Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A proportionate response?

Dizzy, confused by what people mean when they say Israel has responded "disproportionately" asks what is a "proportionate response".

It's a fair question, so lets look at some examples:

You have agreed a ceasefire with someone with whom you were in conflict with, but they continue an 18 month blockade, not only stifling any prospect of economic growth, but keeping the consequently unemployed near or close to starvation.

Is resuming the conflict proportionate. In particular, is it proportionate to send rockets aimlessley over the border, towards urban conerbations?

Good question.

A commentator (Jonny Mac) on Dizzy's thread cites (or at least claims to) international law on the subject (as if anyone takes any notice, or indeed ever has) and says thus:
To assess proportionality, military lawyers weigh the strategic importance of the objective against (a) the risk of casualties (especially civilian) and the likely level of those casualties and (b) the steps that will be taken to minimise those casualties.
Well lets look at that:

The strategic objective is to lift the blockade. Looks reasonable to me. No one would tolerate living under such a total blockade, not the United kingdom, The United States of America, Israel, nor indeed Dizzy or Iain Dale. So we have a reasonable strategic objective.

So lets move to how many casualties, civilian or otherwise. Compared to those who may well have died of poverty in the Gaza strip, very few. The weapons used, whether home made or Russian Grad missiles are so inaccurate that if you wanted to hit a barn you would have to be in it. They are "mostly harmless". That does not mean they don't or can't kill, it just means that if you launched 100 of them you would be very lucky to kill anyone, either civilian or military.

What are they doing to limit civilian over military casualties? Toughy that one. They don't have either the range or accuracy in any weapons system to have any meaningfull effect on that. Not only that, the affect on death rates within Israel is slight compared to things like road traffic accidents. You can't really do more to limit civilian casualties than to make the deaths you cause insignificant. Where the rocket attacks do score highly though is that they do cause widespread terror and economic damage. This causes political pressure.

Hmm.. So the action may well be proportionate. What is more.. it may actually result in the lifting of the blockade!*

So is Israel's actions proportionate?

Well, their objective seems to be to stop the rocket attacks. This is because they cause political pressure. It has to be said that like lifting the blockade on the Gaza strip, this is not an unreasonable thing to do.

You do have to wonder though, if they could not both agree to stop pissing in each others tents they could avoid a lot of suffering. Alas politics there does not work like this.

So what should they do? What equipment do they have that could deal with the problem, that is the rocket attacks (other than the obvious stopping the blockade) that could limit casualties, particularly civilian ones.

The obvious one is of course using pilotless drones to watch for rocket crews and despatch them before (preferably) they fire. It would be similar to what we did with the IRA when we stationed SAS squads where the IRA were going to turn up, and making them (obviously armed members of the IRA on a mission) pay.

That would be proportionate.

I do get fed up with Israel claiming that anyone else would do the same. It is certainly true that many would, but history shows that whilst we in the United Kingdon have tried it, we found it does not work and so have sought more effective and less bloody methods.

*Hamas managing to cause a deal that lifts the blockade on Gaza whilst Israel squeazes the West Bank ever tighter will be the death knell of a moderate Palestinian authority. That would also end the possibility of peace. Some cynics may wonder if that is not the long term objective of some on the Israeli side. It is of course taken for granted that that is the aim of Hamas.

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