is under attack, as they well might under some scenarios.

Neal Lang wrote:


The real question is "Which Churchill do you heed - Ward or Winston?"


So, I gather that you belong to the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” school of critical analysis? You’re the guy with the white hat, right? The really tall one?
2.2.2006 3:49pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I was talking about the phenomenon of people equating someone's attempt to understand a thing with an endorsement of that thing. The "evil..grr" bit, that was me saying that if you ask someone "what is your motivation here?" he isn't going to say, "I just want to be evil, ok?"

So, if the terrorists aren't going to bother telling the truth about themselves, why bother to even ask them?
Wanting to know someone's point of view is not the same as endorsing that point of view, and certainly not the same as endorsing any/all decisions made from that point of view. That seems to be the hang-up people are having in their reactions to this movie. They go on and on trying to figure out what the point of view of the movie is, so they can disagree with it or whatever. What I saw the was a very deliberate attempt to make me empathize with everyone in it, and agree with maybe no-one. Lots of people call this style "cop-out", but I like it coming from Spielberg, who is usually a bit of a hammerhead.

Frankly, I would have respected Spielberg more had he told the truth about the Palestinians and the "evil" cause that allows them to murder the innocent. However, in order to receive the accolades of his "peer" at Sundance, he "copped-out" with Hollywood "Politically Correct" version. This took no courage, IMMHO, unlike the real bravery shown by other creative folks, such as, Salman Rushdie, who incurred a "death sentence" to tell the truth in his The Satanic Verses.
2.2.2006 3:50pm
Porkchop (mail):
Neal Lang wrote:


First, you can't put a price (economic cost) on innocent human life.


Yes, you can. We do it all the time -- in the legal system, in business, in government funding decisions, in cost-benefit analyses.

Neal Lang wrote:


Second, there have been Moslem Palestinians that have lived peaceably (and voted) in Israel since 1948.


That seems to indicate that there are conditions under which Moslem Palestinians eschew terrorism. I wonder if part of the difference is how they have lived/ been treated for the past 58 years.
2.2.2006 3:56pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I’m confused. Have we now come to the “self-hating Jew” part of the argument? Spielberg is, after all, Jewish. Or is it the point at which criticizing Neo-Conservative thinking is “anti-Semitic”? Maybe “un-American”?

If you can't see that this "Palestinian Thing" is nothing if it isn't "anti-Semitism" - or at least "Jewish bigotry", since Abraham fathered both Isaac and Ishmael.
If Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had not abolished the Caliphate in 1923, we might have something like Muslim “pope” who could definitively say what is or is not “Islamic” behavior. Osama bin Laden can gather followers and issue fatwas because there is no central structure in Islam that can authoritatively say he is wrong. Let’s blame Ataturk, shall we?

The defeat of the Ottomans in WWI abolished the Caliphate. If you bother to listen to Osama you will see his major peeve is the Infidels in the Islamic Holy Lands.
The United States supported the Afghan mujahedin in the fight against the Soviets; the Afghans accepted the foreign mujahedin reluctantly. If the first Bush administration had not pulled the CIA out of Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, then we might have been able to assist the establishment and maintenance of a moderate pro-Western government from the outset, leading to

Of course, had the Soviets not invaded because there was a well armed, pro-Western government on the Western border of Afghanistan there would hjave been no need for the CIA being there in the first place. Right?
The last time I checked, Egypt and Jordan were still adhering to their commitments under the peace treaty with Israel. Did I miss something in this morning’s paper?

I don't know! After all it was you who brought up the "spectre" that Egypt and Jordan would have the stomach for another "go" at the Israelis, not I. Perhaps they too have a "death wish" just like the "Homocide Bombers". Of course, maybe Egypt really doesn't want the Sinai. Talk about your being "damned to relive" history.
Actually, I thought that was your point. My point is that one might want to think before deliberately pissing off 1.2+ billion people, who have for the most part not done anything to anyone, but who might decide to change their peaceful ways if they are convinced that their religion really is under attack, as they well might under some scenarios.

You are assuming that all 1.2 billion would care if Israel "waxwd" the Palestinians once and for all. Frankly, these masses were "conspicuous by the absence" the last 3 times the IDF made short work of the Palestinians, Jordanian, Syrians, Lebanonese, Iraqis, etc. What makes you think things have changed since 1972?
So, I gather that you belong to the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” school of critical analysis? You’re the guy with the white hat, right? The really tall one?

No, not really! Simply seeking a little clarification, is all.
2.2.2006 4:26pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Yes, you can. We do it all the time -- in the legal system, in business, in government funding decisions, in cost-benefit analyses.

Must be the profession, then, as I think every innocent human life is precious. Know wonder they call lawyers - Shylocks.
That seems to indicate that there are conditions under which Moslem Palestinians eschew terrorism. I wonder if part of the difference is how they have lived/ been treated for the past 58 years.

Obviously they weren't "treated" that way by Israel for 58 years, because the Palestinians who lived in that country don't seem to have a problem. If the Palestinian terroists have a problem with someone for "mistreating" them, I suggest it is with the other Arab nations, such as Jordan, that dumped on them and not the Jews who they insist on "dehumanizing" and murdering.
2.2.2006 4:34pm
Phoebe (mail):
Hi Richard,
I take it that you, as a non-appeaser, would then prefer that we DO understand what they believe, because then we'd be more horrified and less likely to appease? And also that you do not trust a screenwriter to do the job of conveying what's motivating a typical [i.e. more-or- less representative] terrorist?
In this discussion I'm the schmuck moviegoer, semi-informed at best about the actual topic, and possibly also the typical heart/mind that you all might prefer Spielberg not be influencing with his 2 cents. Because even though it's fiction, we all know that the general audience is going to buy what they see as truth if it's based on a real guy and real events. I do think filmmakers have a responsibility not to really screw it up [Ron Howard being guilty guilty guilty with "A Beautiful Mind", for example]. Whether or not Steven and Tony screwed it up here I myself do not know. The bone I picked was with the idea that we shouldn't humanize villains, and the implication that to do so is tanatmount to endorsing their cause. Me, I want to know what makes them tick because a) more interesting b) useful in dealing with them [not that I'd have much sway in this case beyond my tiny drop in the public sentiment bucket].
You say:

The problem with understanding these folks is that it makes them seem worse. If we just figured them for a non-specific, evil "other", it wouldn't be so bad. Bad enough, I expect, but not as bad as finding out what they really think.

And later you caution me to be careful what I wish for.
I say:
No, really, I want to know. And I also want to know why they think it, no matter how bad it is, and my desire to know is in fact proportional to the badness. And in my wanting to know why they think it, I suppose it's theoretically possible that they could, uh, sway me to say "gee, I see their point" and for all of you who have studied the situation a lot, and have come to conclusions based on findings beyond the scope of a wee movie, this would be a bad result. A little knowledge being a dangerous thing. All very true, and to this I have to punt to my faith in the marketplace of ideas, and that the truth will out, etc. I believe that a little knowledge tends to naturally proceed to more knowledge, and that the cure for the danger of the little knowledge is to add more, rather than to wish Hollywood would shut up and sit down [despite my strong sympathy with that sentiment]. I also have the idealistic view that no matter how much I peek into someone's culture, history, or personal diaries, nobody's really going to talk me into endorsing female genital mutilation, or killing anybody's Olympic team. But I do assume that risk and I would like to see everyone else do the same. Enquiring minds want to know.
So: do the Palistinans practice fmg? Because I did not know that.
2.2.2006 4:35pm
Porkchop (mail):
Neal Lang wrote:


The defeat of the Ottomans in WWI abolished the Caliphate. If you bother to listen to Osama you will see his major peeve is the Infidels in the Islamic Holy Lands.


Sorry, Neal. You don't know your history as well as you should. The Ottoman emperors wore two hats -- Caliph and Sultan. The "Young Turk" revolt after WWI overthrew the Sultanate -- the secular authority. The Caliphate -- the religious authority of the former Sultan -- did not end until Ataturk abolished it in 1923. The Caliph was the central religious authority in mainstream Islam. He was assisted by a council of religious advisers and did not dare stray far from their advice lest he be dethroned, but his was the final word.
2.2.2006 5:28pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Sorry, Neal. You don't know your history as well as you should. The Ottoman emperors wore two hats -- Caliph and Sultan. The "Young Turk" revolt after WWI overthrew the Sultanate -- the secular authority. The Caliphate -- the religious authority of the former Sultan -- did not end until Ataturk abolished it in 1923. The Caliph was the central religious authority in mainstream Islam. He was assisted by a council of religious advisers and did not dare stray far from their advice lest he be dethroned, but his was the final word.

Had the results of WWI been different the Caliphate would not have been abandoned. Without the Ottoman Empire, the Caliphate was all rather meaningless, as the Caliph had no means to assert his authority - a "Muslim Pope" he never was nor would be, without the "governmental" power of the Ottoman Empire. By the time that Versailles got through chopping up the Ottoman Empire, the Caliph was left with effective authority in Turkey only.
The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire was a consequence of World War I when Allied forces, including the Arabs, eventually defeated Ottoman forces in the Middle East. At the end of the war the Ottoman government collapsed and the empire was divided among the victorious powers. The subsequent years saw the declaration of new states from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, one of which was the Republic of Turkey. The members of the Ottoman dynasty were banned from the lands of Anatolia, where they once built one of the great empires of the world, by order of Kemal Ataturk, who believed as long as they were present in Turkey, they constituted a threat to a secular state. In 1999, after 76 years, Turkey's parliament granted Turkish citizenship to the descendants of the Ottoman family. From: Ottoman Empire

When Turkey became a secular republic, the Republic of Turkey's Grand National Assembly abolished the caliphate on March 3, 1924. Interestingly, Hussein bin Ali -- claimed Caliphate at Medina two days after it was abandoned by the Republic of Turkey. He was subsequently defeated and ousted from Arabia by the Saudis, who ignored the title.

The schism in Islam began with the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, whose succession after Mohammed's death is accepted by the Sunni and rejected by the Shi'a.

Again, had the Central Powers, instead of the Allies, been successful in World War I, the Ottoman Caliph would still sit as Sultan in Istanbul of an expanded Ottoman Empire. Those are the historical facts.
2.2.2006 8:15pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I believe that a little knowledge tends to naturally proceed to more knowledge, and that the cure for the danger of the little knowledge is to add more, rather than to wish Hollywood would shut up and sit down [despite my strong sympathy with that sentiment].

Unfortunately, a multi-millionaire living on Bel-Aire could no more know the inner-thoughts and motivations of Palestinian terrorist than he could a nun in an Alpine Cloister. When ever you base a "documentary" on a work of fiction you have travelled down that path where "a little knowledge becomes a dangerous thing." Unfortunately more "bad information" does not make matters better.
The Jonas book was the basis for two movies about Munich, “The Sword of Gideon” and Steven Spielberg's 2006 Oscar nominee, “Munich.” In the subsequent publicity about Spielberg's film, reports have discredited the account in Jonas, which was largely based on what the author was told by a former self-described Mossad agent, Juval Aviv, who claimed he was the leader of the assassination team. In fact, journalists Yossi Melman and Steven Hartov found that “Aviv never served in Mossad, or any Israeli intelligence organization. He had failed basic training as an Israeli Defence Force commando, and his nearest approximation to spy work was as a lowly gate guard for the airline El Al in New York in the early 70s.”

In contrast to the account of “Operation Wrath of God” offered by Jonas, Mossad agents have told reporters subsequently that no one team was sent to kill a specific list of terrorists.
From: The Munich Massacre

A better account of the Israel effort to eliminate the terrorists cadre responsible for the "Munich Massace" may found here: Wrath of God: The Israeli Response to the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre
I also have the idealistic view that no matter how much I peek into someone's culture, history, or personal diaries, nobody's really going to talk me into endorsing female genital mutilation, or killing anybody's Olympic team. But I do assume that risk and I would like to see everyone else do the same. Enquiring minds want to know.
So: do the Palistinans practice fmg? Because I did not know that.

Geographical distribution of female genital mutilation
An estimated 135 million of the world's girls and women have undergone genital mutilation, and two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation - approximately 6,000 per day. It is practised extensively in Africa and is common in some countries in the Middle East. It also occurs, mainly among immigrant communities, in parts of Asia and the Pacific, North and Latin America and Europe.

FGM is reportedly practised in more than 28 African countries (see FGM in Africa: Information by Country (ACT 77/07/97)). There are no figures to indicate how common FGM is in Asia. It has been reported among Muslim populations in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, although very little is known about the practice in these countries. In India, a small Muslim sect, the Daudi Bohra, practise clitoridectomy.

In the Middle East, FGM is practised in Egypt, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

There have been reports of FGM among certain indigenous groups in central and south America, but little information is available.

In industrialized countries, genital mutilation occurs predominantly among immigrants from countries where mutilation is practised. It has been reported in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and USA. Girls or girl infants living in industrialized countries are sometimes operated on illegally by doctors from their own community who are resident there. More frequently, traditional practitioners are brought into the country or girls are sent abroad to be mutilated. No figures are available on how common the practise is among the populations of industrialized countries.

Also see: FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN AFRICA: Information by Country
2.2.2006 9:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Phoebe. I'm not against understanding the terrorists. Makes it easier to kill them if you can predict their behavior. Or how they can be made to talk without exactly cutting bits off (the red-ink thing), and so forth.

I didn't say, as you know but for some reason think it useful to pretend I said, that there is danger in you picking up behavior tips from the terrorists.

What I said was that it is easier to humanize these bastards if we DON'T understand them. And the appeasers and self-deluders and multicultis might want to think twice before the let the rest of us knuckle-draggers in on the thing.

But that means understanding them, not some screenwriter who's looking for dramatic tension. For example, when the two groups were in the same safe house, they didn't bond. The Israelis knew what was going on and used the opportunity to get some additional info.

Dishonestly humanizing them is dishonest, not to mention doing that ol' moral equivalence thing. When we say, "humanize", we don't mean explain reality. We mean make sympathetic. Nice. In some cases, like this one, it means avoiding reality. On purpose.
2.2.2006 9:09pm
Porkchop (mail):
Okay, now that we have moved to a discussion of female genital mutilation, this thread has officially jumped the shark.
2.2.2006 10:20pm