Michael Totten

On the Other Hand

By Callimachus:
The idea of proportionate Israeli action in Lebanon, which I advocate, is getting a lot of slagging from some people who are technically on the same team I am.

And one other note: the “disproportionate” meme is an insult to our intelligence. I do not think it is worth discussing. It should be obvious that the best way to deter a bully is to use overwhelming force so that he will never again be tempted to provoke you. Anything less than that is simply an invitation for further troubles down the road.

Or this:

As an American, I recognize my constitutional right to take whatever measures are necessary to protect myself, my family, and my home. If someone comes after my wife and child, tearing him limb from limb would not be disproportionate. If I showed mercy, and subdued him by other means, that would be my prerogative. But I am in no way required to.

The most vigorous arguments along that line often are cast in such terms. But at the risk of doing a Dukakis, I think this is one case where the metaphor of war as a knife-fight with a lunatic to protect your wife doesn’t hold up so well.
There’s also a perplexing tendency to couple a solid argument that Israel has too used proportion and restraint in its attempts to snipe Hezbollah, with a “to hell with proportion” call to set loose the dogs of war.
Proportionate response is just. Justice isn’t always a sure path to physical victory. In this case, the cost of physical defeat is extermination.
Proportionate use of force is not an absolute; it’s a guide. It doesn’t mean civilians don’t get killed. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed if they do.
It doesn’t negate the gunman’s rule that, if you’re going to shoot, shoot to kill. It doesn’t negate the ugly truth that, in many wars, a short-term burst of extreme violence seems to actually save lives in the long run.
You don’t do it because you expect the other side to follow suit. You don’t do it so people will like you. You don’t ever want to do it out of weakness or fear.
Hezbollah wants a fight to the death. With flamethrowers. In a crowded old wooden orphanage. It means you’re not required to do it their way.