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Richard Cohen makes amends for his last column, in which he called Israel a "mistake", by debunking the notion of proportional response to war. For some reason, the global community has taken this concept up as a cudgel with which to beat Israel in its fight against the Hezbollah terrorists who touched off the war, as if any war in human history has ever been deliberately fought within the bounds of "proportionality":
The list of those who have accused Israel of not being in harmony with its enemies is long and, alas, distinguished. It includes, of course, the United Nations and its secretary general, Kofi Annan. It also includes a whole bunch of European newspapers whose editorial pages call for Israel to respond, it seems, with only one missile for every one tossed its way. Such neat proportion is a recipe for doom.
The dire consequences of proportionality are so clear that it makes you wonder if it is a fig leaf for anti-Israel sentiment in general. Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that proportionality is madness. For Israel, a small country within reach, as we are finding out, of a missile launched from any enemy's back yard, proportionality is not only inapplicable, it is suicide. The last thing it needs is a war of attrition. It is not good enough to take out this or that missile battery. It is necessary to reestablish deterrence: You slap me, I will punch out your lights.
Israel has been in dire need of such deterrence ever since it pulled out of Lebanon in 2000 and, just recently, the Gaza Strip. In Lebanon, it effectively got into a proportional hit-and-respond cycle with Hezbollah. It cost Israel 901 dead and Hezbollah an announced 1,375, too close to parity to make a lasting difference. Whatever the figures, it does not change the fact that Israeli conscripts or reservists do not think death and martyrdom are the same thing. No virgins await Jews in heaven.
To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn't mean that those holding the guns have a moral obligation to fight with knives instead. Proportionality demands exactly that, and it leads to nothing but longer and more destructive wars. Part of the reasons nations build strong militaries is to deter people from committing aggressive acts against them. The United States did not build the military it has just to provide "proportionate" reponse. Such a limitation would invite any tinpot dictator or kleptocrat to attack us, knowing that we would only respond in proportion to their ability to attack. It makes every fight even-up from the beginning, odds that would encourage a lot more fighting, not less.
For too long, the world has expected Israel to fight with one hand behind its back, even when others commit acts of war against them. Israel withdrew from Gaza and from Lebanon to avoid the implications of occupation, where Israel had to act in a law-enforcement mode where proportionality makes more sense. Now, however, Hezbollah invaded Israel, killed eight soldiers, and captured two others -- an act of war that no other nation would abide, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter's United States, circa 1979.
If Hezbollah finds itself holding a knife in a gunfight, then the blame falls on Hezbollah and the Lebanese government that granted then de facto sovereignty in the south. Wars do not get fought through "proportionality," and they certainly do not end that way. They end when one side overwhelms the other with superior force and dictates terms to the loser, or when one side decides they've had enough and sues for peace. Demands for proportionality lead us to where we are today -- long, bloody wars of attrition that solve nothing and embolden asymmetrical warfare.
How about this for proportionality: Israel comprises about 6.3 million people, while Hezbollah's sponsors, Syria and Iran, comprise a combined 87 million people. Does that mean that the global community will allow Israel to impose a 13:1 death ratio in this war, and to keep killing people indiscriminately until they reach the correct numbers? When the UN and its international dupes start endorsing that proposal, then we can take their demands for proportionality seriously.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Proportional Art from Chicago Boyz
Captain Ed observes, about the proportionality canard: To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn't mean that those holding the guns have a moral obligation to fight with knives... [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 12:18 PM
» Needed From Israel: A Disproportionate Response from It Shines For All
The calls for "proportionality" in Israel's response to Hezbollah don't stop. Eugene Robinson asks in the Washington Post: How can this utterly disproportionate, seemingly indiscriminate carnage be anything but counterproductive? Improving on his last ... [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 12:22 PM
» Proportional = Israel Unleashed from Mark's Views, Perhaps
Those calling for a proportionate Israeli response are unwittingly calling for Israel to unleash her military might on her enemies. ... [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 2:00 PM
» Captain Gives No Quarter in Mid-East Coverage from Sneakeasy's Joint
While most bloggers, like myself, have to be content with tossing their 2 cents in ( Debating a Moonbat in the process ), on the fracas between Israel and Hezbollah, only on occasion, others are marshalling their talents, and resources, [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 2:15 PM
» 13:1 from TacJammer
Captain Ed explores the "knife/gunfight" paradigm. Marcus Cole might put it differently: It's like I've always said: You can get more with a kind word and a two-by-four than you can with just a kind word. There's a time for diplomacy, yes, but sometime... [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 2:50 PM
» Richard Cohen Part 2 from A Barbaric Yawp
Last week Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was caught without his pants, figuratively speaking of course. You can find my and other bloggers commentary on that piece here. I was optimistic that during the past week he might have changed his mind... [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 8:14 PM
» The Aburdity of Proportionality from ProfessorBainbridge.com
In a post carrying the same headline as mine, Ed Morrissey rejects the notion that proportionality is relevant to evaluating a war:To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn't [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 8:35 PM
» The Aburdity of Proportionality from ProfessorBainbridge.com
In a post carrying the same headline as mine, Ed Morrissey apparently rejects the notion that proportionality is relevant to evaluating a war:To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it [Read More]
Tracked on July 25, 2006 8:38 PM
» THE ABSURDITY OF PROPORTIONALITY-A RESPONSE from jeffreymark
Ed, over at Captain's Quarters, comes up with a good explanation of the absurdity of the idea of proportionality in the Middle East war. The Captain basically uses the argument that those who bring knives to a fight ought not [Read More]
Tracked on July 26, 2006 5:09 PM
» The Proportionality Fallacy from American Geek
Ed Morrissey does a good job of discussing the absudity of 'proportional response'. To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn't mean that those holding the guns have a... [Read More]
Tracked on July 28, 2006 7:06 AM
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