Questionable ethics of proportional response

Hamas militants preparing for a Qassam rocket launch

Hamas militants preparing for a Qassam rocket launch

How many rockets need to land in your backyard before you decide that it needs to be stopped? How many blasts need to occur in  markets and malls before you decide that the perpetrators need to be dealt with force and determination? How many neighborhoods need to be terrorized before terrorists are confronted with the full might of the state? These are not hypothetical thought-experiments in ethical behavior. These are the living conditions in Southern Israel!!

On a daily basis, Qassam rockets are fired upon civilian targets. These rockets are admittedly low-grade munitions which have not caused serious damage to Israeli buildings or serious loss-of-life. In ethical terms, does this mean that it is a lesser form of villainy? Hamas is restricted solely by its ability – and not morality – when it comes to the deployment of lethal weaponry. In other words, if Hamas could deploy more lethal weaponry, they would!

In view of this, what is the ethical basis to urge Israel to show restraint? What is the ethical value of restraint? In fact, it is an ethical failure every time restraint is urged when retaliation against Islamic militancy is contemplated.

To characterize Islamic militancy as “resistance” or “territorial struggle” is to not understand Islamic militancy at all. Islamic doctrine unambiguously classifies any non-muslim as a Kafir (or an un-believer). The Jews are among the worst kind for whom special contempt is reserved.

  1. Allah stamped wretchedness upon the Jews because they killed the prophets and disbelieved Allah’s revelations. Koran 2:61
  2. Allah turned the Sabbath-breaking Jews into apes. Koran 2:65, 2.66
  3. Jews are the greediest of all humankind. They’d like to live 1000 years. But they are going to hell. Koran 2:96
  4. Those (Christians and Jews) are they whom Allah hath cursed. Koran 4:52
  5. For the wrongdoing Jews, Allah has prepared a painful doom. 4:160-1
  6. Allah has cursed the Jews and hardened their hearts. Nearly all of them are treacherous. Koran 5:12-13

To not take robust action against people who operate by such a murderous doctrine is to be DANGEROUSLY STUPID. The spasms of humaneness that routinely grip the UN is not just misplaced kindness – it is indeed monumental STUPIDITY which must be treated with the scorn it deserves.

The Hamas terrorists assemble in populated civilian enclaves to carry out rocket launches and then melt away into the civilian population. What kind of ethics is it to demand that Israel only respond in a “proportional manner”?  Demanding proportionate response is demanding NO RESPONSE because there is no way to target only those that fire rockets from otherwise pliant (or colluding) neighborhoods.

We are told about minimum collateral damage and other forms of horse-shit. In the calculus imposed by the nature of terrorist attacks where terrorist activity is launched from populous regions, what number is good enough to be called “minimal collateral damage”? Can you hear the sound of deafening silence?

Islamic militancy is not a proportional battle. The Islamists are not seeking to cause only symbolic damage to send the rest of us a message. They seek to destroy us unless of course we accept their gracious invitation to live under the kind benevolence of Islam itself.

There is no such thing as a “proportionate response” to Islamic militancy. In fact, Islamic terrorism is nurtured by our fetish for “proportionate response”.


10 Responses

  1. You wrote:

    Hamas is restricted solely by its ability – and not morality – when it comes to the deployment of lethal weaponry.

    Reminds me of a saying I once read: If the Arabs lay down their weapons, there will be no more war. If the Israelis lay down their weapons, there will be no more Israel. 🙂

    A Jew familiar with history–not only the Islamic outlook on Judaism, but also the Europeans’ traditionally low regard for the value of Jewish life–is reluctantly forced to suspect that the UN, et al, consider Jewish extinction the only appropriate response.

  2. 1)To not act against islamic militancy is stupid, 2) Assuming that ‘using the full might of the state with force and determination’ will stop the rockets is equally stupid, both points that have been demonstrated continuously over the past forty years. Your logic leads inexorably to killing all the million plus residents of Gaza; ethics aside, this is not an effective strategy. The ‘correct’ response is one that will work, and since being effective means fewer casualties, it is also the most ethical and needs no justification.
    Asking if a response is proportionate presupposes the response is measurable by the same metric as the attack itself. By agreeing to reply in kind you let the enemy set the terms of the conflict and force yourself into the false dichotomy of either no response or total war—exactly what they want. Worry over the ethics of a counterproductive strategy rather misses the point.

  3. Uzza,
    You say Effectiveness means fewer casualties…. This is a case where you are projecting your sensibilities upon the enemy (Hamas) and thinking that they are motivated by the same drivers.

    This is the FUNDAMENTAL ERROR in our ways. The Islamic world is NOT driven by those sensitivities. “Shahadat” or martyrdom is not a allegorical construct or an abstract concept. It is a REAL driver for those that believe. We are unable to conceive of such stuff because we do not know what it is to “BELIEVE”.

    To think that we can neuter or tame this impulse is silly. I am not advocating blod-letting for the sake of blood-letting. I’m advocating a robust and forceful retaliation against Hamas – which undoubtedly comes at a high human-price. To demure from such action because we cannot countenance bloodshed is being unequal to the task of survival. I’m afraid we have come to that stage where we need to face gruesome facts. There is no middle-ground for those that seek Jannat (paradise).

  4. No I am not projecting anything. You object to them killing you, from which I infer that your goal is fewer casualties, which says nothing about them. Their goal is martyrdom, so they don’t care if you kill them. Nevertheless, you advocate another forceful retaliation exactly as has not worked in the past, without any explanation of how this will improve the situation or why it will yield different results than it has every other time it’s been tried.
    Your claim that we cannot understand, tame or neuter their impulse is an admission of defeat. You’re still missing the point.

  5. Yes I object to Islamic marauders bombing civilian targets whether it is NYC, London, Mumbai, Delhi, Bali, Madrid, Moscow, Beslan or Tel Aviv. What else needs to be said about them (the Islamic terrorists) in this regard?

    You say forceful retaliation has not worked in the past. My point is that it has not been forceful enough. Every time Israel retaliates, the world community suddenly develops delicate sentiments relating to civilian casualties and therefore urges restraint. This lop-sided sensitivity is *exactly* what allows terror to live and fight another day.

    You see it happening now you also saw it happening in the aftermath of the Mumbai massacre. I don’t really care if their goal is martyrdom. My goal is survival and if that means dis-proportionate retaliation then so be it.

    When I said that we cannot tame or neuter this destructive impulse, I meant that we cannot curtail it using dialog and rational thinking. The raving lunatics of the Islamic world are tone-deaf to that kind of engagement.

    And one more thing…. while you object to military retaliation, you have not offered an alternative approach along with why you think it would yield better results. For instance, can you show me an instance where restraint against Islamic radicals has worked effectively?

  6. forceful retaliation has not worked in the past. My point is that it has not been forceful enough.

    Everybody who ever lost a fight says this. It’s tiresome. Again I ask, HOW is disproportionate retaliation going to lead to survival? Are you so naïve as to believe that if you kill every person in Gaza the attacks will stop? Every Palestinian on earth? Every Muslim on Earth? Your plan so far is :
    1. Unspecified Retaliation.
    2. ???
    3. Peace!

  7. Uzza,

    Let us look at history for some examples of disproportionate force – The nuking of Hiroshima or Nagasaki was undoubtedly disproportionate. It was vulgar and to this day, people look back at it with revulsion. But it is equally true that it broke the back of a crazed polity that ruled with the certainty of a religious cult.

    Another example : Dresden fire bombings! Of course tons and tons of innocent civilians were killed but it quelled Nazi power unambiguously.

    I can understand that you are tired of this cycle of violence begetting more violence. I share your revulsion – but revulsion is not an adequate response to genocidal impulses – particularly if they carry a divine sanction.

    I certainly do NOT believe every Gazan/Palestinian/muslim needs to be killed. That is a preposterous exaggeration that you are making. Every German did not need to be killed – not even every Nazi. Not every Japanese person or even every member of the Imperial Armed Forces.

    History proves that wars are only won with dis-proportionate force. All this stuff about Hearts and Minds are nice-sounding slogans that fits well on a bumper-sticker but have NEVER worked well against an ideologically impervious mindset. If you have a better solution, I am eager to hear it and I would be happy to discard a blood-stained military solution from favor.

  8. @uzza:

    Please indulge me as I answer your several comments in this single response.

    > being effective means fewer casualties

    Where did this come from? Let’s look at three effective suppressions of violence, each executed by a very different government:

    * Hafez al-Assad in Hama, Syria (20,000 dead Islamic fundamentalists)

    * Russia in Chechnya, which is quiescent these days–after the leveling of Grozny and other parts

    * Japan and Germany after copious American bombing, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. The fanatical Japanese were the original “suicide bombers.” Yet, at the end of the day, they rolled over.

    Lots of lots of bloodshed. Followed by peace and stability. Moreover, these operations did entail killing “all the…residents, as you suggest.” Nowhere near “all” in fact. Not even anything approaching a majority!

    General GS Patton, one of the architects of the victory over Nazi Germany, put it succinctly: “You’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough they stop fighting.”

    >Their goal is martyrdom, so they don’t care if you kill them.

    Well, they sure seem to complain about it a lot in the various rantings we see from As-Sahab, et al.

    Rohit wrote:

    >>My point is that it has not been forceful enough.

    And Uzza responded:

    >Everybody who ever lost a fight says this.

    Nonsense. The only fight-losers who say this are nations that fail to put down insurgencies. And they’re largely right. Can you **imagine** what Vietnam would have looked like if the US had truly unleashed its military on it? Its entire might? Including nuclear weapons?

    Can you **imagine** what Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank would look like if Israel **really** unleashed the IDF? Or Pakistan if India **truly** unleashed its military?

    The difference between Vietnam and the Middle East, though, is that Vietnam was a war that the US could afford to lose. The bloodshed was entirely overseas. Therefore, the was more of an ethical dilemma: How many enemy civilians do you slaughter in a non-existential war?

    For Israel and India, the terror has come inside their borders. Their respective wars are existential. And they are against enemies sworn to their destruction. Where a war is existential, the question of enemy civilians is irrelevant.

    If Israel and India did to their antagonists what Assad, Putin, and Truman did to theirs, I have very little doubt that any unpleasantness in Gaza and the West Bank would quickly go away. Moreover, the “good Germans,” if you will, would be able to move on to happy and prosperous times.

    Let me, then, respond to your accusation that Rohit is advocating

    >1. Unspecified Retaliation.
    >2. ???
    >3. Peace!

    This is how I interpret the three points:

    1. Merciless destruction of enemy war-fighting capability, with no heed paid to civilian casualties

    2. Unconditional capitulation by the remaining populace, who have been left too bloody and brutalized to continue hostilities

    3. Peace and rehabilitation–a la Germany and Japan–of the remaining populace.

    This sounds harsh, but there are things one can do if he truly cares about poor, innocent Palestinians: Beg Hamas (and other) gunmen to stop firing from civilian homes, mosques, and ambulances. Plead with Hamas to stop rocketing Israel. Demand that Hamas amend its murderous charter, which commits the group to the destruction of the “murderous Zionist entity.”

  9. Oops. I wrote

    >Moreover, these operations did entail killing “all
    >the…residents, as you suggest.”

    I meant to write “did not entail”

    Sorry about that. 🙂


  10. You are correct.

    And let’s suppose that Israel DID engage in a ‘proportionate’ response. That would entail Israeli soldiers lining up at the border with Gaza, and deliberately lobbing over eight thousand missiles at the Palestinians.

    Is anyone seriously going to suggest that the world would NOT scream in protest?

    The bottom line is, sadly, this: at present, ANYTHING Israel does to defend herself, is deemed ‘disproportionate’.

    Also, just to add something:

    The worldwide media has tried desperately to convince us all that the Palestinians ‘just use homemade rockets’ that can’t ‘really’ hurt anyone.

    This is an out and out lie.

    Just before Operation Cast Lead, in fact, it transpired that Hamas had acquired Iranian Grad missiles – these are DEADLY and would have put over one million Israeli civilians in range of a lethal attack.

    The media also neglected to detail the HUNDREDS of suicide bombings courtesy of Hamas, many of which slaughtered numerous Israelis in one go. If anyone wants more details, a partial list of these attacks is on my blog

    All nations are entitled – more, OBLIGATED – to defend their citizens. Israel is no exception.

    She waited eight years before retaliating. No other country would have waited eight weeks. Let alone years.

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