July 3rd, 2020


On Being the Good Guys

Mona Charen

By Mona Charen

Published Nov. 29, 2019

 On Being the Good Guys
People often offer cynical interpretations of American support for Israel. It's the malign influence of the Jewish lobby, or Israel is a colonial outpost of the American hegemon or Israel has brainwashed American policymakers. What these right-wing conspiracists, anti-Semites and committed leftists miss is that there isn't any mystery about the bond between the U.S. and Israel. U.S. support for Israel, and vice versa, has been based on shared values.

Israel shares with the United States respect for human rights and the rule of law. Though often besieged by enemies who target innocent civilians in terror attacks, use their own civilians as human shields, and celebrate as heroes terrorists who massacre unarmed men, women and children, Israel does not sink to that level. Though Israel vigorously defends herself, she does not resort to targeting civilians, nor to indiscriminate bombing (despite accusations to the contrary). And — this is crucial — when Israeli soldiers go too far and kill unarmed Palestinians, Israel does not name public squares after them. They are tried and punished.

It is never easy to hold one's military to account. Within Israel, soldiers tried for war crimes have had their supporters and trying them is controversial. But Israel's willingness to hold itself to high standards marks it as a civilized country.

War crimes and abuses are part of war. No country is pure. What distinguishes the good guys from the bad is how the nation responds to those transgressions.

Any number of current and former servicemen have bristled at this. We do not train our soldiers to be killing machines — and contributing to that stereotype is hardly pro-military. Veterans already face skepticism from potential employers out of misplaced fear that PTSD or some other combat-induced mania will incline them to murderous rampages.

While war does require aggression and violence, the U.S. military abides by (or used to) the Law of Armed Conflict and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As Fred Kaplan noted, "American troops are trained as much in when not to shoot their weapons as they are in how to shoot them." Our troops receive intense training about avoiding civilian casualties.