Friday, June 26, 2015

Proportionality Nonsense

I can't believe a former high ranking officer can spout nonsense about "proportionality" as a matter of lawful warfare.

This is nonsense:

In the Gaza conflict, Hamas fired 7,000 rockets and mortar shells, killing 6 Israeli civilians.

Israel launched 6,000 air strikes and 50,000 tank and artillery shells, killing 800 Palestinian women and children.

The actions on both sides illustrate the elasticity of the moral concepts underlying the rules for warfare. Hamas launches rockets solely to induce fear and to kill civilians. On the other hand, an Israeli response of 100 to 1 is not proportionate, as it is supposed to be under the just war concept. So what’s going on here? An existential war between enemies who detest each other.

What is Bing West talking about? Mind you, he makes a valid point that our current highly restrictive rules of engagement that accept far fewer civilian casualties than Israel accepted would have to be lifted in a serious conventional war or we'd get hammered. But the issue of proportionality is nonsense that is persistent in its ability to twist the rules of war on their head.

One, intent is a large part of lawful warfare. Hamas intended to kill civilians by launching rockets at civilian targets. That is a war crime no matter how effective they are.

Israel, on the other hand, attempted to kill combatants who surrounded themselves with civilians to deter Israeli attacks or provide a propaganda win when Israel attacks the lawful targets anyway--which is legal.

Then West trots out the "proportionality" nonsense. The argument that one should respond to enemy attacks with firepower proportional to what you've endured.

While West is arguing that Israel shouldn't have killed as many civilians--if all those "children" really weren't underage combatants (also a violation of international law)--isn't his complaint logically satisfied if Hamas simply gets better at killing civilians? If Hamas had killed 100 Israeli civilians, making it a rate of one civilian killed for every 70 rockets fired, would that then finally make Hamas just as guilty as Israel which killed one civilian for every 70 rounds/air strikes?

That's what the proportionality nonsense results in.

And it ignores the point of Israel fighting back. Isn't the purpose of war to achieve an objective? Doesn't a fixation on proportionality mean that Hamas gets to establish the rate at which it can comfortably endure Israeli strikes and just keep going as long as they wish?

Note too, that Israel has a military reason to halt the rocket launches sooner rather than later--their Iron Dome anti-rocket defenses will run out of ammunition if the conflict staggers along unresolved. 

The point of Israeli action was to stop the rocket launches and protect their people--before they ran out of Iron Dome ammunition. As long as Hamas keeps launching rockets, the Israelis haven't used enough force, no?

This reading of "proportionality" is a twisting of the actual law on proportionality which basically holds that if an apartment building houses a sniper, you don't drop a tactical nuke on it to kill the sniper. You are supposed to use levels of force proportional to the threat you face in order to minimize collateral damage.

So again, if the point of the war is to stop Hamas from firing rockets at their civilians, if Hamas continues to fire rockets the force is not yet effective and so not disproportionate to the threat.

Mind you, this doesn't mean Israel did not violate rules of war in targeting. Even though Hamas surrounds itself with civilians on purpose--a violation itself of the rules of war--Israel certainly could have violated the rules of war on purpose or by accident in their targeting decisions.

But noting the disparity in civilian casualties and the rounds fired proves no such war crime at all. It just points out how much Hamas was willing to endure in order to have even a small chance of killing a Jew.

[NOTE: I adjusted my math--I was assured there'd be none of that involved here ...]