The Perils of “Proportionality”

There’s been much talk of Israel’s military operation against Hizbollah in Lebanon being “disproportionate.” I’m tempted not to take such criticisms seriously, and to suspect that those making them are flailing around desperately for some epithet to tag Israel with because Hizbollah’s brazen provocation and terrorism makes the standard blame-and-bash Israel line a little trickier to get away with at the moment.

This is why we’re getting the doughy refrain: “Israel has a right to defend itself but…” Ah yes, there’s always a ‘but.’ Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I believe in some ‘but’s’ when it comes to Israeli military action (or any military action for that matter), not to mention a few ‘and’s’ and ‘if’s.’

But this ‘but’ doesn’t convince. ‘Disproportionate,’ pray tell, to what? The original cross-border raid and kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah? Should Israel then get to snatch a couple of Hizbollah fighters and call it even? Hell, why stop there? Hizbollah says it has to kidnap Israeli soldiers so as to exchange them for Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. It appears there are a whopping three of these, or perhaps two and a half – one a spy, the other a terrorist child-killer (but hey, we’re talking numbers here, so I digress). So perhaps to make things proportionate Israel should either release the Lebanese prisoners or hand over another soldier (or at least half of one).

Perhaps what is meant is that Israel’s response is disproportionate to the threat posed by a cross-border kidnapping raid. But consider what that raid represents: a terrorist Islamic fundamentalist militia sworn to destruction of the Israeli state on whose border it is deployed, so confident in its strategic position that it feels it can cross that border and kidnap soldiers at will. Keep in mind also that the government (made up in part of Hizbollah!) of the sovereign nation from which Hizbollah launches its attacks on Israel is unable (and apparently unwilling) to disarm the militia or even to confront it.

Israel’s initial response was to launch a small incursion into Lebanon in hot pursuit of the kidnappers (in which Israeli soldiers were killed mind you) and then the following day to impose a blockade on Lebanon, bomb its airports, air bases and a power station. Some of these actions strike me as questionable and perhaps counterproductive and unfair. But I’m not in a position to second-guess their military rationale, and neither is anyone else without intricate knowledge of Hizbollah’s capabilities, Israel’s decision-making process and the nature of major combat operations.

In any event, Hizbollah responded by firing hundreds of rockets on Israeli civilians, revealing the extent and sophistication of its Syrian and Iranian-supplied arsenal and the extent of the strategic and existential threat Hizbollah represents. The aforementioned terrorist Islamic fundamentalist militia sworn to destruction of the Israeli state on whose border it is deployed can now commit massive carnage with its Katyushas, Fajr-3’s and Zelzal’s, firing over a hundred missiles a day from an estimated cache of 10,000 rockets as a million Israelis are ordered into bomb shelters (that’s out of a total population of about 6.5 million in a country the size of New Jersey). What, I’d be curious to know, would be a “proportionate” response to such a threat?

Explore posts in the same categories: Israel/Palestine

One Comment on “The Perils of “Proportionality””

  1. hollywood Says:

    Why is there even a debate over whether Israel’s response has been “proportional”? It clearly hasn’t been, any more than throwing a table at someone who threw a tiny french fry at you would be. The real question is whether it was right or wrong for Israel to respond in such an inarguably disproportionate way. Much of the world thinks it was wrong of them to react this way. Those people are wrong.

    Think about it like this:

    Imagine you are in a room surrounded by 20 people that hate you so much they have declared repeatedly to anyone who’ll listen that they would rather kill you than be in the same room. You would never rest and would constantly keep an eye on everyone else in the room, lest you let your guard down and–as promised–one of them kills you. Now, if one of them–a particularly sneaky one who is protected by some of the bigger guys–sneaks up and slaps you, what would you do? Slap him back? Or shoot him with one of the giant .44 Magnums at your side? Easy choice, since if you simply slap back, it seems likely that the other 19 would all start slapping you, knowing that they could easily overwhelm your “proportional” response. Seems to me like shooting the first guy in the face would do a pretty good job of discouraging the rest of them from slapping you.

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