The Principle of Proportionality

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the toll of casualties and damage ``raise serious questions regarding the respect of the principle of proportionality in the conduct of hostilities,'' according to a statement yesterday in Geneva by the group's operations chief, Pierre Krahenbuhl.

From a Bloomberg Article

Increasingly I've been seeing talk of, as if it is some hoary old remnent from the Age of Chivalry, proportionality in warfare. I fully expect it to soon acquire capitalization, so that it becomes the much more official looking Principle of Proportionality.

What exactly is this deeply revered Principle? Where was it at Dresden or Hiroshima? For that matter, closer to today, where was it in the first Gulf War or in Chechnya when Grozny was reduced to rubble?

One of the most successful techniques our enemies are employing in this war is the continual invention of ever more bizzare and arbitrary "Rules of War"

A border raid esculated into a full blown war between Israel and Hisb'Allah (the Party of God). Over the course of this war Hizb'Allah has fired hundreds of rockets, which are area weapons, into Israeli cities. Many of these rockets have warheads surrounded by a sleave of ball bearings. These are anti-personel weapons pure and simple, being fired blindly into civilian areas to maim or kill. There is virtually no outcry against this tactic.

Yet, Israel was accused of crimes against humanity for bombing bridges and power stations at the onset of the war. When did attacking bridges and power stations become something airforces didn't do during times of war? And now this sacred Principal of Proportionality. When was it negotiated that the weak could use ball bearings while the strong could only load their guns with rubber bullets?

Lincoln, frustrated by Fredricksburg, looked for a General who understood the arithmetic of blood. Today, the West needs to relearn that arithmetic, or far more of us -- and them -- than need to will drown in blood as the lesson is applied.

The Principle of Proportionality ... bah-humbug.


Luther McLeod said...

To become childish, POP as a bubble, or POP as piece of poop. Same level of discourse as the apologists. No 'Long Views', just short term selling of papers/eyeballs.

OT, but I think of the copperheads in the Civil War. Either choice would allow them to live and exist. It seems that now they do not realize that there is truly only one choice. There is no neutral. It is our side or the dead side.

CF said...

For decades the POP and the immediate calls for pointless cease fires which saved the aggressors' asses was a diplo game that screened what was going on. Not today. All that babble is being seen for what it is--Except to loony tunes who get their news from the NYT or CNN because they like to live in a nonsensical bable talk world.

jd watson said...

The whole point of war is to be non-proportional else neither side would ever win.

terrye said...

Was the Doolittle raid over Tokyo proportional to the bombing of Pearl harbor?

No, it was not. It was not meant to be. The point was to make them sorry.

David Thomson said...

The leftist community does not really believe per se in POP. In its guts, however, it desires to make sure that third world militants are not militarily defeated by any Western power. The West should never be victorious. We have, after all, victimized these indigenous human people. At the most, we can only gently slap them just enough so they will return to the negotiating table---where we are obligated to give the store away.

reliapundit said...

Disproportionate Idiocy [Andy McCarthy]

You have to watch the media like a hawk because you never know when the next perverse theme will come flying out of the sky and start becoming conventional wisdom.

I just heard on MSNBC the moronic observation that the Israelis had inflicted "disproportionate" civilian casualties because the number of Lebanese killed is much higher than the number of Israelis killed.

Comparative civilian casualties is not what the international law concept of "proportionality" is about. Proportionality has to do with the number of civilian casualties considered against (a) the military value of the operation in which the casualties occur, and (b) the threat against civilians that would result from failure to act.

Ten civilian casualties can be ten too many if there is no military value in the target. (See, e.g., the typical terrorist suicide bombing.) Hundreds (even thousands) of civilian casualties can be justified if they are fall-out from an appropriate military operation and/or if, in the long run, enduring them means fewer civilian casualties (e.g., strikes that destroy the capabiities of a terrorist organization that hides among civilians).

In either event, it is irrelevant to compare the numbers of civilians killed by competing sides. Indeed, reports today were that Hezbollah was preventing Lebanese civilians from leaving areas Hezbolla well knows are military targets. That's because a terrorist organization knows civilian casualties on BOTH sides serve its interests.

Posted at 9:40 PM

Peter UK said...

Since Hizbollah wear no uniforms,how is it possible to distinguish adult casualties from combatants?