Saturday, January 17, 2009

Proportional response

Here is a perfect example of what I was musing about in my last post. The writer of this piece is Michael Byers, a far left, and in my opinion, a hair short of being classified as a wingnut, university professor from lotusland (B.C.). Maybe it's something in the water on the west coast.

He writes often on the subject of war and what I have gleaned from reading him is that his operational bias (we all have one) is that war itself is a crime. He sent a letter to the International Court in the Hague asking that Canada be investigated for war crimes in Afghanistan.

Now war is a terrible thing and ought not to be initiated lightly. As one famous American General put it, "It is a good thing war is so terrible, else we may become overly fond of it." But the action is not itself a crime.

We find Byers waxing on about "proportionality" and how Israel is not practicing that because: the IDF is shelling and bombing in densely populated districts; the IDF is using white phosphorus shells; the IDF has hit deliberately U.N. assets; the IDF does not consider the possibility of civilian casulties when it strikes. He also dismisses the years of rocketing of Israel, contenting himself with only the attacks that have occurred since the end of the ceasefire.

If Byers wrote the rules of war in accordance with foregoing, Israel would have no defence.

What Byers doesn't say is that there is no evidence that white phosphorus has been used on human targets -- believe me, if it had, we would certainly have heard about it by now. Israel says it uses it to illuminate targets. One would think that a guy who is passionate about proportionality would endorse such a use rather than decry it, since accurate targeting would clearly reduce the possibility of civilian casulties.

Byers does not consider the new, smart weaponry used by Israel, that can look through walls of buildings and that can take out a building without seriously damaging the nearby structures. He sucks and blows at the same time: the IDF is so good at targeting that it can murder U.N. personnel; and, at the same time they are so careless with their bombing and shelling that they kill civilians indiscriminately. Well, which is it?

Byers might be surprised to learn that soldiers die from something called "friendly fire", an accident of war in which your own troops are killed by you. The fact is that once a war is launched people who ought not to get killed will. Some factors simply cannot be controlled to the precision that Byers advocates -- war is not a video game.

George Jonas says proportionality means what it takes to stop the rockets and mortars falling on Israel. In short, the right to self-defence means the right to stop the enemy from attacking you and if that proves to be bloody rather than neat and precise, then so be it.

Anything less is not a right of self-defence.

Given the population density of Gaza, it is remarkable that the death toll for Gazas after more then 3 weeks of sustained fighting is only about 1,000. By comparison, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003 and the campaign took 19 days. In that period, 9,200 combatants were killed and 7,300 civilians lost their lives.

I don't believe Israel is going over the top here and if the U.N. doesn't want to risk its personnel, it should get the hell out of Gaza until the shooting stops. It does that in other hotspots in the world.

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