Middle East: The term proportionate force or disproportionate force is ridiculous.
|WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Against growing international criticism that Israel's response to Hezbollah's July 12 attack has been disproportionate, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Sunday defended Israel's use of force.
"I think it's important that we not fall into the trap of moral equivalency here," Ambassador John Bolton told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
"What Hezbollah has done is kidnap Israeli soldiers and rain rockets and mortar shells on innocent Israeli civilians. What Israel has done in response is act in self-defense. And I don't quite know what the argument about proportionate force means here. Is Israel entitled only to kidnap two Hezbollah operatives and fire a couple of rockets aimlessly into Lebanon?
"The situation is that Israel has lived under the terrorist threat of Hezbollah for years, and these most recent attacks have given it the legitimate right, the same right America would have if we were attacked, to deal with the problem. And that's what they're doing."|
Even Jonathan Chait says this is a dumb argument
|"ISRAEL'S counteroffensive against Hezbollah may not be a good idea. But the main criticism that is being made against it, at home and abroad — namely, that Israel is using "disproportionate force" — is just silly.
As The Times reported Thursday: "Critics have said Israel's response to the killing of eight soldiers and capture of two others by the Shiite Muslim guerrillas last week is disproportionate."
First of all, Israel is responding not just to those recent killings but to a long string of attacks since it withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. The kidnapping was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
Second, as the Israeli government rightly points out, no country operates on the principle of responding to aggression with no more force than was originally used against it. During World War II, Germany sunk a lot of American ships and declared war on us, and in return we flattened its cities, killed or captured hundreds of thousands of its solders and occupied its land. That was hardly a proportionate response.
Now, it is true that Israel's counteroffensive has taken the lives of several hundred Lebanese civilians (many entirely innocent, others who sheltered Hezbollah rockets) and displaced perhaps half a million more. Every innocent death is a tragedy.
But the brutal fact is that civilian deaths are Hezbollah's strongest weapon. As Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, once said: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life and we love death."
Thus Hezbollah places its rockets and other potential targets in homes, knowing that Israel cannot hit back without creating collateral damage. This does not relieve Israel of the burden of minimizing civilian casualties as best it can. The point is that if Israel has to operate under a code of ethics that renders civilian deaths unacceptable, then it automatically loses. The ramifications would be dire and ultimately aid the cause of Islamic radicals in such a way as to bring about many more innocent deaths over the long run."|