Michael Rubin: The Moral Contortionist

Michael Rubin has posted yet another rant on National Review’s The Corner.  This time he goes after the petty Europeans and “chattering class”  for their quaint  beliefs in proportionality.

As Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe have pointed out, Michael Rubin has been banging out post after post about the Israeli attack on civilian ships in international water.

Rubin has tried to make lemonade from the lemons that the IDF handed him on Monday by claiming that now, more than ever, the U.S. should unconditionally support Israel and that a failure to offer such support could result in Israel unilaterally attacking Iran.

So, according to Rubin, the U.S. relationship with Israel boils down to our responsibility to enable a self-destructive friend while permitting that friend to dictate our foreign policy through blackmail.

In his post last night, Rubin attacks the liberal European notion of proportionality and charges that the European response to the Israeli attack on the “Free Gaza” flotilla is naive and ignores the importance of disproportionality in protecting freedom and security.

Rubin writes:

A Question of Proportionality   [Michael Rubin]

A lot of the criticism surrounding Israel’s actions against the Free Gaza flotilla center on proportionality. Did Israel apply disproportionate force? The same charges form the basis of the criticism leveled by the Goldstone Report and, indeed, also were leveled against Israel following the 2006 Hezbollah War and, before that, Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.

But why should any democratic government empowered to defend its citizenry accept Europe’s idea of proportion? When attacked, why should not a stronger nation or its representatives try to both protects its own personnel at all costs and, in the wider scheme of things, defeat its adversaries?

Likewise, when terrorists seek to strike at the United States, why should we find ourselves constrained by an artificial notion of proportionality when responding to those terrorists or their state sponsors?

Ultimately, it may be time to recognize that, in the face of growing threats to Western liberalism, strength and disproportionality matter more to security and the protection of democracy than the approval of the chattering class of Europe or the U.N. secretary general, a man whose conciliatory policies as foreign minister of South Korea proved to be a strategic disaster.

One final note on proportionality: Fifteen “peace” activists dead is a tragedy, but they represent only one one-thousandth of the death toll of a French heatwave.

Rubin clearly stated his loyalties to Israel in an earlier post on Monday.  Still, it’s worth asking what Israel would have to do to earn a condemnation from him.  The moral and logical contortions exhibited in Rubin’s posts on Monday would suggest that he will go to any length to defend Israel’s attack on civilian ships in international waters.

Rubin argues that notions of proportionality are a threat to Western liberalism.  A more reasoned analysis might suggest that uncompromising support of an ally’s flagrant disregard of international law and reckless behaviors which needlessly result in civilian deaths is morally indefensible, bad politics and, to put it in the words that Rubin would use, a threat to Western liberalism.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Yes, exactly. Keep hammering Rubin with everything you’ve got. And your tone is exactly right. To quote Nietsche (on how to philosophize with a hammer): “Idols are here touched with a hammer as with a tuning fork.”

    Do these people (the Israelis, Rubin) have no concept of karma? Can they believe that they alone need not fear Nemesis?

  2. Fanatics have no sense of proportion let alone empathy for the sufferings of others, and expecting them to demonstrate some is an exercise in futility.

  3. “Do these people (the Israelis, Rubin) have no concept of karma? Can they believe that they alone need not fear Nemesis?”

    Jon, you perfectly articulated “exceptionalism” but the real challenge is to levy this charge against ourselves and to scrupulously search and assess ourselves for this bias. While it’s human nature to be selfish, it leads to conflicts with others.

  4. Thank you for stating the obvious once again. I will refrain from explaining the context of my remark, as prior experience has shown that this is a useless exercise.

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