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Proportionate response, international law and other irrelevancies

October 2001: Foreign ministers from around the world meet in Rome for a conference. At this conference, ministers announce that America should call a ceasefire with Al-Qaida. America is urged to show restraint, despite constantly being under constant bombardment.

Didn't happen. Did it? Even though America wasn't under constant bombardment. Funnily enough, the only country in the world who ever seems to be asked to accept terrorist attacks without responding is (insert drumroll) Israel. Anyway, the recent events in Lebanon and globally will only serve as a basis for this post. Instead, I want to focus on the role and obligations of a state.

We trade various rights and freedoms in exchange for the security provided by collective organisations. Why do we pay taxes for politicians' salaries? For armed forces? For police? Because we want security. Partially economic security, but predominantly physical security. If the Government can't provide that, or at least do it as well as it can given it's situation, it is no use and should be removed.

Recently, Israel has been criticised by people saying their response hasn't been proportionate. I'm not going to argue about whether it has been or not (this post, anyway), but the state has an obligation to their own people. Consequently, the constant of proportionality does not need to be 1. Admiral Fisher once wrote, "Moderation in war is imbecility." His career shows he knew what he was talking about, too.

As a leader of a state, you have primary responsibility for your people. What ever responsibility you have for your enemy's people are secondary at best. If this means destroying infrastructure or incidental loss of civillian life, you do it. If the enemy launches attacks from populated areas, those populated areas are fair game. Proportionality is not an issue to be considered. Nor is restraint. Or moderation. These are easy but meaningless words which get spouted by people who are not under threat from an enemy.

Further, what happens if a self-avowed enemy wants nothing but your destruction? If peace is impossible? If a truce only serves as a chance for them to build up strength? If you have nothing that they want that you can give? There is only one answer, and it doesn't take into account proportionate response, conventions, international law, or pretty much any other such things. They are not worth the hot air of a politician's speech. The day you believe an enemy's rhetoric that there will not be peace under any circumstances is the day you have no choice but to subdue the enemy. You don't need to fear internation condemnation if you no longer exist.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with this. Do a search for the word proportional - the relevant bit is about one third of the way down.


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