Thursday, July 20, 2006

What would 'proportional response' look like?

Hezbollah, several world leaders and many non-Jewish liberals in the U.S. are criticizing Israel's response as "disproportionate" to the Hezbollah provocation. But L.A. Times columnist Max Boot asks a challenging question in today's editions:

What would a proportionate Israeli response to the snatching of its soldiers and the bombardment of its soil look like? Should Israel kidnap low-level Hamas and Hezbollah operatives? Those organizations wouldn't mind in the slightest; they want as many martyrs as possible.

The real problem is that Israel's response has been all too proportional. So far it has only gone after Hamas and Hezbollah. (Some collateral damage is inevitable because these groups hide among civilians.) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is showing superhuman restraint by not, at the very least, "accidentally" bombing the Syrian and Iranian embassies in Beirut, which serve as Hezbollah liaison offices.

So what do you think ... what would have been a "proportionate" response to Hezbollah?


Michael Gillespie said...

You write that "Hezbollah, several world leaders, and many non-Jewish liberals in the U.S. are criticizing Israel's response as 'disproportionate' to the Hezbollah provocation." As if Jewish liberals in the U.S. uniformly approve of, or have, at least, refrained from criticizing Israel's attack on Lebanon as disproportionate. American Jewish opinion on this issue, and all others, represents a wide spectrum of perspectives indeed, as you must know, Ron. What are we to make of your suggestion to the contrary?

Ron Franscell said...

I stand by it. I said "many non-Jewish liberals." Is that an untrue statement?

Although I haven't seen it, I'm sure some Jewish liberals think Israel overreacted, but they'd be a huge minority. I'm sure some Republicans, Baptists and anti-terror advocates feel the same, too, but their larger groups are not generally in agreement. Being able to find an exception does not make the general rule untrue.

This morning, I asked a Jewish liberal friend of mine to guess how much of the Jewish liberal bloc would say israel overreacted. Her guess? Less than one percent.

I also believe that many U.S. liberals will take a position contrary to anything that appears to be supported by the Bush administration. I believe that's as intellectually shallow as supporting anything the Bush Administration does.

But you didn't answer the basic question! What would be "proportionate"?

Anonymous said...

Israel has a right to defend itself. The response has not been disproportionate, although nobody wants to see innocent civilians die. That's Hizbollah's fault, not Israel's.

When the U.S. feared the presence of Soviet missiles 90 miles from Florida, it was prepared to wage nuclear war. Was that a proportional response?

And who says war can only be waged on an equal footing, as if one side can only use as many bullets as the other, and no more? The object of war is to win or perish.

The lefties who complain about Israel's response ignore the fact that terrorists don't play by anyone's rules. Crashing three passenger jets into American buildings was a proportional response to ... what??? The left should start demanding more from their buddies in al Qaida.


Jill said...

Proportional would be swift, deadly, pointed. Shoot first ask questions later. Dont have to ask many questions that way. Playtime is over. If a person, family, or country was attacked, one should move heaven and earth to get the attacker. Why play tit for tat? The "bomb" ended things for Japan in WWII. The world is too worried about collateral damage. Never mind that some of the women and children are in the way. They know how to shoot,too. Get it done sooner than later. Diplomacy wont work.

Anonymous said...

Israel is fighting people who have said they want to destroy Israel. What's proportional? Destroy Hezbollah.

SingingSkies said...

At this moment, I haven't the foggiest idea of what would constitute a proportional response.

There have been so many years of innocent lives displaced,harmed, maimed, killed on both sides of the conflict that I find myself wanting to consign both sides to a "time out". Totally irrational, I know. And I also know that this conflict is not simply a childish temper tantrum.


The difficult piece for me is how do you eradicate what is apparently a minority extremist militant sect without sending the rest of the country back a century or two? I don't have enough knowledge in this area to give a truly informed response. All I can do is hope that the people responsible for making such decisions do, and that they then act wisely rather than rashly based on the information base available to them.

Michael Gillespie said...

Even a cursory glance at the American Jewish Committee's most recently published polling indicates, as I've pointed out, a wide spectrum of Jewish perspectives on the conflicts in the Middle East and the Bush administration's war on terrorism. Most (60%) disapprove of the handling of the war on terrorism, and even more (70%) disapprove of the war in Iraq. Almost half (46%) say they are against military action to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. This polling represents the entire spectrum of political opinion in the American Jewish community, Ron, not just the liberals to whom you refer. Should we assume your ancedotal evidence is correct, or might the AJC polls reflect a more accurate assessment of Jewish opinion?

You seem to be promoting a particular political agenda, Ron, and doing so in a way that seems to have little to do with objectivity. Is this what you intend?

Ron Franscell said...

Michael, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the U.S. War on Terror is not the same thing as the Israeli response to Hezbollah. Find a poll of American Jews, preferably liberal ones, that expresses their opinion on the Israeli response and we'll have real figures -- not just anecdotes to talk about. I'm not sure why you are so upset that someone might think that American Jews -- like a lot of other Americans -- would support Israel's response to Hezbollah. You doth protest too much!

Let me state my political agenda, so we're clear: I think Israel's response is appropriate. I rue the death of civilians, but I think Hezbollah is as responsible as Israel. I believe the American Media is flawed, but remains the best way for Americans to learn and understand their world. I believe the Radical Left and Right are equally heinous in their arrogance and blindness.

And you still didn't answer the question: What would be proportional?

Anonymous said...

From Haaretz, July 16

North American Jews express support, solidarity with Israel

By Shlomo Shamir

NEW YORK - American Jews have expressed solidarity with Israel and full support for its military action against Hezbollah.

"The Katyusha volleys on Israeli cities and the feeling that Israel is in danger, together with pride in Israel's military might and ability to defend itself have revived the spirit of activism in the Jewish organizations," a leader of a large New York Jewish organization said on Friday.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations plans to hold a rally in support of Israel Monday. Senator Hillary Clinton and Nobel Prize Laureate author Elie Wiesel will be among the main speakers. Organizers expect some 2,000 people to attend.

A group of Jewish leaders is slated to hold a round of talks on Capitol Hill Monday with senior senators and lawmakers to express the Jewish community's gratitude for President George W. Bush and the administration's support for Israel.

Two delegations - of the Presidents' Conference and of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) - are due to arrive in Israel before the weekend to meet the prime minister and foreign minister and visit Sderot and northern communities.

Israeli consul in New York Arye Mekel said the consulate has been flooded by calls of Jews and especially Israelis, including doctors, offering their help in Israel. Several large Jewish organizations have published ads supporting Israel.

Chancelucky said...

I think the question of "proportionality" depends on how "collateral" the civilian deaths have been. I've seen opninions for at least a few experts that the Israeli justification for hitting Hezbollah targets that were close to civilians was relatively flimsy. If so, I would say that 2 hostages and 8 military deaths is not proportional to some 300 civilian deaths.

I'd also want to know a little bit more about the prisoners on each side. For instance, a number of people were horrified that 2 US soldiers were kidnapped and beheaded, but it later turned out that they were part of the same unit that raped a girl and killed her family. It didn't make the act of mutilation any less brutal, but it certainly looks a whole lot less gratuitous when you have that information.

If Israel's response here is appropriate and proportional, what would have been a proportional response when the American embassy was taken in Tehran?

Ron Franscell said...

Good question, Chance. I would argue that the American response to the Iran hostage crisis was disproportional in the opposite way: We did nothing.

Should we have bombed Tehran's neighborhoods in retaliation? Nope. Something more surgical? I don't know.

I agree with you about the intention of the strikes, though. If it proves out that Israel was consciously indiscriminate or deliberately targeting innocents, that would be a war crime, in my view.

And in the spirit of American justice, maybe we should agree that the soldiers accused of the Iraqi rape/murder remain "not guilty" for the moment. If they are ultimately convicted of such an atrocity in a court, I support the death penalty.

The rape/murder, the beheading of innocents, the suicide bombings, the assassinations, the My Lai-like killings, Abu Ghraib ... at some point both sides must rely upon the law to set things right.

Michael Gillespie said...

The obvious answer to you question, Ron, would be that Israel might have reacted with force calculated to result in a similar number of military casualties and the capture of a like number of military personnel, avoiding civilian casualties. After all, both the Hamas raid and the Hezbollah raid that Israel has used pretexts for the slaughter of grossly disproportionate numbers of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, resulted in a limited number of military casualties and three captured military personnel, legitimate targets during a war. Instead, the Israelis reacted in an all too typical fashion.

Why do you persist in attempting to present yourself as a broadminded, disinterested observer ("I believe the Radical Left and Right are equally heinous in their arrogance and blindness") while at the same time implicitly defending ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and other black letter law war crimes and crimes against humanity as "appropriate"? Have you never studied the text of the Geneva Conventions? Your own deeply ingrained cultural biases are revealed ever more clearly as your defense of mainstream media outlets' feeble, frequently dishonest, and more than occasionally racist reportage of the ever-worsening and bloody disaster in the Middle East becomes more insistent.

You write of "my craft" as if you own the profession. Professional journalism is what we who practice the profession make of it. Did it never occur to you that those of us who criticize the mandarins of media and their self-censoring minions do so in large part because we love the profession more than the paycheck, and we realize that the immediate future of our country hangs largely on the question of whether Americans get the information they need to make informed, extraordinarily difficult, and momemtous decisions?

If you spent less time defending the indefensible and more contemplating and responding honestly to the thoughtful comments of readers like as "chancelucky" (see above) your blog would be a far more interesting and enlightening venue.

Ron Franscell said...

Your presumptions are offensive and heinous, Michael. If anyone respects me (as you posted elsewhere) it's only because I say what I mean, not what you'd prefer me to say. I wish it were always absolutely watertight but -- like the apparent political conflict between my support of women's choice and the death penalty -- I'm more complex than that.

For the record, I am not in favor of ethnic cleansing, openly or implicitly; if by "collective punishment" you mean interning people because of their race, color or beliefs, nope; and if the choice is tit-for-tat beheadings, massacres and prisoner abuses, I guess I'm for the letter of the law. Shoot me.

Yep, I read the Geneva Conventions. It was required by my commanders at the U.S. Naval Academy in those long-ago post-Vietnam days. Probably still is. I believe in their protections, but I also understand that our enemy laughs at them. That doesn't mean we abandon our moral fight, but it means we must acknowledge that the questions of war and morality just became far more complex for us.

I laughed out loud at your suggestion that by saying "my craft," I suggest I "own" journalism. That's a schoolyard taunt more than a serious analysis. That fact is, journalism owns me.

Accusing the American press of making mistakes is almost like bravely standing up against child abuse. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to make that argument.

On this issue, you are not much better than the brain-sick generals who believed we must destroy Vietnamese villages to save them. You say you love the profession, but you eviscerate it. What are you doing to improve it other than whine about it? With friends like you, we need no more enemies -- of which, we have plenty.

To accuse the American press of institutional racism is downright paranoid. The press is more diverse today than it has ever been in its history. Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Christians ... black, white, Asian, Hispanic ... from poor and wealthy families ... all are among the reporters, editors and publishers in America today. Sometimes we get it wrong on race, yep, but no institution tries harder to get it right.

Before you accuse someone of racism, make sure your own biases aren't showing. Your vitriolic and sweeping criticisms of Israel -- which might easily be interpreted as anti-Semitic -- certainly don't strengthen your position. Please be careful about such pronouncements.

I often am angered, disgusted and embarrassed by my colleagues in the press -- and I often say so. But most days, I can also find reason to be proud of something the press has done. You apparently cannot, and that's OK. I welcome your criticisms as a way to be better, but I won't lose any more sleep over your discomforts than you lose over mine. If you want to lug around your 100-pound antipathy, don't ask me to help carry it.

Finally, if this blog is neither interesting nor enlightening, you might consider spending your time more wisely elsewhere ... maybe someplace where they always agree with you. Your opinions have always been welcome here, but you've lately become rather personal in your comments. If I were as secretly narrow-minded as you believe, I would have deleted you ... but I didn't.

Michael Gillespie said...

Look on the bright side, Ron. Ultimately, we are all judged on the basis of our motives. If you mean well but are spiritually blind and merely unaware of your racist and bigoted attitudes, ethically and morally challenged in that regard, incapable of getting your mind around equality and fairness as human values integral in spiritual reality (which is to say the only reality that endures, that is eternal), that shortcoming may not prevent your survival. Of course, while such an incapacity as is signaled by the inability to recognize the gravity of the ethical and moral failure inherent in ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, genocide, etc. may not prevent survival, the practical effects of one's thoughts, decisions and actions, day in and day out, tend to accrue, in the inner world as well as the outer, in such a way as to inhibit the making of survival decisions.

Ever look into the eyes of a man who knows he has innocent blood on his hands? Ever look into the eyes of a man who knows he has a very great deal of innocent blood on his hands? Ever see the video of LBJ's final public appearances? He'd grown his hair long and wandered about the stage quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., talking a lot about values. But the look in his eyes . . .

The world of the cross is a real meat grinder, Ron. (And some men are like a monkey with his tail caught in a meat grinder--"It won't be long now.") A man of a certain caliber might prosper in the environment of strict censorship of what passes for a free press in this country. But he might come to regret it later, far more than he might imagine at present.

As I've written in this space before, I want to see another world. I want to see my loved ones in eternity. I mean to serve my Creator in this oh so brief life and in the next. I often think and feel as if my efforts are pathetic, but then I read that God loves and uses a broken and contrite heart. If I fail of survival, it won't be because I was, as a mature man of the realm, careless or thoughtless about the manner in which I interacted with my fellows, including those who chance to have been born to other races and relgions or who chance to have not the advantages and privileges I've enjoyed.

Those who are making survival decisions are creating the future in the souls opening above them, day by day.

I can't name the university where I learned that, or the instructor who taught the class. But I can tell you it was, and is, an elective course. You have to choose it. The decision is yours.


SingingSkies said...

Michael, I have a feeling that everyone will be surprised by who they encounter, or don't encounter, in the afterlife. By definition, faith hinges on an uncertainty. While I trust and believe (have faith) that I will have a home in God's kingdom, I am not smug enough to presume that I know with 100% certainty that I'm right in my assessment.

That's why I try to keep myself open to new possibilities and understandings by listening to even those I disagree with radically. They may also hold a bit of the Truth for me to discern. Perhaps you're being drawn to comment and draw fire on Ron's blog so that you might gain some insight into the workings of God's kingdom. We both have a lot to learn!

Michael Gillespie said...

Hi Singing Skies,

Your pseudonym reminded me of that beautiful little gem of a short story by Flannery O'Connor titled Revelation.

Perhaps you are right, and I am "drawn to comment and draw fire on Ron's blog so that [I] might gain some insight into the workings of God's kingdom." Or perhaps I am like the fat, ugly, acne-scarred, scowling freshman in Revelation who hurls the "thick blue book . . . entitled Human Development" at the supremely smug Mrs Turpin.

Or perhaps I am myself smug, one of those flaming liberals who so annoy responsible folks who are "accountable, as they ha[ve]always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior." Aren't we something of a cliche, those of us find the nerve to speak out in behalf of the Geneva Conventions at a time when neo-fundamentalist Christian America seems dead set on torturing and bombing the world into understanding, as our president the Great Decider put it, "how good we are"?

Should I apologize for taking Ron to task for making light of the plight of our fellow Americans who found themselves beneath the bombs and rockets in Lebanon? I think not. If we would live the faith of the one who advised us that the whole law is bound up in the commandments to ". . . love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself", how can we remain silent while our government funds and facilitates slaughter--in the very lands where Jesus walked?

gohuskers said...

Hey, Gillespie, it seems as if American Jews ARE falling into significant agreement about this war!!

San Francisco Chronicle 8/8/06

"What this has done is create a polarization," said Rabbi Stephen Pearce of Temple Emanu-El, a San Francisco reform congregation that is the Bay Area's oldest, largest and most influential synagogue.

Pearce said many in his congregation have criticized Israeli tactics and policies during other conflicts -- and Pearce himself has come under fire for giving a forum to such views. But now, Pearce says, people "have really swung over to the point of view that Israel has to do everything it can to defend itself. This will be the first time in many years that there is such unanimity and agreement."