Friday, July 14, 2006

Disproportionality

Reading through the major world newspapers, one finds the overwhelming opinion from Spain to India to be that Israel's reaction to the capture of its soldiers is "disproportionate" to the provocations of Hamas and Hizbullah. The EU came out last week with its condemnation of the offensive in Gaza, and now the French, Russian, and Italian foreign ministers as well as the EU presidency have all gone on record as saying that Israel's use of force in Lebanon is similarly disproportionate. In today's Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's left-center paper, an otherwise sympathetic commentator calls Israel's reaction "überproportional" and a recipe for further violence. If only European opinion makers could suggest some POSITIVE, concrete alternatives for Israel aside from simply calling for a "measured response."

All of these world leaders recognize Israel's right to react with force to the recent attacks on its sovereignty, but it seems to this observer as well that the "shock and awe" of military strength is simply not the most effective means of halting the violence, returning the soldiers safely, or winning international support. The importance of the latter, especially, it seems to me, should not be underestimated over the long run. As Ha'aretz suggests, negotiations with Hizbullah should not be rejected out of hand.

Perhaps the broader implication of my comment is that the mouth-watering temptation to smugly reject all European opinion on Israel as self-righteous, hypocritical, and/or antisemitic - which it often is - should not lead us to lose our critical stance vis-a-vis the Israeli military.

1 comment:

Noah Kaye said...

I've been thinking about this idea of deterrance a lot. There was an interesting comment by a Hezbullah spokesman that the language of kidnappings, etc., this is the only language that the Israelis will understand. The Israelis leadership seems to be operating according the same logic. But it's definitely worth examining this idea critically. I'm not saying that long term deterrance can't be accomplished with a shock and awe style campaign. Maybe the Lebanese majority that drove Syria out will say the hell with Hezbullah screwing up our lives too. But there's no guarantee.

As I write this, I'm reading the 2nd century BCE Greek historian Polybius, who, captive in Rome, wrote a history of Rome's rise to power in the Mediterranean. He's writing in one place about the Roman conflicts with Gauls who live in the Alps and in what's now northern Italy.

The vanquished Gauls, writes Polybius kept their peace for 45 years. Then the eyewitnesses died off, and other men were born and grew up, who were filled with recklessness and bravado, and who knew not and had not seen the evil and all-consuming destruction [of war with Rome], and these men began to challenge the status quo [of quiescence], which is a natural course of events.

Maybe you need new acts of deterrance every generation. But it seems to me people forget easily.