Thursday, July 20, 2006

Disproportionate Response

In an ignominious attempt to discredit Israel's (relatively meek) actions of self-defense, pundits throughout the world have been decrying the so-called "disproportionate response" that such military action entails. Baron Bodissey at the Gates of Vienna is promoting a new sidebar logo to counter these critics by proudly asserting the right to respond to aggression with overwhelming force:

A commenter at Gates of Vienna, R Combs, has the best short formulation on the issue at his blog:
The contemptible blather about "disproportionate response" comes from people who refuse to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim -- who remain morally neutral as to which one ought to prevail, and thus believe that "fairness" requires each to have an equal chance.

For those of us who insist that there is no right to rape, mug, burgle -- or murder (again!) six million Jews -- the concept of proportionality of response is a moral abomination. The correct response to aggression is whatever is necessary to stop it, to punish the aggressor, and to prevent repetition of the aggression in the future. The correct response to Islamofascism is to wipe it out.
Combating the evil inherent in the idea of "proportionality" requires denouncing and demolishing the whole theory of "Just War" since it is the doctrine responsible for the widespread acceptance of this idea, and unfortunately, it is also the doctrine underlying, guiding and shaping our political and military policies. No one has done this better than Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein in their seminal "Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense. They summarize Just War Theory and its requirement of "proportionality" thusly:
All forms of Just War Theory provide guidelines that fall into two categories: justice in entering a war, and justice in waging a war. (These two categories are known as jus ad bellum, and jus in bello, respectively.) Broadly speaking, Just War Theory holds that a nation can go to war only in response to the impetus of a “just cause,” with force as a “last resort,” after all other non-military options have been considered and tried—with its decision to go to war motivated by “good intentions,” with the aim of bringing about a “good outcome.” And it holds that a nation must wage war only by means that are “proportional” to the ends it seeks, and while practicing “discrimination” between combatants and non-combatants. Finally, in a requirement that applies to both categories, Just War Theory holds that the decision-making power for when, why, and how to wage war—including the declaration of war—must rest with a “legitimate authority.”


Given that the purpose of war, according to Just War Theory, is the well-being of others (including those who are, in fact, one’s enemies), it is logical that Just War Theory also precludes a nation from waging war in a manner that will destroy its enemies. It is imperative, according to Just War Theory, that war be fought by unselfish, sacrificial means, in which great value is accorded to the citizens of enemy nations. This is the meaning of the requirements of “proportionality” and “discrimination.” Proportionality is the idea that the value gained by the ends a war seeks must be “proportional” to the damage incurred during the war. To advocate that ends and damage be “proportional” presupposes a standard of value by which these are to be weighed. What is the relative weight, for example, that the U.S. government should accord an American civilian and an Iraqi civilian? Since Just War Theory holds that a government’s intentions are “good” to the extent that it places value on other peoples, including enemies, by its standard of value a government of an innocent nation should place equal value on the lives of its citizens and those of enemy nations. On this view, in America’s “War on Terrorism,” we have to “balance” the lives of American soldiers and civilians with the lives of the enemy nation’s soldiers and civilians. According to Walzer, “In our judgments of the fighting, we abstract from all consideration of the justice of the cause. We do this because the moral status of individual soldiers on both sides is very much the same: they face one another as moral equals.”


Observe the inversion of justice here. Benevolent, individualistic, life-loving Americans, and death-worshipping, collectivist, nihilistic Arabs—such as the dancing Arabs who celebrated 9/11—are regarded as equally worthy of protection by the American military. The exception is if the American is a soldier and the Arab is a civilian, in which case the Arab’s life is of greater value.
Brook and Epstein go on to offer a positive alternative theory to "Just War", one which asserts the absolute right of self defense, but rather than quoting any further, I'll just leave the pleasure of unfolding their arguments to my intrepid readers.

(See also this post by Gus Van Horn for his take on the subject; John Lewis' Article on Hiroshima and his chapter on Sherman for historical examples of the type of action endorsed by Brook and Epstein.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding post!!!

7:52 PM  

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