The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Sense of Proportion

Posted by rantingkraut on August 2, 2006

William Hague is apparently in trouble for suggesting that Israel’s response has been somewhat disproportionate. I am having trouble understanding the notion of proportionality in this context.

There are things which Israel is clearly entitled to do: kicking Hezbollah’s ass, wrecking their rockets and obliterating their offices for example. Then there are things it clearly shouldn’t do: Bombing civilian targets of no strategic value and with no connection to Hezbollah, blowing up houses full of kids or UN observations posts for example. In between there are those options where decisions are harder to take such as bombing ports, airports or civilian areas from which Hezbollah operates. Now, it should be clear that Israel has hit a number of those targets it shouldn’t have. Clearly, it deserves to be criticised for this –by its allies as much as anyone else.

Where does all this leave proportionality? Saying that Israel’s response was disproportionate would –if taken literally- suggest that there is some proportion of illegitimate targets one should aim to hit anyway. There isn’t.

In a metaphorical sense, it would suggest that Israel’s response should somehow be commensurate with the severity of Hezbollah’s attack. Arguing this case would simply misunderstand the objective of this war. The IDF is not a domestic police force confronting a criminal. Israel is not out to tell Hezbollah to mend its ways or show more restraint. It went on the attack not to contain a given assault but to destroy Hezbollah as a military force. Such an objective rules out any sense of proportionality: there is no such thing as partial annihilation.

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