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Israel: The world’s selective outrage
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, July 27, 2006

We seem to think "proportionate response" is a new term we've discovered because the Israelis are responding to Hezbollah in what many characterize as a disproportionate response. Johnathan Gurwitz reminds us of how "proportionate" a fairly recent response was when it happened in Europe:
About that disproportionate response, of which Israel is accused and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac is the chief European hand-wringer: Perhaps Chirac and his cohorts have forgotten the 77-day bombardment of Belgrade by NATO in 1999, the devastation of the Yugoslavian infrastructure and the immense collateral damage to civilian lives and property.

And that bombing campaign, in which French pilots played a crucial role, came after Serbian terrorists had crossed the Gallic frontier to kidnap how many gendarmes and after how many missiles fell on Paris? Sacré bleu!
Oh yeah?! Forgot all about that, didn't you? That was certainly what most would now deem "disproportionate" if the Israelis were doing it, isn't it? But it seems coming up with new terms is easy if you're not the country under attack or not the country trying to recover your kidnapped soldiers.

Any military action is going to result in civilian casualties, especially if the civilians refuse to leave the area as appears to be the case with the casualties in Beirut. As pointed out yesterday, in Beirut it is the southern suburbs which are under attack. I can think of no reason, if a person isn't connected with Hezbollah, that anyone who could be reasonably considered a "civilian" would still be there, especially with central and northern Beirut mostly free of the fighting.

Similarly, I can't imagine a civilian still being in southern Lebanon, if they're truly a civilian. It is clearly the focus of the Israeli action. At some point it becomes the responsibility of civilians to leave an obvious war zone. In the case of this war zone it isn't any more complicated that walking out.

So as this action continues, I'm less and less sympathetic to the cry of "they're killing civilians". And as this action in southern Lebanon continues, it's useful to keep the Gurwitz reminder prominently available. When we pass the 77 day mark (and there was no safe area in Belgrade) I'll begin to consider the term "disproportionate response". Until then, Israel seems to be doing what it needs to do militarily in a very "proportionate" way.
 
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McQ,

I see your point, but I have to take issue with a few things. You write:
I can think of no reason, if a person isn’t connected with Hezbollah, that anyone who could be reasonably considered a "civilian" would still be there, especially with central and northern Beirut mostly free of the fighting.
Really? You can’t think of any reason? It’s human nature to be reticent about leaving behind everything you own in the world. As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, a lot of people stay behind even when they should leave. The old and the infirm stay behind. Those without transportation or a place to go often stay behind. And it doesn’t help when the major highways, roads, and ports have been bombed.

As for your main point, about disproportionality, it seems to fall short in two respects. First, while I see your point about hypocrisy, isn’t it possible that both the bombing of Belgrade and Lebanon were disproportionate? And more importantly, putting aside the moral element of disproportionality, isn’t there an obvious strategic difference between the two episodes. The attack on Belgrade was meant to force a state actor to surrender. And it worked. But in Lebanon, your dealing with a terrorist group. The Lebanese government doesn’t even have the power to give Israel what it wants. In fact, the bombing seems likely to strengthen Hezbollah’s support within Lebanon and the Arab world, making it highly counterproductive. Whatever the morality of an intense bombing campaign, it is a highly effective of defeating a state actor and an highly ineffective way of defeating a stateless terrorist group. In light of that, the Lebanon bombing strikes me as more gratuitious than the bombing of Belgrade, even if the overall damage is comparable.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
Popular support is a risk I think Israel is willing to take if it means they can cut off Hezbollah’s supply routes.

As to Civilians: I wouldn’t be surprised if some portion are being held hostage by Hezbollah due to Hezbollah’s belief that Israel, being "weak and decadent and Evil-Oppressor-Jews", will refrain from doing what’s necessary simply because Hezbollah chooses to wash its hands in the blood of Lebanese civilians.
 
Written By: Dave
URL: http://
Really? You can’t think of any reason? It’s human nature to be reticent about leaving behind everything you own in the world.
Fair enough. Perhaps a better way of saying it is "I can’t think of any rational reason" for anyone not connected with Hezbollah to remain behind.
The old and the infirm stay behind. Those without transportation or a place to go often stay behind. And it doesn’t help when the major highways, roads, and ports have been bombed.
We’re not talking great distances here. We’re talking about a 12 swath in the south of the country and the south of Beirut. Place to go? North. That is if your priority is the safety of you and your family. Worries about "where to stay" should be of secondary concern to a rational actor.
First, while I see your point about hypocrisy, isn’t it possible that both the bombing of Belgrade and Lebanon were disproportionate?
Not really. If Israel were hitting all of Lebanon and all of Beirut simultaneously, leaving no relative safe zones in either the country or city, then yes, I could buy into the disproportionate response argument. However, the Beirut airport is a good example of why its difficult to buy into it now. When Israel struck the facility it didn’t destroy it. It made the runways unusable. Obviously that means you can’t land or take off there. But they could have just as easily obliterated the place. They accomplished their mission of denying Hezbollah resupply by air. But their denial was proportional to the mission. Obliteration of the airport would have been disproportional.
Whatever the morality of an intense bombing campaign, it is a highly effective of defeating a state actor and an highly ineffective way of defeating a stateless terrorist group.
They went from being a "stateless terrorist group" to a part of a state with the last election in Lebanon. More importantly, however, is the fact that Israel has little choice, tactically, than to respond militarily since that is the only effective means of destroying Hezbollah’s means of attacking them. To this point, I think their attacks, for the most part, have been focused where they need to be focused militarily. Before you can take an enemy out in detail you have to remove certain of his capabilities. You want to deny him communication, you want to attack his ability to command and control and you want to attack his ability to reinforce, resupply and move at will. Then you isolate and destroy.

That’s precisely what the IDF is doing at the moment. And as far as I can tell from afar, they’re doing a reasonably good job. That doesn’t mean it is fun to watch or that I want it to go on forever, but it does mean that given what they have to do to secure themselves from future attacks, I see nothing disproportionate in their response right now.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Oh please. Those people living in the Hezbollah area of Lebannon aren’t living in Lebannon, they’re living in Hezbollastan- and they know it. Hell, they ELECT Hezbollah to govt. posts.

There’s civilians....and then there’s civilians, know what I’m sayin?
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
AL,
Whatever the morality of an intense bombing campaign, it is a highly effective of defeating a state actor and an highly ineffective way of defeating a stateless terrorist group.
If the goal is to defeat an opponent purely by a bombing campaign I would agree. However the IAF campaign is designed to support a ground attack and degrade various nodes of support. You can question its political wisdom, but it is highly effective at doing what they are trying to do.

I would turn it around. The Belgrade bombing was less defensible. NATO was unwilling to commit significant ground forces and instead tried to bomb instead. This allowed the Serbs to go about there business and then negotiate peace after the fact. The bombing was not effective at stopping the Serbs from carrying out their atrocities, though it contributed to the eventual fall of Milosovic. It was effective in that regard because it caused hardship for civilians and led to discontent. Because we were unwilling to commit ground troops we chose a path that led to more bombing that killed and wounded civilians, and allowed more atrocities against civilians by the Serbs.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
They went from being a "stateless terrorist group" to a part of a state with the last election in Lebanon. More importantly, however, is the fact that Israel has little choice, tactically, than to respond militarily since that is the only effective means of destroying Hezbollah’s means of attacking them.
But there’s still an enormous difference. The bombing of Belgrade was intended to get Milosevich out of power. Though Hezbollah has some parliament seats in the Lebanese government, they do not control the government. Israel’s goal is not to have the Hezbollah members of the government step down.

I’m not saying that Israel isn’t justified in responding militarily to the threat posed by Hezbollah. I’m just questioning the wisdom (and by extention the morality) of a broad bombing campaign under the circumstances. In war, actions that put civilians at risk have to be taken from time to time. This is a sad reality of war. But those actions become very hard to justify when they appear to be counterproductive. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Israeli war plan really will defang Hezbollah. But I fear that even if Israel manages to kill most of the current Hezbollah fighters, its tactics will backfire. A new wave of fighters will quickly replace the old ones as soon as Israel leaves, and I fear that the apparent disproportionality of Israel’s response will only serve to further radicalize the population and increase support for Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and elsewhere. I think Israel clearly had the high moral ground at the onset of these hostilities. They were attacked. Even their Arab neighbors could see this. But now, I fear the Israeli response has ceded that high-ground, if not objectively, than at least in the eyes of much of the world. Fair or not, that strikes me as counterproductive to Israeli interests.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
Interesting article, McQ.

I don’t think I correctly understand the "disproportionate response" condemnation that’s been floating around. If you flip it, the truly proportionate response would be firing untargeted rockets 1:1 into southern Lebanon. Wouldn’t that be condemned even more?

What "proportionate response" scenarios are envisioned by those who condemn Israel’s current response? I haven’t yet found an answer to that, but I would genuinely be interested to read them if anyone has links.
 
Written By: Scout
URL: http://
A new wave of fighters will quickly replace the old ones as soon as Israel leaves, and I fear that the apparent disproportionality of Israel’s response will only serve to further radicalize the population and increase support for Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and elsewhere. I think Israel clearly had the high moral ground at the onset of these hostilities. They were attacked. Even their Arab neighbors could see this. But now, I fear the Israeli response has ceded that high-ground, if not objectively, than at least in the eyes of much of the world. Fair or not, that strikes me as counterproductive to Israeli interests.
Fine. Next time an unguided rocket hits haifa, Israel should respond proportinately, say by just raining a few shells down on civilian town. Or when a soldier is kidnapped by a cross border incursion, the proportinate response should be to send a commando team and kidnap the local mayor I suppose.

How f*cking stupid.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
How f*cking stupid.
Nice. Look, Shark, you’re missing the point. This is not about comparing tactics. No serious person is defending Hezbollah or its tactics. But just because Hezbellah is committing war crimes, doesn’t mean that ANY Israeli response ipso facto justifiable or helpful to Israeli interests. Surely you don’t think Israel would be justified in nuking Lebanon do you? And surely you see how counterproductive that would be? So there is a line. The question is whether Israel’s current strategy has crossed over that line. For me, the answer to that question depends upon whether this bombing campaign is likely to lead to positive results. Because it seems counterproductive to me, I therefore question whether it is justifiable. The only way to justify a strategy that risks civilian casualties is by pointing to the benefits that will ultimately be achieved by pursuing that strategy. Right now, I’m not seeing how the cost/benefit analysis favors Israel. This strategy strikes me as counterproductive.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
Though Hezbollah has some parliament seats in the Lebanese government, they do not control the government.
But unless I missed it, that wasn’t your argument. Your argument was they are a stateless terrorist group. However, their presence in a state’s parliament argues against that POV.
I’m just questioning the wisdom (and by extention the morality) of a broad bombing campaign under the circumstances.
I guess we have a different view of what constitutes a "broad bombing campaign". While it may be intense, an air campaign which now concentrates itself in the south of the country and in the south of Beirut isn’t what I’d consider to be broad. That would encompass the entire country and, given reports, that’s simply not what is happening.
But I fear that even if Israel manages to kill most of the current Hezbollah fighters, its tactics will backfire. A new wave of fighters will quickly replace the old ones as soon as Israel leaves, and I fear that the apparent disproportionality of Israel’s response will only serve to further radicalize the population and increase support for Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and elsewhere.
I’m not sure how you further radicalize a group which has, as it’s primary goal, the utter destruction of Israel. While you’re probably correct that new fighters will fill the ranks, I’m sure Israel understands that as well. The point here is to degrade their offensive capability to the point that they’re militarily ineffective for the short term and hope to find a long-term solution (such as a real peacekeeping force in the area that will maintain a buffer and actively police it and confront any group that violates it).

Look, any war is sad, but what has to be kept in the forefront here is that it wasn’t Israel which initiated this and, given the weapons being used, Israel has little choice if it wants to secure its citizens, but to confront and attempt to destroy Hezbollah’s capability to strike at them as it is now.
I think Israel clearly had the high moral ground at the onset of these hostilities. They were attacked. Even their Arab neighbors could see this. But now, I fear the Israeli response has ceded that high-ground, if not objectively, than at least in the eyes of much of the world. Fair or not, that strikes me as counterproductive to Israeli interests.
I’ve been discussing that danger for quite some time now, however, I’ve also come to realize that, for the most part, Israel has no real choice here. It must do what it thinks is necessary militarily to secure its citizens.

The problem is Hezbollah.

Where we will find out if there has been any change is after the war and how the Arabs deal with that organization. It is only then that we’ll be able to assess whether the outrage being vented now by Arab states is for internal consumption and they move to help defang Hezbollah, or whether it’s business as usual. If it’s business as usual, I’m not sure how Israel is any worse of than it is now.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
What "proportionate response" scenarios are envisioned by those who condemn Israel’s current response? I haven’t yet found an answer to that, but I would genuinely be interested to read them if anyone has links.
I think most of the problem resides in the fact that a majority of those commenting and offering opinion don’t have a clue about how such a military campaign has to be waged in order to remove the threat Israel faces.

So Israel is faced with a choice. Pay attention to the uninformed world condemnation and withdraw before the job is done, or ignore it and finish the job. My sense is they’ve opted for the latter, since, in times past, when they did the former, they ended up suffering again for doing so.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
But unless I missed it, that wasn’t your argument. Your argument was they are a stateless terrorist group.
No, my argument was that the objective behind the bombing of Yugoslavia and the bombing of Lebanon are totally different. In Yugoslavia, we were trying to bring about regime change. Getting Milosevic out of power was our strategic goal. Israel does not have the same goal, because Hezbollah does not control the Lebanese government. The problem is the group itself, not the leadership of the country. That’s an enormous difference, which makes comparisons to Yugoslavia inapt.
I’m not sure how you further radicalize a group which has, as it’s primary goal, the utter destruction of Israel.
I’m not talking about the radicalizing of Hezbollah. I’m talking about the further radicalizing of the surrounding population that gives Hezbollah comfort and support and from which Hezbollah recruits new fighters. Hezbollah is popular in Southern Lebanon. It is not in Israel’s interests to make them even more popular. This is the classic conundrum in fighting extremists. On the one hand you have to try to attack and neutralize them, but on the other hand, you have to try to do so in a way that doesn’t create even more of them. It’s a very difficult and delicate balancing act, and I fear Israel’s response so far has been too blunt and near-sighted.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
I think, AL, that if you assume from the get-go that Israel cannot defang Hizb’allah, then all of your conclusions follow.

That is, if you assume that Israel cannot defang or nullify Hizb’allah, then any casualties they inflict are, in a sense, for naught.

But I would disagree with that starting assumption. A Hizb’allah that has lost many of its best cadres (b/c they’re fighting to hold territory, rather than maintain an army in being), a Hizb’allah that has a badly degraded command and control structure (which is actually quite important for an insurgency), a Hizb’allah that has lost many of its best weapons either from losses in combat or in transit, is a Hizb’allah that has far fewer resources to hold sway over the Lebanese in the south.

If you really believe that the folks in southern Lebanon aren’t really Hizb’allah supporters, then taking away its (Hizb’allah’s) guns and structure is the best way of allowing the Lebanese to determine their own fate. If you don’t believe that the Lebanese are opposed to Hizb’allah, then destroying a well-armed faction is still a useful thing.

Wretchard at Belmont Club has much more on this.
 
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
Israel does not have the same goal, because Hezbollah does not control the Lebanese government. The problem is the group itself, not the leadership of the country. That’s an enormous difference, which makes comparisons to Yugoslavia inapt.
I’m not sure why the differing goals are relevant to the way this story is being framed. It seems as though you’d be satisfied with Israel’s response if they declared regime change was their goal because the Lebanese government is complicit in the Hezbollah attacks and thus could then find their response proportional as you apparently do that in Yugoslavia.

That’s not how the response is being framed right now. The point isn’t about the objective, it is about the collateral damage, aka, civilian deaths. And in that frame, the comparison is very apt.
I’m talking about the further radicalizing of the surrounding population that gives Hezbollah comfort and support and from which Hezbollah recruits new fighters. Hezbollah is popular in Southern Lebanon.
Maybe I stated it badly, but what "further radicalization"? Without provocation, Hezbollah built the force it now is fighting Israel with. Why would this battle change or increase that dynamic when it appears they were able to radicalize the population sufficiently within the intervening years of conflict to put this force together.

If you’re talking about those on the margin, I’m not convinced there are that many on the margin, at least in that particular area.
It is not in Israel’s interests to make them even more popular.
Apparently an active Israel isn’t necessary for that to happen, that’s my point.
On the one hand you have to try to attack and neutralize them, but on the other hand, you have to try to do so in a way that doesn’t create even more of them. It’s a very difficult and delicate balancing act, and I fear Israel’s response so far has been too blunt and near-sighted.
Again, I don’t see it. Apparently, just Israel’s existence is enough to do what you fear their action may result in happening. It is a function of a tribal honor society under the spell of radical fundamentalist religion which has produced a virulent hate for an enemy and calls for that enemy’s utter destruction. I don’t think Israel has the luxury of worrying about whether a few more will decide to join the militant wing of Hezbollah or not, and my guess is they aren’t particularly worried about it. I guess what I’m saying is the threat will be there in siginificant numbers whether Israel does anything or not.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Nice. Look, Shark, you’re missing the point. This is not about comparing tactics. No serious person is defending Hezbollah or its tactics. But just because Hezbellah is committing war crimes, doesn’t mean that ANY Israeli response ipso facto justifiable or helpful to Israeli interests. Surely you don’t think Israel would be justified in nuking Lebanon do you?
Justified? Actually....maybe. Iran and Syria also. Advisable? Well, of course not.

I agree 100% with you that Israel has to juggle many competing aims in this. That said, the world popularity contest has to be the least of them at this stage.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
the truly proportionate response would be firing untargeted rockets 1:1 into southern Lebanon.

No, Scout. On the surface that might be an equivalent response, but it would not be proportionate. As I have argued elsewhere, the correct metric of proportionality is not the size of the explosion or the body count. The whole concept of proportionate response is psychological. If there were some sort of terrorometer or Index of Security that we could measure for Israel, the proportionate response would be based on that number, because each Hezbollah rocket is meant to be both a deadly explosion and a psychological weapon against civilians (the very definition of terrorism).

Of course, this misses the point that Israel has no incentive to be strictly proportionate in their response. To engage in psychological warfare against Hezbollah is a losing proposition. Israel is in a position where they can measure their success, and whether they have gone too far, against only one thing: future attacks against Israel. By that metric, their goal has to be to make all concerned nations fear future Hezbollah strikes at least as much as Israel does. If Israel packs it up and goes home with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the US or the UN seeing the whole affair as proportionate, then Hezbollah will be encouraged to engage in similar rocket attacks and cross-border raids in the future. Because of this, I have to disagree with McQ about whether the response is yet disproportionate. It is.

The real question facing Israel is whether there is a point of diminishing returns, and whether they can find it. A response that is so disproportionate as to make Lebanon, Syria, and Iran act as though the terrorists are a detriment is also a response that is so disproportionate as to enlist yet more extremists into the terrorist camps, and turn Western sympathies more to the Arabs. It seems pretty impossible to get enough of the former without getting too much of the latter. So we will probably see this all over yet again a few years hence, as Israel keeps trying to find that perfect balance.

 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
I think, AL, that if you assume from the get-go that Israel cannot defang Hizb’allah, then all of your conclusions follow.

That is, if you assume that Israel cannot defang or nullify Hizb’allah, then any casualties they inflict are, in a sense, for naught.
I would actually turn that around. I think that in order to justify what Israel is currently doing, you have to assume that Israel will in fact be able to defang or nullify Hezbollah. And I think that’s a highly dubious assumption. Israel occupied Southern Lebanon for decades and could not accomplish this feat. Moreover, to the extent this campaign increases support for Hezbollah within Lebanon, it will only lead to the group coming back in even bigger numbers and with more influence.

I’m not sure why the differing goals are relevant to the way this story is being framed. It seems as though you’d be satisfied with Israel’s response if they declared regime change was their goal because the Lebanese government is complicit in the Hezbollah attacks and thus could then find their response proportional as you apparently do that in Yugoslavia.

McQ, this has nothing to do with framing. It’s not about what Israel declares their goal to be. It’s about what their goal actually is. They don’t want to dislodge Lebabon’s current leadership. They want to destroy the Hezbollah militants. Everyone knows that. The question is whether this sort of bombing campaign is likely to acheive that goal.

As for this:
Why would this battle change or increase that dynamic when it appears they were able to radicalize the population sufficiently within the intervening years of conflict to put this force together.
Please. The world isn’t binary. The fact that Hezbollah currently has the support of a "sufficient" number of people in Southern Lebanon does not mean that the population can’t be further radicalized or that such radicalization doesn’t matter. It’s all a matter of degree. A Hezbollah that enjoys the unflinching support of 100% of the population is more dangerous than a Hezbollah that enjoys the conditional support of 52% of the population.

That’s why any military strategy must think long term and must consider root causes. I’m not saying Israel should refrain from attacking Hezbollah militarily. I’m saying that there’s a point at which the use of force can be counterproductive in a conflict such as this. Like I said, this requires a delicate balancing act. It’s not fair that this is the case, but it is.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
AnonymousLiberal, you worry that Israel’s response has been too blunt and near-sighted, and that it will be a recruiting boon for Hezbollah. You say, to the extent this campaign increases support for Hezbollah within Lebanon, it will only lead to the group coming back in even bigger numbers and with more influence.

McQ responds that they seem to be recruiting just fine without Israel taking any military action. The recruits won’t stop joining if Israel has a lesser response. And while A.L. has a point, McQ is right on the underlying reality. The danger isn’t that bored Arab teens will become enraged and committed to wiping Israel off the map. That is a given.

However, Israel does have something to lose by going too far. We all know that Hezbollah is a sock puppet for Glenn Greenwald Iran, and the amount of support that they get from Iran and Syria will fluctuate based on how far Israel goes. The danger isn’t that Hezbollah will get more bodies, it’s that they will get better and better technology at a faster and faster rate. Trying to prevent that is Israel’s goal right now.
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
On the surface that might be an equivalent response, but it would not be proportionate. As I have argued elsewhere, the correct metric of proportionality is not the size of the explosion or the body count.
Thanks, Wulf. The explanations of proportionality I had seen were of the type you mention in your article — the size of the explosion or the body count — which I guess is what many people are using.
 
Written By: Scout
URL: http://
That’s why any military strategy must think long term and must consider root causes.
Not at all. That may be something for political strategists, but it isn’t a job for military strategists. At the point that the military is committed, those thoughts are irrelevant, or at least greatly diminished — at least for the military.
McQ, this has nothing to do with framing. It’s not about what Israel declares their goal to be. It’s about what their goal actually is. They don’t want to dislodge Lebabon’s current leadership. They want to destroy the Hezbollah militants. Everyone knows that. The question is whether this sort of bombing campaign is likely to acheive that goal.
I disagree AL. It is all about framing and it is the framing which is driving the demand for cease fire. The framing is coming from the media which is calculating the proportionality of the response by comparing damage and casualties on both sides. It is that which is sparking the world’s demand that Israel commit to a cease fire.

And yes, I understand the Israeli goal, but I’m still not clear as to whether you feel a different goal would make their response ’proportional’ or not (given your point about Belgrade). I’m still not sure how the Israeli goal is relevant to the way the story is being framed and reported and driving the world’s opinion.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
If Israel packs it up and goes home with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the US or the UN seeing the whole affair as proportionate, then Hezbollah will be encouraged to engage in similar rocket attacks and cross-border raids in the future. Because of this, I have to disagree with McQ about whether the response is yet disproportionate. It is.
Based on what, Wulf, because I have to admit you lost me here? If Israel packs up now and goes home, then yes, I’d agree ... but Israel packing up and going home now won’t settle or really ameliorate the problem at all. So while it could then be deemed "proportionate", it would be ineffective as well. I don’t think they’ll worry about whether others deem their actions as proportionate if, at the end of it, they can be reasonably assured their citizens are safe.

It goes back to A.L’s point about goals which I’m not disputing per se (instead I’m trying to point out that the goals A.L. is identifying aren’t what is being used to frame the "proportionate/disproportionate" argument). Instead I’m using the Israeli goal to support an argument their response has been proportionate, militarily, to the threat.

Now, you can make all sorts of arguments concerning the politics of this (and maybe those should be broken out from the military response), but militarily, what they are doing appears to be a proportional response to the threat they’re facing.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
— the size of the explosion or the body count — which I guess is what many people are using.
That’s my point, Scout ... that is how the proportionality argument is being framed. And it is wrong.

Proportionality should be measured against the threat.

Nuking a guy firing across the border would be a disproportionate response to the threat.

However, what Israel has done to this point, given the threat, has not been disproportionate, and, you’ll find many military people who will argue it hasn’t been aggressive enough to this point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Sorry, McQ, I missed your first response to me. Thanks for that answer and this follow-up.
 
Written By: Scout
URL: http://
And yes, I understand the Israeli goal, but I’m still not clear as to whether you feel a different goal would make their response ’proportional’ or not (given your point about Belgrade). I’m still not sure how the Israeli goal is relevant to the way the story is being framed and reported and driving the world’s opinion.
Let me see if I can put it another way. Any military strategy that involves a high likelihood of collateral civilian casualties is going to be subjected to heightened scrutiny. Ultimately, people are going to form opinions about whether such casualties are justified based on a cost/benefit analysis, i.e., did the bombing campaign further important objectives? If not, then it was, almost by definition, a disproportionate use of force. I submit to you that the reason a lot of people (like myself) are discussing the "disproportionality" of the Israeli strategy is because we don’t see what good is going to come from it. You can criticize the level of force used in Belgrade, but not the logic behind it. That bombing campaign was designed to bring Milosevich’s government to its knees. And it worked. In Lebanon, however, it’s not clear what the Israelis are hoping to achieve by their bombing campaign. Hezbollah will never surrender, and any victory is likely to by pyrrhic.

I think we may be arguing past each other because we are using the term "disproportionate" to mean different things. I realize that news channels compare civilian deaths in Lebanon and Israel. But I think the souring of worldwide opinion has less to do with those numbers and more to do with the inability to understand what objectives Israel thinks it is furthing by engaging in such a wide-spread bombing campaign. If people thought this sort of bombing would actually improve the situation and defeat Hezbullah, they would have far less of a problem with it.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
AL,

It seems to me you are arguing the wrong point. If your point is that this is a delicate balancing act and that Israel may not be executing that well, then that is arguable and the Bosnian campaign would be inapt.

That hardly goes to McQ’s original point about selective outrage. Such fine distinctions are not what the outrage stems from, because your point is not one of outrage, but disagreeing with the conduct of the campaigns wisdom.The outrage comes from the very idea of a sustained air assault causing civilian casualties. There the Bosnian example is very apt, Bosnia by that metric would be far less defensible. It was more widespread and less discriminate and could have been shortened with other tactics. That doesn’t make that campaign unjustified either, but that is what people are outraged about, not that a few bombs less might have been wiser given the fine balancing act necessary.

I also doubt that most people would have less of a problem with it if it were likely to be successful, or to put it another way, that isn’t who McQ is addressing if its true.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Based on what, Wulf, because I have to admit you lost me here?

I am saying that Israel cannot afford to have a proportionate response, because its current action is not just about wrongs they have already suffered. Their response is not going to be proportionate to the attacks; It will (as you said) be proportionate to the threat.
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
Apologies, that should have said that their actionsare not going to be proportionate to the attacks; They will (as you said) be proportionate to the threat.

My whole point is that it is not best viewed as just a "response" at this point.



 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
It seems to me you are arguing the wrong point. If your point is that this is a delicate balancing act and that Israel may not be executing that well, then that is arguable and the Bosnian campaign would be inapt.
Perhaps you’re right, Lance, because that is my point. It’s possible McQ and I are really just arguing past each other.

That said, I think that my point is the one driving most serious criticism of Israel’s actions. The Western powers, particularly the European ones, are not critical of Israel’s actions right now because of some imbalance in the body count. They’re critical of Israel because much of the bombing seems counterproductive and therefore gratuitous. And if that is indeed their gripe, then it is not hypocritical to have been in favor of the bombing in Belgrade and opposed to what is happening in Lebanon.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
That’s why any military strategy must think long term and must consider root causes
Since the "root cause" of the hatred is the existance of the Jews in Israel in the 1st place, whatr’s the proper military response? National day of suicide, or maybe an orderly march into the sea?
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
They’re critical of Israel because much of the bombing seems counterproductive and therefore gratuitous. And if that is indeed their gripe, then it is not hypocritical to have been in favor of the bombing in Belgrade and opposed to what is happening in Lebanon.
No, the western powers (note: NOT the US though) are critical because it’s stirring up a hornets nest. It’s the "quiet" syndrome- it would be so much easier if Israel would just lie back and take it instead of causing all this unrest and forcing hard choices and tasks.

Diarming Hezbollah is hard. For Europe, dealing with a riled up Muslim population- that you already fear anyway- is hard. Tut-tutting while watching the evening news about a rocket attack in Haifa, maybe throwing in a "something should be done about that" is so much easier.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I think we may be arguing past each other because we are using the term "disproportionate" to mean different things.
I don’t think we are using the term to mean different things as much as applying it to different things.

I think you and I, to repeat my example to Scout, would agree nuking a guy firing a rifle across a border, would be a disproportionate response. However, we wouldn’t disagree, most likely if we sent a platoon out to take him out, even though the odds would be 40:1. That’s because, militarily, you have to use a certain level of unit to safely accomplish your mission (ok, you could probably do it with a squad and only make it 10:1 but you get my point).

That’s not the issue in my mind. As I’ve stated, while your point about goals is valid, it isn’t how the proportionality argument is being driven in this instance. It is being driven by comparisons of casualties and damage. The argument is the damage caused and the casualties inflicted on civilian areas is all out of proportion with those suffered by Israel.

I’m also arguing a separate issue as well. I’m arguing that given the threat that Israel faces from Hezbollah and its rockets, its military response has been proportionate to the threat (you have to do all the stuff they’re doing in order to neutralize the threat).
But I think the souring of worldwide opinion has less to do with those numbers and more to do with the inability to understand what objectives Israel thinks it is furthing by engaging in such a wide-spread bombing campaign. If people thought this sort of bombing would actually improve the situation and defeat Hezbullah, they would have far less of a problem with it.
If true, that speaks to another point I’ve made: the basic ignorance among most of what it takes to neutralize Hezbollah’s present military capability and threat. What Israel needs to do to counter that concern is to brief, generally, the why’s of it’s current campaign.

"We took out the runway at Beirut International because intelligence has shown that Hezbollah’s suppliers bring in the bulk of their weaponry by that method. We didn’t destroy the airport totally because it wasn’t necessary in order to stop such supplies from coming in" or something like that. Do that across the board and it would address your concerns. However that is a political decision, not a military one.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I am saying that Israel cannot afford to have a proportionate response, because its current action is not just about wrongs they have already suffered. Their actions are not going to be proportionate to the attacks; It will (as you said) be proportionate to the threat.
Thanks.

But I’m still confused. ;)

If we agree that their attacks will be proportionate to the threat, then how can they not "afford to have a proportionate response" unless you’re hanging "proportionate" in that case on meaning damage and casualties. I have a feeling that’s what you’re saying but it’s still not clear to me for some reason.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Diarming Hezbollah is hard. For Europe, dealing with a riled up Muslim population- that you already fear anyway- is hard. Tut-tutting while watching the evening news about a rocket attack in Haifa, maybe throwing in a "something should be done about that" is so much easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree. I don’t mean to defend the European position across the board. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. Israel’s strategy here is rather perplexing. I think most Americans (including myself) instinctively symphathize with Israel in its ongoing struggle with Islamic extremism. But that doesn’t mean we should refuse to consider the possibility that Israel is committing a strategic error. That’s all I’m saying.

This particular conflict began with an unprovoked attack on Israel by Hezbollah. Everyone gets that, even those powers who don’t instinctively symphathize with the Israelis. But in this case, it may well be objectively the case that Israel overreacted, at least from a strategic standpoint. In other words it might not accurate this time around to chalk up all criticism of Israel to anti-semiticism or wishy-washy moral relativism.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
If true, that speaks to another point I’ve made: the basic ignorance among most of what it takes to neutralize Hezbollah’s present military capability and threat.
I don’t think that’s the problem. If anything, critics of Israel strategy believe neutralizing Hezbollah is even harder than Israel apparently does. What we have is essentially a means/ends disagreement, i.e, people like me think that Israel’s current strategy isn’t likely to achieve its goal of neutralizing Hezbollah.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
McQ, as far as I can tell, it’s my fault. I am not being quite as clear as I would like to be, but you see exactly what I am trying to say, so I think we’re good. I’m off for more coffee...
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
I think I see where McQ and AL might be talking past each other.

McQ is discussing the short-term goal of neutralizing Hezbollah’s present military capability.

AL is discussing the long-term goal of neutralizing Hezbollah.

I may have that wrong, but that’s how it appears to me.
 
Written By: Scout
URL: http://
You may be right, Scout.

McQ, I’ve gotta go, but I appreciate you taking the time to engage my comments. It was a fruitful discussion.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
Enjoyed it myself, AL. Let’s do it again.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think just as the Hizballah guys can play the "look were crazy" card so can Israel.

By going disproportionately, they achieve the following:

Better Deterrence (especially by showing commitment to escalate.)

More Public Opinion: Yes, it might be "bad" public opinion, but just like the terrorists, bad news is still news, and and now the world has to pay attention to this Lebanon problem.





 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

 
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