So the Israelis and the Palestinians are at it again. Here it is, a nice sunny summer, and they’ve got nothing better to do than try (none too successfully, in the case of the Palestinians) to kill one another. Somethings never change. Another thing that never changes is the chorus of critics of Israel lamenting it “disproportionate” attacks on Palestinians. Anytime Israel goes to war with its neighbours, it’s accused of inflicting “disproportionate” casualties on their civilian populations or, and it amounts to the same thing, of a “disproportionate” response, most notably by the British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Continue reading “A Question for Israel’s Critics – What Number of Dead Palestinians is Proportionate?”
Walter Russell Mead has an interesting (if wrong) piece on the attitudes of the American public vis-a-vis the Gaza war. The gist of his argument is that Americans do not object to Israeli actions in Gaza, because they reject the concept of proportionality in war:
In any case, when Israel brings the big guns and fast planes against Gaza’s popguns and low tech missiles, a great many Americans see nothing but common sense at work. These Americans aren’t mad about ‘disproportionate’ Israeli violence in Gaza because they don’t really accept the concept of proportionality in war. They think that if you have jus ad bellum, and rocket strikes from Gaza are definitely that, you get something close to a blank check when it comes to jus in bello.
Nice theory, as far as it goes. Mind you, there’s an alternative, and I would suggest, more plausible, explanation. It isn’t that Americans reject the notional of proportionality, it’s that they don’t believe (quite reasonably, in my view) that Israel’s actions in Gaza are disproportionate to the military goals that it seeks to achieve. Continue reading “Notes on the Gaza War Part III – Walter Russell Mead and Proportionality in War”