The coward of the Middle East — or, you’ll find the answers in a country song

Showing once again my armchair hawk tendencies, I have to say that I’m delighted with Israel’s show of force against Hamas and Hezbollah (and the governments/countries that shelter and use them).  I’ve long thought that Israel’s restraint was an error against enemies that loudly call for her total destruction and who repeatedly act on that demand. I also predicted a long time ago that, with Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, Israel would look for an excuse to wage a sovereign state versus sovereign state battle against Hamas.

The very real excitement I feel about Israel’s suddenly flinging off the ridiculous shackles of world opinion is akin to that moment in a movie when the beleaguered hero suddenly turns into a whirlwind, and everyone cheers; or the moment when Popeye, to rapturous music, swallows his spinach and takes Bluto down.

In that vein, all morning long, I’ve had running through my head Kenny Roger’s song “Coward of the County.”  You know, that’s the one where the song’s protagonist was told by his father, an ex-con, that fighting isn’t the answer.  He goes through life (and the song) being abused and berated, but always abiding by his promise to his father not to fight.  And then something happens:

There’s someone for everyone
And Tommy’s love was Becky
In her arms he didn’t have
To prove he was a man
One day while he was working
The Gatlin boys came calling
They took turns at Becky
And there were three of them

Tommy opened up the door
And saw his Becky crying
The torn dress, the shattered look
Was more than he could stand
He reached above the fireplace
Took down his daddy’s picture
As the tears fell on his daddy’s face
I heard these words again

Promise me son not to do the things I’ve done
Walk away from trouble if you can
Now, it don’t mean you’re weak
If you turn the other cheek
And I hope you’re old enough to understand
Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man

The Gatlin boys just laughed at him
When he walked into the bar room
One of them got up and met him
Half way ‘cross the floor
Tommy turned around, they said
“Hey look old Yella’s leaving”
But you could’ve heard a pin drop
When Tommy stopped and locked the door

Twenty years of crawling
Was bottled up inside him
He wasn’t holdin’ nothing back
He let ’em have it all
When Tommy left the bar room
Not a Gatlin boy was standing
He said, “This one’s for Becky”
As he watched the last one fall
And I heard him say

I promised you dad not to do the things you’ve done
I’ll walk away from trouble when I can
Now please don’t think I’m weak
I couldn’t turn the other cheek
Papa, I sure hope you understand
Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man

Everyone considered him the coward of the county

Substitute Cpl. Shalit for the fictional Becky, and you’ve got Israel shaking off the impossible promises she made to the world, and fighting, because she’s a sovereign state that owes something to her citizens.

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  • ExPreacherMan


    Great story and superb illustration.

    I too am thankful that Israel is finally fighting back.. I just pray they don’t back down.. and that Bush and our congress will stand by Israel when/if Iran decides to lob a missile Israel’s way

    Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem!


  • Ymarsakar

    If you like popei’s spinach episode so much, I’d suggest you try out Naruto the anime DVD. It’s the Japanese version of the underdog kicking the “evil dude’s” arse so to speak. I love it. You can order it online or use bit torrent to get the first episode.

    I don’t think Hollywood has anything near what the Japanese anime industry is punching out on a regular basis lately. Pirates 1 was pretty cool, though, I’d have to say. But that was Disney, Disney is cool and solid.

    I remember Jason McElwain, so I did a search on my blog to get his last name, which I didn’t know how to spell, and I inputted it at youtube.

    The video goes well with your blog post, book.

  • Ymarsakar

    That’s the original video I saw, which I think is the best one. The other videos in the list have more information, but I think Steve Hartman did the best job of presenting it. Because his voice warbled at the end.

  • nofate

    Amen. Those people have been allowed to get away with their bullying for too long. Hezbollah are the same guys who took down the Marine barracks in Beirut in the 80’s and we still have not paid them back for that. There is also an MSM connection to that event that I only recently learned of that I cannot forget, that can be found at NewsBusters: . Both they and Hamas are stupid. Lebanon has been well on the way to recovery from the recent wartorn past. Israel has been sending Pallywood vast sums to be used for infrastructure, i.e. roads, schools, medicines, etc. and Hamas and the other idiots have been divering the funds to buy weapons and foment continued terrorist acts. Hezbollah’s motto is “Death to America”. They have stated their goal to be the total destruction of Israel. They want to kill us and the Israeli’s. How do you “negotiate” with people like that?
    BTW, thank you for the visit and the kind comment. I certainly won’t be able to match your output, but I enjoy what I can get out. nofate

  • Ymarsakar

    You negotiate with them by telling them to release their hostages or we kill about 1000 terroist prisoners for every Israeli/American that dies. That’s how you “negotiate”.

    If you run out of terroist prisoners atGitMo or Israeli jails, you just say instead of killing them, we’ll just cut off their hands and fingers. That should prolong the “resource”.

  • Bookworm

    Ymarsakar: Considering the Nazi’s repeated use of the collective punishment approach to negotiation, I don’t see Israel or America ever using it. Practically, it’s very effective, but it’s still an impossible tool for a moral nation to use.

  • Ymarsakar

    The problem with the Nazi’s approach to collective punishment is that it lacks justice, and therefore the citizens and people that witness it will turn their hearts from the regime that condones punishing people for things they did not do.

    The terroists have already been convicted in Israel, the evidence abounds at Israeli jails housing Palestinians, Hamas and Hizbollah alike, as well as in GitMo’s official and classified materials. It would be ridiculously easy to scrap up enough evidence to summarily court martial and execute them on the basis of the Geneva Conventions for illegal combatants. As with total war, it is the only real solution you will be provided with.

    Israel has in the past engaged in mass pardons, in which hundreds of Hamas or Hizbollah members were exchanged for 1 or 2 Israeli citizens. If there was a legal or philosophical principle that prevented the devaluing of Palestinian or terroist lives, then I don’t really see anyone, let alone the West, actually enforcing it.

    By definition, terroists held in detainment centers are already guilty. That is why the terroists want them back, and take hostages to force you to give them back more trained and experienced fighters for their jihad. They want those experienced fighters back. A veteran is worth 5 times as much as a rookie. With mechanized warfare, that is probably even greater.

    If the argument is that it is invalid in an ethical or moral basis, then you have to ask why terroists are not afraid to name their accomplices in jails that they would like to see released. That’s simply another layer of guilt upon those already guilty and being punished. It is logical to increase the punishment on those that have already committed crimes against humanity. It is not logical to find some villager or family member of the terroist, and hack off body parts like the Mob would do. Effective, but not derivative of any consistent ethical philosophy.

    It is said that one problem is hard to solve, but if you have two problems, you can get them to solve each other. What to do with terroists you’ve captured on the battlefield is one problem. How to resolve a hostage crisis that the enemy has created, is another problem. Your two problems can solve each other. Hamas knew this, Israel submitted to terroist demands by giving hundreds of prisoners over to terroists, in effect pardoning those terroists of war crimes. You cannot claim to have the power to pardon people and then say you do not have the power to execute them. That would not very consistent ethically.

    The so called moral nations are afraid to take the necessary actions, lest some guy at the UN scorns them and lays insults upon their image. Israel has been under this strain for decades. Where has it got them by cooperating with the UN? Is Israel safer because she has obeyed the international moral mandate to reduce civilian casualties to zero, and refrain from retaliation against Hamas attacks? Neither has listening to moral nations helped keep America safe either. What is moral and ethical is to do what is right, what is just. It is not to obey mass opinion, or committ moral suicide by terrorism.

    I’ve been watching the anime series Juuni Kokki, since it deals with feudal Japan and the responsibilites that an Emperor has in a system of divine right to rule. I’ll be doing a post on that eventually. It has to do with ethics, honor, duty, and loyalty basically. What does a leader owe his loyalty to, who should that leader protect, and how should he do it in an ethical manner without being either too weak to defend his people or too oppressive?

    If America and Israel chooses to house terroist prisoners and exchange them for anyone that the terroists kidnap, their leaders are free to do so. If America will not negotiate with terroists because more people will be kidnapped, yet will keep terroists in good imprisoned conditions for decades which promote more Americans being kidnapped and tortured, then the leaders of America are free to do so.

    They are not free from the consequences of their decisions. No leader, king, President, or Emperor is. This is the usual moral dilemma people face in a crisis of loyalty and honor.

    Your father is the feudal lord of a province, responsible for the fate of his people, holding the powers of life and death over all he rules over. You are the prince, or princess in this case, and have seen a catastrophe arriving. This is from reliable intelligence sources, and your father knows of it as well. You swore an oath to your father to obey him, yet you know your father is incompetent and will lead to the destruction of all your and his charges.

    Do you betray your father, committ treason against him, and overthrow him from the position of leadership, saving your people in the process?

    Or do you maintain your honor, your word, and witness your father plunge your province into war and annihilation?

    One is “legal” and ostensibly “honorable”. Yet, is it? Which is a more powerful and worthy loyalty. Honoring the people and being loyal to their safety, or honoring your father, your word, and being loyal to the present system of governance?

    If you do not believe people and rulers have made this decision in the past or if you do not yet know of such incidents, then I suggest you google Emperor Hirohito’s last hours as Emperor and also read what General Lee said was the reason he left West Point. This is the decision all leaders and those who have responsibility must make sooner or later. It is their test of worthiness.

    The fact that people like you, bookworm, do not believe your leaders have the determination to do what is necessary to protect the people they swore oaths to protect from all foreign and domestic enemies, is more important than the statement that no moral nations will countenance the execution of a thousand terroist prisoners in order to save the lives of countless citizens. What is impossible or possible is in the minds of men and women.

    The point is that power, justice, law, come from the people. Unjust laws are laws that abuse the people and allow atrocities against the people, that strip people of their natural born power and status as human beings. A government of one people is not beholden to the government of another people, or even the people of another location and geography. The governmnet is by the people, for the people that created that government. The government is not there to serve the traitors or the enemies of the people. When a ruler understands this, he is ruling with morality and righteousness. When a ruler misunderstands this, if that ruler is too merciful like Bush or too oppressive like Stain/Hitler, then that ruler has abidcated both morality and righteousness.

    It all goes back to the people one way or another. Criminals are executed and imprisoned not because of revenge, but because this safeguards the people, and thus is Just because laws are designed to protect the people, all the people that make up the government and in which government is for.

  • Ymarsakar

    I gathered some good past posts on Japan. You should read How Japan surrendered, if you want to know more about Hirohito’s decision and how MacArthur played his part as well.

  • Ymarsakar

    Neo also wrote about proportionality.

    The same reasoning applies to killing terroists via a 10 to 1 or 100 to 1 ratio if they kidnap one of your people. You can tolerate it and keep feeding it via ignoring it or proportional legal responses. Or, you can treat terrorism as an act of war and conduct disproportionate responses, that end the war faster and with less suffering all things considered.

    But in the specific case of terroists taking hostages, you can negotiate for them to release the hostages and to never take hostages again quite well if you present the right incentives and decentives in the negotiation. The fact that people believe nations won’t do that to protect their people, is an indictment against bad government.