karl_lembke (karl_lembke) wrote,

Terry Karney on Israel

Terry Karney has returned to his soapbox. He does not approve of Israel's response to invasion, abduction, and missile fire.

...But the big news is Lebanon. On first blush it seems to me Isreal has vastly overstepped reasonable response. The core argument seems to be that Hezbollah's being, "allowed" to remain in Lebanon is tacit support for them on the part of the people and the Gov't and so those groups are guilty, and Israel is justified in killing/destroying them by way of response for the provocation of a pair of soldiers being captured.

On it's face this is farcial. If the LAPD were to make this argument to justify wiping out a couple of city block in South Central because the Crips, or Bloods, had killed a cop (or two) we'd condemn it out of hand.

But no. We've been treated to no small number of justifications for this; despite it being patently unjust, as well as a violation of the laws and practices of war (which requires that responses to provocation be proportional; outlaws reprisal and collective punishment,[which is being practiced, as reported in the Jerusalem Post] the taking of hostages, or the deliberate targetting of civilians).
This is an appeal to what has become the media's vocabulary word of the week: "proportionality". However, proportionality may not be the refuge Israel's detractors may think it is. Jason Van Steenwyk offers this:

...the doctrine of proportionality, under Jus in Bello, applies not to the level of force used by the provocateur at all. Instead, the use of force must be proportional to the military objective. In other words, the force applied must be sufficient to attain the desired military objective. (There is no point at all in applying force insufficient to attain the desired military objective.)

If the desired military objective is to permanently eject Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, push them out of Katyusha range from Israeli population centers, and destroy the capability of Hezbollah to wage war - then the Israelis are wholly within the Jus in Bello doctrine of proportionality so far.
This is an issue so fundamental that...
...so fundamental that they are among the first things covered in the freshman year of any ROTC candidate...
Another piece, saying much the same thing, can be found here.

With respect to the jus in bello, or justice in war, proportionality means that the amount and type of force used must be such that unjust consequences do not exceed the legitimate objectives. Compliance with this principle requires an affirmative answer to the question: "If I take this military action, will more good than harm result from it?" To this equation, one must not forget -- as the critics tend to -- the many lives that will be protected by acting vigorously and decisively against the aggressor. Our response to Taliban-launched mayhem in America, massive military responses against an unrelenting and fanatical aggressor in Afghanistan, was proportionate. So is Israel's. The Jewish state's counterattack, focused on targets such as Hezbollah TV and radio studios, and the infrastructure (airports, bridges, highways) used by Hezbollah to wage war, has been absolutely classical.
Maybe they have it wrong, in which case, any ROTC candidate should be able to point them to an authoritative source for the straight dope.

Alan Dershowitz (who also thinks torture might be acceptable, if we made a legal mechanism for getting it approved; by warrant, beforehand, but I digress) seems to think this is perfectly normal. In fact he seems to think that someone who makes a threat is actually asking for consent, and that any such consent is voluntary.

Hezbollah and Hamas militants, on the other hand, are difficult to distinguish from those “civilians” who recruit, finance, harbor and facilitate their terrorism. Nor can women and children always be counted as civilians, as some organizations do. Terrorists increasingly use women and teenagers to play important roles in their attacks. The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit.
Ponder the logical (and from recent events, sadly not absurd) the way this works. By giving notice that I have a problem with your cousin, who happens to be staying with you, and that I intend to kill him, you, by not giving him up, consented to my killing you when I firebomb your house to get to him. And the damage I do to your house, well you could have avoided that by sending him out.
Of course, a lot winds up being buried in the word "voluntary".
(Here's a link to the article.)

OK, here, as near as I can tell, is what Terry thinks Alan Dershowitz is saying. Terrorists, militants, hostage takers, or whatever you want to call them, are not forcing people to support them, they are asking for consent, which may be freely withheld by all. In other words, he presents Dershowitz' argument as a claim that there are no people who are forced to support those who are attacking Israel, and that Israel can therefore attack civilians in Lebanon with impunity. In fact, Dershowitz makes a more nuanced case, as one would have gathered if the last sentence of the paragraph Terry quotes had been included.
Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims.
The fact that Dershowitz acknowledges the presence of innocent victims among those who remained behind would appear inconsistent with Terry's claims.
Indeed, my reading of Dershowitz is that he's exploring a continuum of guilt, wherein some offer support because they have no other choice, but others offer more support than they have been forced to. He compares this with an example from criminal law, particularly the Fall River rape case, in which:

...there were several categories of morally and legally complicit individuals: those who actually raped the woman; those who held her down; those who blocked her escape route; those who cheered and encouraged the rapists; and those who could have called the police but did not.

No rational person would suggest that any of these people were entirely free of moral guilt, although reasonable people might disagree about the legal guilt of those in the last two categories. Their accountability for rape is surely a matter of degree, as is the accountability for terrorism of those who work with the terrorists.
To cast this as an argument that there is no such thing as an innocent civilian is, IMO, a seriously flawed reading of the article.

Something like a year ago we were hearing Lebabnon's praises sung; because they had engaged in some serious democracy. Now we are seeing the lie given to the idea that democracies don't attack each other (that or one of the two nations involved isn't a democracy)...
"Lie" is a pretty strong word.
In his book, Power Kills, R. J. Rummel counts international conflicts over a span of well over a century. The number of conflicts between liberal democracies is far fewer, both in absolute number and in proportion, than between non-democracies or between democracies and non-democracies. This is statistical fact. Notice, though, this is not to say no democracies wage war on each other, merely that democracies are significantly less likely to do so. Rummel spends the bulk of his book exploring what it is that makes democracies so much more peaceful. (Hint: sticking a polling place in the middle of a totalitarian dictatorship won't make it a peaceful state.)
Nevertheless, given the data in the first chapters of this book, it's hard to support the claim that democracies are less likely to attack each other is a lie.

The fact of the matter is there was no good solution to Israel's problem (the captured soldiers).

The best option, horrible though it might seem, is to admit they've been captured by a hostile force and either consign them to their fate (which would either be hostage, or POW; for reasons of policy Israel holds to the former, though present events make the latter more reasonable).

The other options are to attempt a rescue, negotiate for their release or engage in some form of retaliation.

They opted for the latter, but the problem is they didn't have any real target to engage.
Here we see another interesting choice of vocabulary: "captured".
Soldiers are "captured" in battle, or in enemy territory. In this case, the soldiers were on their home turf, and members of Hezbollah invaded Israeli territory, kidnapped two soldiers, and killed eight others. If the same thing had happened at Camp Pendleton, I have a feeling the US government would be under serious pressure to use force.

I don't hold to the idea that somehow Israel has to be more moral than it's foes. I merely argue it ought to be held to the same standards as anyone else.

So when Israel sends missiles into Lebanon, Terry accuses it of engaging in "collective punishment" in violation of the laws of war, but Hezbollah can lob missiles into Israeli cities with no suggestion that it's engaging in any form of "collective punishment."

Is Israel really committing war crimes?
Here's a piece from the Washington Post, by William M. Arkin. Among other things, he says:
When the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and former war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour raises war crimes and argues that there is "indiscriminate shelling of cities," I guess she is referring to Hezbollah's indiscriminate attacks on Israel. I might not like what Israel is doing, and my personal tendency might be anti-war, but I just don't see war crimes or indiscriminate anything in Israel's conduct.

It seems to me that airpower and Israeli guns, even its attacks on infrastructure to profoundly disrupt Lebanese civilian life, are having an effect. In the south, Hezbollah's capabilities are being depleted and its supply lines cut off. Civilians are being warned. Israel is using the highest technology and employing sophisticated intelligence. Because of the Beirut bombing, the international community is being pushed to pressure external actors to limit their support for Hezbollah.
The author of this piece has dealt with intelligence and defense issues for decades. I think he has at least a little credibility.

Finally, returning to his earlier apparent misunderstanding of "proportionality", we have:

From a practical standpoint it's foolish. There is no way to root out a problem like Hezbollah without going in and rooting them out, building by building; taking and holding ground. If they were doing that, I would say it was an over-reaction to the provocation (just as it would be were the US to sieze Canadian ports of entry because so many terrorists have come to the U.S. through Canada) but it would be understandable, and have some level of both proportion, and (in theory) success.
According to the pieces linked above, the response is, at least arguably, proportionate.

Indeed, since Israel had withdrawn from Lebanon, and Hezbollah had picked this fight, we may conclude that Hezbollah will continue to attack Israel, unless it's completely eliminated. Since Lebanon has demonstrated itself either unable or unwilling to deal with Hezbollah, someone has to. So far, only one party has been willing to take on the job. Certainly, the U.N. peacekeepers spectators haven't done anything to stop the missiles from flying toward Israel.

The current battle with Lebanon may fail. Anything else will certainly fail.
Tags: politics

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