Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Proportionality

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 17, 2006

J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss comment:
Word has gotten round to the anti-Israel coalition: the new talking point is "proportionality." ... The terms "proportionality" and its contrary adjectival "disproportionate" have precise meanings within the context of the classical law of war, meanings that won't get Israel's critics the result they wish, even if they engage in constant repetition.
I don't think any 'talking point' was needed; I think it was pretty much a common reaction to think of Israel's response to the kidnappings as excessive.

One certainly wondered how firing rockets into government buildings and kidnapping government officials in Gaza would help find a missing (and presumed kidnapped) Israeli.

When I lost my keys the other day I thought about getting a handgun and shooting up my neighbours house. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and I found my keys the old fashioned way: by looking for them.

Even more to the point, the innocent civilians of Lebanon - the four visiting Canadian schoolchildren, for example, killed in an Israeli air raid - must be wondering about jus ad bellum themselves.

After all, the Lebanese people being slaughtered by Israeli air raids are not the people kidnapping Israeli citizens or firing missiles at Israeli cities.

Since when has it ever been justified in military law to punish the actions of one group by attacking somebody else?

That's a lot like the other time I lost my keys. I spent the afternoon looking for them on the driveway. Someone asked me why I didn't look in the bushes where my keys had fallen. "Well, it's a lot harder to look in there," I explained, "and if anybody moves them across the driveway, I'll be sure to see them here."

The fact is, kidnappings by outlaws or otherwise autonomous groups over which a government has no control, or minimal control, do not constitute good reasons for going to war against those governments.

The principle of agency applies in all applications of the law. If country A feels it has reason to attack country B because of event E, then either (a) B must have caused E, or B must have been able to prevent E.

The victims of Israels attacks over the last few days manifestly fail both conditions. Therefore, they are innocent victims. Therefore, Israel is attacking and killing innocent victims in order to pressure third parties.


See also: Tim Bray, who writes, "To those people, and to anyone who wants to write me to defend, at any level or for any reason, the actions of an aggressor, here's my answer: Want to know the reason children are dying in the Middle East? Look in the mirror."

Hear, hear.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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