Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Proportional" War is a Prescription for Never-Ending War: Israel vs. Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, etc.

As everyone is no doubt used to hearing, every time there is any sort of flare up in the never-ending conflict between Israel and her various enemies, is that Israel's actions are not "proportional." By this it is meant that while Hamas or whomever fires unguided rockets into Israel, possibly killing someone, possibly not, the Israelis retaliate with precision guided bombs and tanks which, while localized, are more deadly than the above rockets and tend to kill targets other than those the Israelis are after (whereas anyone is a target for Hamas, they're just hoping their rockets hit something human and preferably Israeli). Invariably, the shoddy weaponry of a dilapidated organization like Hamas kills fewer Israelis than the high tech firepower the Israelis deploy in response. This, to many of the allegedly educated peoples of the West, somehow constitutes a serious "problem." But questions arise. First, why is it a problem and second, what is the solution if it actually is a problem.

Much of the media coverage, it will be noted, assumes a giant fact not in evidence, principally that the lack of "proportionality" in Israel's response is a problem. That Israel has the power to fight a war where they lose as few as possible of their own people and kill as many as possible of their enemies should be neither surprising, nor should it constitute a problem. It is, ipso facto, the goal of all combatants to achieve this end to the best of their ability. The whole twisted logic of the suicide bomber is bent towards this end, one sacrificial martyr can wipe out hundreds in one fell swoop.

This of course does not mean that there never could be a problem of proportionality in foreign affairs. To suggest a ridiculous example illustrates the point. It would hardly be a properly rational response to hear news of a diplomatic insult and then order a nuclear strike on the offending government. The reason this is not a "proportional" response is that while annoying and even serious, a diplomatic snub of some sort does not constitute the use of force which would be required for a retaliation of any sort, nuclear or otherwise, to be justified. Israel is not reacting out of hand, they are meeting force with force. That Israel is far more wealthy, sophisticated, powerful, and advanced than their enemies is the fault of their enemies, not Israel, and it is their enemies who should pay the price for initiating force against a far superior enemy. The very fact that so few people have died in Gaza, a very small area with over a million people crammed into it, is a testament to just how much tip-toeing the Israeli armed forces are doing considering the wholesale destruction they are easily capable of. If a people or government abhors the results of war as we are led to believe the Palestinians do, they have a curious way of always provoking conflict.

Let us pretend for a moment that this "proportional" critique is legitimate. What is the solution? So Hamas plans to fire rockets into Israel. What does a "proportional" response entail? Must it be equal? Should the Israeli's forget that they have precision guided munitions and instead construct the inferior arms of their enemies to use against them? How would Israel firing unguided rockets into Gaza help this situation? Both sides would just be randomly bombing each other's civilian populations ad nauseum. When would it end? Has it ended so far?

The Israeli's have only ever achieved progress with their neighbors by beating them in war, thoroughly, and gaining recognition and respect that all the western diplomatic pressure in the world could not achieve. In every effort they have made where they restrain themselves and accept the notions that they, even while being attacked, would be in the wrong responding in whichever way they choose to minimize their own casualties and maximise those of their enemies, they have found themselves the losers. One only need think back to the operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon where this bleating whine of "proportionality" actually produced a retreat by the Israeli army before an inferior force. The conflict has been never-ending because the Israeli's never deal with it forcefully enough or because when they try the international diplomats step in to stop them, though the important player their is the United States. Every President since Nixon has thwarted moves and initiatives by the Israeli's to deal with its existential threats by threatening to halt arms shipments. It's a shame that we should do so unless we have some sort of interest at stake which would be harmed by Israel winning. If so, what is it? I have heard of none whatsoever, but I will keep my eyes and ears open for when it suddenly materializes.

In the meantime I will continue to hope that people realize that the only way to end a war is to make it so terrible for one's enemy that they either decide to quit or they die in it, not by playing a ceaseless game of tit for tat. No war ever ended that way and no war ever will.

1 comment:

Boaz said...

Well said, cheers.