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Gaza and the laws of war

Gaza and the laws of war
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash

As the father of a toddler, I am obviously distressed to hear that toddlers are being maimed and killed by bombs paid for by my tax dollars.

I want this shambolic slaughter-circus to stop. I think every institution involved in it, from UNRWA to the UN to Hamas to the IDF to the State Department—needs its entire org chart liquidated by bunker-buster bombs, leaving not a single box to check. I think all these offices need to be ground into dust the size of the FTX trading team. And I think if the world knew what I think I know, this would already have happened.

(As for the people involved—they’re just people. Like the FTX trading team. They’re just a bunch of nerds. Maybe they should even get competitive severance packages. The problem is the structures and the ideas, not the people.)

And that said, I have to say I am pretty blase about this war. It does not concern my country. It does not endanger me. I am confident that, if everyone thought and acted as I did, not a hair on a toddler’s head would be harmed.

As for making everyone else think as I do—am I not working on it?

Other public investments

Not to digress, but my tax dollars have paid for a lot of things—including this:

We will intensively sample bats at our field sites where we have identified high spillover risk SARSr-CoVs. We will sequence their spike proteins, reverse engineer them to conduct binding assays, and insert them into bat SARr-CoV backbones (not SARS-CoV, so exempt from dual-use and gain of function concerns) to infect humanized mice and assess capacity to cause SARS-like disease.

“We choose to infect humanized mice, and do the other things, not because it is safe, but because it is dangerous.” Science in 2018.

And after this, I kid you not, they were going to protect us from “high spillover risk SARSr-CoVs” by—vaccinating all the bats.

We will inoculate bats with novel chimeric polyvalent spike proteins plus the immune modulator to enhance innate immunity methods against specific, high-risk viruses. We will trial inoculum delivery methods on captive bats including a novel automated aerosolization system, transdermal nanoparticle application and edible adhesive gels. We will use stochastic simulation modeling informed by field and experimental data to characterize viral dynamics in our test cave sites in Yunnan province, where the most effective biologicals will be trialed.

“Edible adhesive gels.”  Your uncle choked on his own juices, your nephew didn’t go to school for two years, because of… a plan to protect us from bat viruses by feeding all the bats in all the caves in Asia vaccine-laced gummy bears. Not even slightly making this up.

(Yes, the DEFUSE proposal was specifically rejected. But a proposal in life sciences just describes the stuff you’re working on. EcoHealth is still getting grants galore.)

More horsemen of the apocalypse

Okay.  Not to digress. But: this is how screwed up US healthcare policy is. (Sorry, phobes, China was just a subcontractor on this one.) The point is: US foreign policy is no less screwed up. Perhaps it is even more screwed up.

This is why I was be distressed to see Sam Kriss, a writer I’ve always respected—sure, a communist Jew, but aren’t we all, and an excellent writer—vehemently champion what my friend Baruch Kogan calls the “shtetlib” position against me:

Curtis Yarvin, dark prince of the dark right, insists that ‘it is clear to any sane person that if Israel could install a technical device on its bombs that would prevent them from killing civilians, it instantly would.’

Wouldn’t they?

How can anyone who knows anything about a modern defense bureaucracy, in Israel or in the US, not know they would? Does this Kriss person, who seems to have strong opinions on military affairs, even know what militaries are made of? At least, in the Western world in 2024?

I think it is true that the Israeli military is less energetic in rooting out war crimes than, for instance, the post-My Lai US military. Its definition of war crimes may also be a little more lenient than the current Western standard. But it is certainly within the same local cluster.

If we merely imagine Israel with the same affinity for macabre war trophies, for instance, felt by the US military in the Pacific Theater—not to mention our knack for “strategic bombing” on the Giulio Douhet pattern—we are in a totally different world. An Israeli officer sends Netanyahu a letter opener carved from an Amalekite armbone. “This is the sort of gift I like to get,” says the Prime Minister, and lights his cigarette. Even girlfriends get in on the action:

And this in our country! In the lives of those now living! This chick might be alive!

Question: on the scale of human history as a whole, or Western history as a whole, where does our local cluster fit on the absolute spectrum? What is that spectrum? Because I am a strange person, I insist that before we can make any judgment on current events—even events involving toddlers getting squished—I feel that we need to ascertain our exact position in history.

Weirdly, from Kriss, we do not even get a sequitur. Instead we go straight to this:

Yarvin is, as he keeps reminding us, a Foreign Service brat. Does he really expect us to believe that he’s never heard of the Dahiya Doctrine?

Actually, I hate to be embarrassed guy here, but—I had never heard of this “Dahiya Doctrine.” I looked it up. It turned out, of course, to be about civilian infrastructure—like, buildings and stuff:

The method of action in Lebanon [in 2006] was that, in the first stage targets were attacked which formed an immediate threat, and in the second stage the population was evacuated for its protection, and only after the evacuation of the population were Hezbollah targets attacked more broadly. I am convinced that this pattern was a moral pattern, that it was correct to use, and if another campaign is required it will be correct to act in the same way.

Sounds like a very sensible system which I entirely endorse. Note that, in my view, the IDF should be treating Gaza like this—namely, evacuating the civilian population for its protection—and, of course, is not. Largely because of the cries of people like Kriss! Even the powers of the IDF have shrunk in the last 20 years—let alone the last 70.

Imagine if the US had evacuated Dresden, in February 1945, three months before the end of the war, to protect the population. Imagine if they had evacuated Raqqa, in June 2017, to protect the population. Imagine how mad Sam Kriss must be at these wars.

(To be fair, in one defunct publication, there is a record of Kriss (but not the rest of the weird world of mass-market Byronic Arabophilia) giving a shit about Raqqa. But I would laugh with shock if he gave a shit about Dresden. Not all toddlers, you see, are the same—some toddlers are born innocent, whereas others are genetically guilty…)

Yes, Sam, I do see that you want to give a shit. The secret to everyone’s happiness is: stop wanting to give a shit. Especially stop pretending to give a shit. Once the only shit is in the world is shit that is coming from people who naturally give a shit, the world will be clean and safe and orderly and happy. Sadly, people like you keep shitting on it. As with covid, the whole problem is caused by its official solution.

I do not naturally give a shit about Palestine, Israel, the Jews versus the Arabs, etc, etc. Maybe it is more natural for you—the sense I’m feeling is, you’ve worked on it. To be quite simple, it gives you something to write about. Who doesn’t need that? Every writer has these kinds of conflicts of interest. But if you need to stir up drama for a living—maybe keep it personal?

Imagine if US foreign policy stopped giving a shit about Gaza. Israel, we would say—we’re done. We don’t care. Do whatever. After all, Israel, you’re nowhere near us! What were we even thinking? You’re halfway around the planet. Our new foreign policy toward Israel is: don’t f**k with our satellites. No USS Liberty in space. (My guess: Israel whacked the Liberty because it was helping the Egyptians.) Other than that…

Here is what the Israelis would do: cut off food, power and water to Gaza, do their best to give everyone a safe way to walk out unarmed, house them in spartan but livable conditions, and send the Gazans to another country—preferably one in which they  speak the language. If no one will take them, they can have their own enclave—with no waterfront property.

This enclave is entirely surrounded by Israel. There is no way to get or build a weapon inside it. There is just food, water, and Apple Vision Pro—instead of artillery shells, etc, the caring souls in the US buy the Gazans a new virtual world. Since Apple Vision Pro costs $3000, and there are 2 million Gazans, this will cost only six billion dollars.

There are probably some terrorists who won’t come out. They will be mowed down by robot dogs. The buildings—frankly, not great stuff—will be dozed into artificial hills. And the site will be ready for development. Did I hear someone say “beachfront?”

If Israel really wanted to bend over backward and demonstrate its fairness—not quite necessary given what happened on October 7, and the fact that most Gazans are into it—it could collectively grant them a slice of equity in the new Gaza. The new Gaza—developed, of course, by Jared Kushner—is the LA of the Mediterranean, an entirely new charter city on humanity’s oldest ocean, sublime real estate with an absolutely perfect, Apple-quality government. This city will be worth six trillion dollars, making every Gazan a millionaire—they can all afford to move to Dubai from their enclave. They will be replaced by Thai gastarbeiter picking irrigated watermelons in the Negev.

And no toddlers will die. But Sam Kriss will no longer get his colonial rocks off. He will not get to feel like Lord Byron, but without the swimming, or T.E. Lawrence, without the Turkish prostate stimulation. Alas, we Jews are always late to the party.

But his problem is that what’s happening in Gaza indicts his entire ideology. Yarvin is a monarchist: he thinks society should be led by a singular, absolutely powerful sovereign who has total authority over his subjects without any kind of democratic accountability.

Kriss is an oligarchist: he thinks society should be led by a plural, absolutely powerful bureaucracy which has total authority over its subjects without any kind of democratic accountability.

Kriss calls actual democracy “politics” and thinks it is bad, and any real government needs to be protected from it. Sadly, he is right about this—at least, in the ugly world we live in. John Adams had just the same thought. For Adams it was just a prophecy—but the idea of any actual operating democracy in the 21st century is purely risible.

It’s not even that the people of today are too ignorant, unintelligent, frivolous and/or immoral to be trusted with power. Yes, they are all these things—but most of all, if given power, they are too weak to hold on to it. Therefore, they cannot hold power. Therefore, actual democracy is not possible.

It does not matter that the people would be bad stewards of power. They are no stewards of power. Maybe they are strong enough to capture power—but even if some accident put them in power (a thing accident does), they could not hold it.

Putting the people in charge is like having an 8-year-old king. He can never really be in charge. Not at least until he grows up—and here, unfortunately, the analogy breaks down. The people are not growing up. If anything, they are growing down.

Therefore, it makes no sense—in the present world—to talk about democracy as a system of government. Since all government depends on consent, democracy can always generate a momentary force. But it cannot now exist as a continuous system—not with the people we have.

Therefore, if “authoritarian” is the inverse of “democratic,” all realistic governments are authoritarian. That is: they are either oligarchic or monarchical. If we map oligarchic into meritocratic, and monarchical into authoritarian, we have arrived at the “political formula” of the present day.

If you do understand this, do the world a service and do not prate about “democracy.” You are literally raping the English language.

The idea of replacing democracy with oligarchy, while keeping democracy’s hollow name as a euphemism and a matador’s cape, is hardly new. In US history it is best attributed to Woodrow Wilson, but European ideas of “scientific” government are even older.

The beau ideal of the 20th century was the reduction of governance to a science, like physics, executed scientifically by scientifically-selected specialists: theory by professors in a meritocratic university, practice by administrators in a meritocratic civil service. Power in this system would come from prestige; prestige would come from merit. As a whole it would be a kind of machine—far above its human parts.

It is time for us to realize that if this machine ever worked, it worked for reasons beyond the ken of its designers. It worked not because the 20th century—or the 19th for that matter—solved the science of society, but because its human parts were, at one time, genuinely amazing.

FDR’s New Deal, for instance, was staffed by startup-quality people. And sometimes it was even shaped like a monarchy. FDR, for example, was a king in all but name—not the most hands-on CEO, but a CEO nonetheless. The Manhattan Project looks exactly like a startup, right down to the technical and nontechnical cofounders.

But that was then and this is now. True meritocracy is a distant memory. Accidental monarchy has mostly been disposed of. Everything oligarchical, even science, is fully bureaucratic. Look at the winners in today’s “meritocracy”—they are always natural joiners and followers, team players, climbers and backstabbers. Even when they are talented, and they often are, Napoleon’s line about Talleyrand always comes to mind.

In every organizational context in which the difference can be tested, monarchies massively outperform bureaucracies. Tesla is a monarchy. The California Department of Transportation is a bureaucracy. Imagine Caltrans trying to build an electric car. Now imagine Elon Musk in charge of California. Yes, he would probably make some stupid mistakes. They would not involve “infecting humanized mice.”

I believe that one power remains to democracy: to replace oligarchy with monarchy. While, since democracy cannot operate as a continuous force, no government can be described correctly as democratic, democracy will always remain possible as an event.

The people cannot be mobilized continuously. But they can be activated momentarily. This form of power is not static but dynamic—not a fixture, but a spike. Of course, the whole concept of elections recognizes this—a regime-change election is only more so. In fact, regime change is the last power available to democracy—and, if current trends continue, it will not be available forever.

Instead of an oligarchical Deep State—we get a Deep King. At least, a Deep President. Probably the Deep President’s first act is to fire (almost) the whole Deep State. This is almost certainly the right move. But he could keep every bureaucrat if he wanted. He is not a Deep President unless this decision is completely in his hands—unless he is truly the CEO of the executive branch, just as described in the Constitution.

Under the Constitution, the best and most legal way to gain absolute sovereignty is unquestionably by electing both a President and a Senate majority who understand these basic principles of new constitutional jurisprudence. Then, the President will appoint ten new justices familiar with the new principles.

At this point he combines the habitual sovereignty of the judicial branch with the nominal hierarchy of the executive branch, which he rapidly revamps to be unconditional, giving him his full constitutional power as chief executive of the executive branch. Using this power, he dissolves the old agencies and spins up an entirely new executive regime, of which he is CEO.

As for the Congress, it is not relevant during the emergency period. It simply ceases to debate or pass new legislation. Eventually the President will replace its gray old warhorses with a slate of celebrities, athletes, actors, etc. An election between two actors is guaranteed to be exciting! Especially if they are hot chicks!

As is common in history, the form of the government is changed; the appearance remains.  In the 20th century we went from democracy to oligarchy, so it’s not even a new thing. Historically, nothing is more American than regime change.

He has deduced from first principles that getting rid of our current form of government and replacing it with this one will immediately solve all our problems and produce a maximally benevolent and generous regime—because if power is totally unassailable, what possible reason would it have not be maximally benevolent?

It would have no reason to be unbenevolent. We cannot say this of the current regime! Once you understand that everything from Gaza to Covid was a predictable accident, resulting from easily understandable conflicts of interest accumulating over decades, you cannot unsee the engineering flaws in the whole idea of a bureaucratic regime.

Briefly, a modern monarchy is a sovereign corporation. The purpose of a corporation is to maximize the value of its assets. The same is true of a sovereign corporation, except that its assets are its people and its land. We can argue about what maximizing the value of people means, but it seems broadly equivalent to serving the common good.

Any way in which we can use the same mechanisms that we now use to maximize the resolution of the Apple Vision Pro, to instead maximize the common good, seems like at least a potentially good idea, doesn’t it?

In other words, Yarvin is a utopian. His real intellectual ancestor isn’t Thomas Carlyle, it’s Charles Fourier. He designs aluminium columns for his phalansteries.

Carlyle wanted us to live in villages, like human beings. Fourier wanted us to live in giant rationalist group houses, like Eliezer Yudkowsky, with our women in common. Gray is spelled with an A, the American way. And aluminum has only one I.

The way in which Kriss is like Fourier is that his systems all adapt human beings to their own beautiful logic, rather than being adapted for humans as their messy selves. Let’s go back to the laws of war to see this.

Vattel and the Ottomans

The bogus 20th-century laws of war that replaced the elegant 18th-century laws of war are a perfect example of this. The logic of perpetual peace is the logic of permanent war—literally, because no one is allowed to win. How is this not obvious? Why is this not screaming at everyone who looks at the problem for a second?

Under the classical laws of war, my Gaza solution is not “illegal.” It makes perfect sense. First of all, this is a war between two de facto states—Hamas and Israel. Israel has foolishly compromised her sovereignty with respect to the United States. Hamas is somewhat dependent on Iran, but probably did not ask permission for October 7. Each is close enough to an actual sovereign state to treat it that way.

A war, in the classical multipolar world, is a lawsuit for which the only judge is God. Since Hamas attacked Israel, Israel has a right to seek redress in the court of battle. Taking Hamas’s land and deporting its people creates both redress and security.

Moreover, all these rules apply only to wars against others who use these rules—that is, other civilized countries. But given the tactics of Hamas, Vattel III.2.24 applies:

Nations that are always ready to take up arms on any prospect of advantage, are lawless robbers: but those who seem to delight in the ravages of war, who spread it on all sides, without reasons or pretexts, and even without any other motive than their own ferocity, are monsters, unworthy the name of men. They should be considered as enemies to the human race, in the same manner as, in civil society, professed assassins and incendiaries are guilty, not only towards the particular victims of their nefarious deeds, but also towards the state, which therefore proclaims them public enemies. All nations have a right to join in a confederacy for the purpose of punishing and even exterminating those savage nations.

Exterminating! Under the sinister cross of the Stars and Bars… cancel this man!

Vattel was the accepted textbook, and this rule was the unquestioned assumption, among all the Founders. Since Kriss, like most communists, is probably a specious admirer of Thomas Jefferson, this issue is even mentioned in his Declaration:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

George III is basically funding Hamas, you see, in the form of the Iroquois. Say what you want about old TJ—he wasn’t exaggerating about the Iroquois. And Americans, even in the civilized late 18th century, had not yet forgotten how to pay the First Nations back in their own coin. Say what you want about American history, but you can’t say it hasn’t always been kino.

I really do wish the Israelis would release their 45-minute GoPro snuff tape of Hamas doing their Iroquois impression. But I’m afraid they just don’t have the will to win. Oh well—they’ll always be welcome, I imagine, in the real LA. I hate being right. Also—even just from a branding perspective—love the paraglider thing. It’s just art, baby.

But his models do not quite stand up to the messiness of actual reality. What’s happening in Gaza is actually existing neoreaction. The IDF has a rigid top-down command structure. Its relation to the ordinary people of Gaza is one of total power without any accountability whatsoever.

Not at all! The IDF is responsible to the government of Israel, which is responsible to the US State Department, which is responsible to shitlibs and shtetlibs worldwide. And that, as we have just seen, is why toddlers are getting their heads crushed by blocks of cement. If you are not into crushing toddlers’ heads, quit Byronic Palestinianism immediately. You are doing a profound moral wrong.

Give the IDF the same ordinary governmental power over the “ordinary people of Gaza” that the British held in Mandatory Palestine—which certainly includes the power to evacuate civilians from a war zone!—and watch the war end, tomorrow.

Heck—why not give the Israelis the powers of the Ottomans! What would the Sultan do? How would Suleiman II handle these impudent rebels? I’m guessing—nerve gas? You can’t say it doesn’t save six billion dollars—

The logic of killing

But for some reason, it’s not offering them equity in Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, so everyone can profit from their own houses being bombed, or whatever bullshit speculative notion Yarvin likes to cook up. Instead, it is systematically killing them.

How about some logic? Any adjective can be measured on a unit scale. Suppose I say: this block is yellow. It can be 0% yellow, 100% yellow, or 50%—yellowish.

If we can increase the yellowness of the block by 10x, it cannot be more than 10% yellow. If we conceive the operations of the IDF in Gaza as systematic killing, like the Holocaust at its purest and most Satanic, we have to say—it is not doing a great job. Would Eichmann be impressed? Eichmann would be like: we gotta 100x this, boys— and that’s just for starters! If I describe the block as yellow, and it is (still a vast overstatement) 1% yellow—I mean, it could be white. Barely even off-white. Right? Sam: I realize you get paid to use your right brain. Your left is in there somewhere. We’re not at AP calculus here—please try to give it a workout every now and then.

Intuitively, if we compare the Israeli willingness to inflict civilian harm in Gaza today, to the American willingness in Raqqa in 2016, to the British willingness in 1945, to the Germans willingness in 1943, we are comparing a grape to a blueberry to a cantaloupe to a watermelon. A grape is generally bigger than a blueberry. It is not a watermelon. So don’t call it one? And also it’s weird that no one cares at all about cantaloupes…

Lord Byron’s children

In history—and the history of the present is the hardest history there is—it is necessary to apply both right and left hemispheres. If you did not read Kriss’s whole essay on Gaza, but only skimmed to the little footnote in which he mentiones me, it is worth it!

Like so many of us Jewish communists, Kriss is a fine writer. But he is telling us a entirely fictitious story—told, generally, with actual facts. This story has a purpose: to make modernized people in the Western world feel like protectors of non-modernized people in the non-Western world.

This makes the Westerners feel powerful. Lord Byron protected the Greeks—really just a bunch of bandits, seeking “independence.” What have they done with it? Lol. I guess still good at shipping? From Ulysses to Onassis? Okay…

Imagine the splendor of the Middle East if the Ottoman Empire was still alive—of the Far East if the Qing Dynasty and Imperial Japan had survived. All these empires were brought low by dissidents, minorities, even terrorists, all seeking one thing—Western support. Which flowed in rivers. And what a false and self-serving gift it was!

My Jewish grandparents felt this way about Russia. Everyone in the US hated the Tsar. Not just Jews. Everyone. They believed in freedom for Russia. Result: the USSR. Boy, did my grandparents love the USSR. They loved it even after Stalin purged the Jews! They loved it from the 20s to the 70s. At least.

Supporting the USSR felt Byronic. Supporting Castro felt Byronic. Supporting Arafat felt Byronic. Supporting the Arab Spring felt Byronic. The whole Western world was infected by this epidemic of romantic, moralizing Byronism. This has already turned its former colonies into, in Trump’s piquant expression, “shithole countries.” This is just the start—we’re next. Archaic border barriers are not very Byronic, are they?

And today, this narcissistic patronage—having stirred up historically normal, but presently unusual, levels of nationalistic revanchism and human barbaric war-lust, having seen its consummation in “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” has condemned the population of Gaza, mere puppets for the Byronic ego, first to go on a bizarre orgy of precivilized massacre, and now to cower under Israeli bombs. With friends like these… imagine if the Palestinian cause had no American friends? The war would have been over long ago. Yes, some real estate would have changed hands. Unheard of!

Would Hamas even let the Gazans go? Are they actually hostages? Unclear. Israel would love to evacuate them—but the State Department would not let it evacuate them. Unless they were released into Tel Aviv as “asylum seekers,” of course. Or maybe Brooklyn as Uber drivers? Ubers in NYC are so expensive these days… Dr. Hanania, I feel sometimes, may even have a point… demand, supply, demand…

And so, toddlers are crushed. Dear me. Fortunately, it is not my problem—not my sandbox, not my toddler. But at least I am not causing it. You are, Sam—in the collective, Kantian sense, of course.

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