Friday, July 21, 2006


Let's Review, Shall We Class?

Last night on NPR I heard some Israeli "defense expert" make the oft repeated claim that Israel needs to respond strongly to any terrorist attack to send a message that it is strong. In particular, Israel was bombing Lebanon to send a message to Syria and Iran.


Let's review this again -- it appears some people just don't get it. In particular, some people seem to think (a la Bush responding to Al Qaeda terrorism by deposing Saddam Hussein, which would be an Al Qaeda goal) that the best way to respond to terrorists is to look as strong as possible, even if it means in reality giving the terrorists what they want.

Responding proportionally to a terrorist attack: fine.
Responding disproportionately strongly sends a message -- "we're terrorized": and isn't that what terrorists, by definition want to achieve? In this case, it also achieves another Hezbollah goal, giving Hezbollah the legitamacy of being a force of law and order if not a recognized government in Lebanon, by making Israel seem like a brute and bully so people will rally to Hezbollah's side as the latter "defends" Lebanon.

Sending a message to Iran and Syria by actually striking, er, Iran and Syria: probably would not be prudent and not a good idea, but at least it would be coherent
Sending a message to Iran and Syria by bombing Lebanon: Hunh?

Going in with ground troops and capturing suspected terrorists and placing them through a due process of law: sends the message Israel is strong and daring enough to pull off such a thing and that Israel really is a democracy under the rule of law.
Re-occupying South Lebanon with Israeli troops: this may very well be a goal of Hezbollah in attacking Israel, to goad Israel into a re-occupation -- after all, the last occupation was, shall we say, very good for Hezbollah, if only for their Hazbarah (oy, now I sound like Jesse Jackson).
Targetted Assassinations: bad on many levels -- (1) what if the targetting is not so good and civilians are killed? (2) it sends the message Israel will hide behind its superior technology (3) an assassinated criminal cannot be brought to justice, which lack of justice risks God's wrath on the Land of Israel (see Pirke Avoth and its list for causes of aveiroth)

Air strikes against specific Hezbollah munitions: good if and only if the targets and only the targets are hit
Air strikes that harm in any way civilians, even if Hezbollah is essentially using them as human shields: bad. If only because people (including Israelis) assume that all Jews are infinitely clever and cannot make mistakes -- thus any death of any civilian will be deemed not a failure of Israeli intelligence, a failure of targetting or the result of a deliberate strategy by Hezbollah to keep civilians in their way, but rather will be suspected to be intentional. Same with targetting of infrastructure (and cf. Nasser, the relevent quote is given by Jon in a comment downstairs). When Israel over-reacts, what is really a stupid over-reaction (which is bad enough, 'cause it indicates that the terrorists have accomplished their definitional goal of terrorizing people) may seem like part of an evil plan.

So class -- do we get this now? There will be a quiz tomorrow. The penalty for failing is WWIII. But then again, I know some of you want that 'cause you think it means Jebus will return or something like that. But why some Jews think that crowd is pro-Israel (just 'cause they are sending some cash to keep in motion events leading up, they hope, to armeggedon?) is somewhat beyond me ...


Some in Left Blogistan have asked what the obsession with targetting infra-structure is. I suspect Israel is merely copying the US here. Why the US obsession? Well, every bridge that is bombed needs to be rebuilt, nu? And every bridge to be rebuilt is a lucrative contract for someone, nu? While we may think that our leadership is purely evil (and thinking that they are pure evil is, as a labmate of mine pointed out, rather reassuring, because it allows one to excuse Bush & CO crimes as "they are just different than us" -- if we rather realize they are merely guilty of cupidity, that makes things worse because while, pace the Calvinists, humans are not purely evil, all too many of us are guilty of cupidity at some or other point), they really are exactly the greedy (if only subconciously) bastards Ike warned us about. Of course, we all (cf. the MSM) know that Gen. Eisenhower was outside of the mainstream and some conspiracy nut, right?

Ahh, but Israel's approach is that the response must be proportional to the THREAT, not to the attack itself. And looking at the damage that was done by Hezbollah and so many other terrorists (not to mention countless attempts at suicide bombings that had been thwarted by IDF over the years), a seemingly-disproportionate response can certainly be justified.

By the way, all left-wing viewpoints aside, you sounded pretty good on the podcast. Let's all get on the broadcasting bandwagon!
Ahh, but Israel's approach is that the response must be proportional to the THREAT, not to the attack itself.

That does make a lot of sense, and I wish Israeli talking heads would be clearer on this matter, as it does cast their responses in a much more reasonable light.

Still -- how do you assess what is a response proportional to a threat? Sometimes this is easy -- if X is threatening you, then you can respond to even the threat of/by X. But sometimes responding proportionally to a threat is silly ... suppose Y threatens X with y units of threat (this whole notion of proportionality assumes a loopy quantifiability that probably doesn't really exist) -- does it make sense for X to attack Z with y units of response? No!

Who or what is threatening Israel? The Lebanese government and infrastructure? No. Indeed, you would think Israel would have something to gain by having a stable government in Lebanon that eventually could reign in Hezbollah. But instead Israel undermines what little government there is in Lebanon and who's gonna sweep into the resulting power vacuum? I'm betting on Hezbollah.

So this response may be proportional to the threat, but it is still rather odd.


Thank you for the compliment!
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