I confess that I am not happy writing these words. I think that one dead child is one too many, whether the child is Lebanese or Palestinian or Israeli, a German or Japanese in World War II. We are all children. Not just those under 18, but every soldier is someone's son or daughter. However, there has been so much written about Israel's "disproportionate response," that we must address the issue.
I am perhaps ignorant and uncultured, but analyses and pleas based on theory of "proportionate response" and "Just War" leave me cold and seem to be somewhat irrelevant. "Just war" is a concept that evolved from the Roman Fetiales
priests who made a ceremonial declaration of war stating the grievances. It is concept that may have some validity for wars between states, but I don't think that once you established that you have a "just war" it then becomes OK to kill people indiscriminately. Likewise, I am not satisfied saying that more people were killed in other conflicts.
Everyone dies in the end, and many people are killed accidentally before their time. It is not a justification for killing.
A war is just if A encroaches on territory or rights of B and A refuses to to end their aggression after attempts at peaceful persuasion. Very often this is a matter of point of view. From the point of view of the French Joan of Arc was fighting a just war to free her country from the British. From the point of view of the British, they were fighting to retain their claims to the Norman lands they had owned before invading Britain.
Even in this narrow scenario of mutual deterrence, the Hezbollah have already established the ratio of proportionality that is appropriate. In the past, they blackmailed Israel into exchanging hundreds of their prisoners for a few dead bodies and one live Israeli. Logic would dictate then, that for 25 dead Israelis, the "proportionate" response should be killing about 2500 Lebanese, and for kidnapping of two soldiers, the "proportionate" Israeli response should be to kidnap a few hundred Lebanese so we will have enough prisoners to make a trade. In this way, we could continue a never-ending war of "reprisals." Of course this idea is infantile and primitive.
However there is another sort of just war - a war of survival, to stop a power that is absolutely evil and aggressive and threatens to destroy you and others. This sort of war is on a different level. It doesn't require a "containment" response. The wars against Hulagu and Attila and Hitler were that sort of war.
Hezbollah threaten the existence of Israel, and the existence of Lebanon as a free country. Their aims are not compatible with peace. It is not that they want a little bit of territory here and there. They represent a power, Iran, that is using terror and other means to attain "regional hegemony."
"Proportionate response" might be appropriate to a scenario of mutual deterrence. Two hostile powers have to be reminded to respect the rights of others. In a better world, there would be no such thing. If your neighbor beats you up, the right thing to do is to call the police, not to beat him up in return. Unfortunately there is no rule of law in the world.
When faced with a threat like Hezbollah however, the problem is not one of proportionate response, because they are not deterred by proportionate response. They won't change their aim regardless of what you do.
On Sept 3, 1939, Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. The USA should have done the same but did not do so. The "formal" cause was that Germany had invaded Poland, an ally of Britain. But Germany had previously chewed up Czechoslovakia despite British guarantees and Britain did nothing. Moreover, Germany had committed no aggression against Britain and announced repeatedly that it had no intention of doing so. How could we then justify British "nonproportionate" response, in view of their earlier inaction??
Nonetheless, we are all agreed (I hope!) that the British were justified in declaring war on Germany, and in fact should have done so sooner.
Moreover, we are agreed, I think, that application of proportionality would have been silly in this case. Nobody would say that the British, in the hypothetical case that they could have done so, would have been right to simply send an expeditionary force to Poland and force the Wehrmacht back to the border. Germany would remain a danger until Nazism was eliminated.
Nobody would claim that the British would not have been justified then in bombing Germany and invading Germany. In fact, they would have been justified in doing so when Hitler violated the Munich pact.
The issue was not the casus belli
- the formal cause of war, but rather the understanding that the "Hitlerite regime," as Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt called it, was out to conquer the world, and that it had to be wiped out. Therefore it was not sufficient to reach the Rhine and the Oder Neise line, declare an armistice and sign a peace treaty with Ribbentrop and Hitler.
There are wars of that nature, of quite a different caliber than "just wars" of the type that do not get judged in the same way. It was worth any effort and any sacrifice to rid the world of Hitler, because otherwise all of use would be dead or enslaved.
No decent person can argue that the Hezbollah should not be eliminated, in the same way that fascism was wiped out. The end of Nasrallah must be the same as the end of Hitler, because nothing less will make him stop, and very likely in that case, even killing Nasrallah will not end the matter.
Hezbolla proclaims day and night that their goal is to wipe out a member state of the UN. In addition, Hezbollah has basically hijacked Lebanon to serve the interests of Iran and Syria. Hamas is likewise a tool of those countries and is controlled by them through Khaled Meshaal. Iran is aiming at "regional hegemony" just as Hitler did. It wants to spread a Fascist authoritarian reactionary ideology over the entire Middle East. It is a threat to every country in the Middle East. The aim of the war must be to wipe out the threat of the Hezbollah.
In every war, inevitably, more people are killed than is necessary to accomplish the task. The firebombing of Dresden, the second A-bomb on Japan and many other excesses were not needed to accomplish the task in WW II. Once a war starts it is horrifyingly impossible to keep "proportion" as well as to avoid errors of judgement and even errors in aiming bombs and shells that kill civilians. An alert citizenry and a democratic press should always be excersisng oversight over the actions of their government and army.
However, once everyone agrees that it is a just war, a war of survival, then the only thing that should determine the amount of force used is that it must be sufficient to get the job done, but no more. If the allies had not vanquished Hitler, then all the people who died in World War II would have died in vain, and one dead child would have been one too many. If the rise of Hitler could have been prevented by decisive intervention in the Spanish Civil War or the Anschluss into Austria, millions of lives would have been saved. Hezbollah in Lebanon is only a prelude to much larger plans of the Iranian government and the Jihadists. If Hezbollah succeeds, Iran will make more Lebanons throughout the Middle East. If the response must be proportionate, it must be appropriate not for the number of people killed by Hezbollah today, but to the threat that Iran represents.Ami Isseroff
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Replies: 3 Comments
Israel is acting in self defence of its Borders, which was violated by crossing the borders to take the hostages & simultaniousely firing rockets into Nortern Israel, This act was an invitation for a response, Israel rightly so decided to take a srong response.Israel must win this war, so the enemy understands that Israel is here to stay for ever.
F.S.Friday, just before Shabath (Shabat Shalom) 21/7-06
Fred Steiner, Friday, July 21st
Your commentary hits the truth head on. As an American, I have always supported Israel. This has been a long time coming. My personal opinion is this. Iran wants to use Syria and Lebanon by using Hazbollah like a web around Israel. I believe as Israel, sooner or later they will attempt to blow Israel out of the water. This can not happen! I believe God has his plan and the world community will either stand up for Israel or face the same terroristic operations as beginning in Africa.
France makes me sick. They are a socialist nation who cares for no one but themselves. America will stand beside Israel and if it means joing in on a death struggle between Israel and Iran, America and Israel will defeat the bastards.
C. J., Friday, July 21st
there is a misunderstanding in this discussion of proportionate response. the fact that israel did in fact respond to an attack from hezbollah does not actually mean that we should measure israel's actions as a response. it is now clear that what israel set out to do is destroy or disarm hezbollah, which, it can be easily accepted, takes a different amount of war effort than just responding to the kidnapping or a few soldiers or to retaliating for a few missiles. so, if people insist in talking about proportions, than they must address what is a good proportion of fire to destroy hezbollah.
nullo, Thursday, July 20th
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