By Tom Ehrich
Q: I am an American. What side should I take on the conflict in Gaza?
A: Why do you need to take any side? This isn't the Super Bowl. Or an "American Idol" final. Or a mid-term election to Congress. This is a war between two implacable foes. Like all wars, it is tragic, it is wasteful, and the truth about causation and culpability vanished long ago in the "fog of war."
We Americans need to stop thinking about ourselves as so exceptional that everything that happens on the globe is about us. It might affect us -- this war certainly will -- but it isn't about us. Our opinions don't count for much toward the outcome, especially opinions that demonize Israel or demonize Hamas or demonize political Islam.
If we want to have political opinions -- which is good and proper -- we should be contemplating how we will handle our national affairs in light of this war. Not how we will apportion blame or take sides as a global police force, but how we will handle the inevitable fallout.
If we want to be a moral agent, we won't be a force for good by taking sides. For one thing, we don't have our own moral house in order. We come off as hypocritical for presuming to fix other people's morality. For another thing, no one "plays nice" in war. Criticizing Israel or Hamas for not aiming their missiles more humanely is silly. When the fighting ceases, both sides will need food, shelter, economic assistance, and dignity. That is when we can make a difference.