Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Disproportionality" in Perspective

Most people acknowledge that Israel had a right to react militarily to armed attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanese territory. But it is said that Israel's response is "disproportionate. "

Becuase of diplomatic concerns and "oil," some criticism is necessary. But this has led to some confusion. Some simple-minded people think "proportionality" means that acting in self-defense, a nation can respond only on a tit for tat basis. To this way of thinking, if the enemy kills one of your soldiers, killing two in response is disproportionate. This is, of course, nonsense. The proportionality requirement is that military actions "should remain strictly proportional to the objective desired." (Source)

I'm not going to attempt that analysis today, instead I'd like to focus on a slightly different question.

Is the number of deaths in the current conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon disproportionate?

For the moment, let's leave aside places like Darfur and the Congo, Bosnia and Chechneya and look at deaths in conflicts in the Middle East not involving Israel and two cases of persecution of Muslims in China and Bulgaria. This is by no mean a comprehensive list

Middle East Casualties

Lebanese Civil War 1958 4000 killed

Lebanese Civil War 1975-1976 44,000 killed

"deaths may have approached 44,000, with about 180,000 wounded; many thousands of others were displaced or left homeless, or had migrated. Much of the once-magnificent city of Beirut was reduced to rubble and the town divided into Muslim and Christian sectors, separated by the so-called Green Line."

Algerian Civil War 1993-1998 70,000 civilians killed

"the Armed Islamic Group, was believed largely responsible for the series of village massacres that characterized the war. About 70,000 civilians were butchered (1993-98) in surprise raids throughout the country, especially in places where members of civil defense groups were believed by the militants to be located."

Black September PLO vs. Jordan 1970-1971 3,500 killed

Druze Revolt 1924-1927 9, 000 killed

4000 French, 5000 Druze

"News of the Druze rebellion spread throughout Syria and ignited revolts in Aleppo and Damascus among Syrian nationalists, who pleaded with Atrash to attack the Syrian capital. In October the Druzes invaded the Damascus region; nationalist leaders led their own demonstrations; and the French began systematic bombardment of the city, resulting in the death of 5,000 Syrians. The rebellion collapsed by the end of the year, and reluctant order replaced open revolt."

Syrian Baath Vs. Muslim Brotherhood 1980-1982 20,000-50,000 killed

"The armed conflict between the Muslim Brethren and the regime culminated in full-scale insurrection in Aleppo in 1980 and in Hamah in February 1982. The government responded to the Hamah revolt with brutal force, crushing the rebellion by killing between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians and leveling large parts of the city...

"In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed government forces who were searching for dissidents in Hamah. Several thousand Syrian troops, supported by armor and artillery, moved into the city and crushed the insurgents during two weeks of bloodshed. When the fighting was over, perhaps as many as 10,000 to 25,000 people lay dead, including an estimated 1,000 soldiers.

Turkey Vs. The Kurds 15,000 killed

"...between 1982 and 1995 some 15,000 people were killed, the great majority of whom were Kurdish civilians. Dozens of villages were destroyed and many of the inhabitants driven from their homes. Turkish forces also attacked PKK bases in Iraq, first from the air and then with ground forces; in an operation in late 1992 about 20,000 Turkish troops entered the safe havens, and in 1995 some 35,000 were employed in a similar campaign..."

Bulgaria vs. Turkish Minority 1984-1985 500-1,500 killed

"500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled."

Armenian Genocide 1915-1917 600,000-2,000,000 killed

"In the early stages of World War I, in 1915 Russian armies advanced on Turkey from the north and the British attempted an invasion from the Mediterranean. Citing the threat of internal rebellion, the Ottoman government ordered large-scale roundups, deportations, and systematic torture and murder of Armenians beginning in the spring of 1915. Estimates vary from 600,000 to 2 million deaths out of the prewar population of about 3 million Armenians. By 1917 fewer than 200,000 Armenians remained in Turkey."

China: Shadian Incident 1975 5,000 killed

“....the Chinese army used artillery to crush a Muslim uprising in the village of Shadian in Yunnan, killing as many as 5,000 people."

Source: James Miles, The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,1997. p. 180.

UPDATE (Aug) 2, 2006

Turkey: Kurdish (PKK) Conflict 1984-2006 37,000 killed

More than 37,000 people have been killed 1984 since the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, took up arms to fight for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Source: AFP: Turkish President Signs Controversial Law, July 17, 2006


Anonymous said...

You are a rightwing moron.

Peter H said...

Hi Stuart,

I'm copying the text of a some questions I left for Ami Isseroff at his webblog. Although it was in response to a specific post he wrote, it could apply to this post, as well as most of the bloggers on the "Democratic Left" who've defended Israel's right to respond.
Look forward to your response:

(1) If there was any question in the early days of Operation Just Reward that Israel is intentionally hitting civilian targets, there is no question now. It is bombing Maronite and Sunni areas that have no plausible connection to Hizbollah whatsoever. Do you have any moral qualms about this? And what do you think Dan Halutz had in mind when he talked about "turning the clock back in Lebanon 20 years"?

(2) Is it really true that Israel has no choice but to attack civilian targets, since Hizbollah hides among civilians? Israel has attacked Hizbollah's military targets in the past. What's the difference now? Isn't is possible that Israel's real motivation for avoiding Hizbollah's military targets now is that wants to spare itself the humilation of letting Hizbollah score yet another military victory against the IDF?

(3) You say that "If the Hezbollah are allowed to attack soldiers, then Israel is at war with Lebanon, and Israel is allowed to retaliate against any and all targets that it considers to be strategic." Did you know that IDF troops have repeatedly crossed into Lebanon to attack Hizbollah tropps and fly over Lebanese airspace since 2000? By that logic, isn't Hizbollah "allowed to retaliate against any and all targets that it considers to be strategic"?

(4) Even if it were true that Hizbollah's attack was an unprovoked act of war, couldn't there have been other means of getting the hostages back without launching an all-out war against Lebanon? Couldn't, for example, at least Israel have given the Lebanese government some time to return the soldiers before attacking Lebanon?

(5) Do concepts of deterrence have any relevance to Israel? For example... Israel has F-16's to defend itself against aggression by Hizbollah and Hizbollah has rockets to defend itself from aggression by Israel. Or does only Israel have a right to defend itself?

You may find it outrageous that I am comparing Israel to Hizbollah. Yet most of Lebanon's Shiite population believes that Hizbollah's disarmament would give Israel license to commit further aggression against their communities.

(6) You take Lebanon to task for not implementing Resolution 1559 and 1680. It is really surprising that, in a heavily fragmented country, still vulnerable to outside influence, a lightly armed (and mostly Muslim) army would find it reluctant to disarm a powerful milita that's supported by (at least) 40% of Lebanon's population?

Moreover, you ignore the premise behind Resolution 1559: That Lebanon needed to disarm its militias in order to achive its stability. How does a resolution intended to bring stability to Lebanon become a license to Israel (in violation of over 30+ UN Security Council resolutions itself) to bomb Lebanon back to the stone ages?

(7) You rightfully worry about the rise of extremism in Lebanon, Palestine or the rest of the Arab world. Do you think Israel's invasions of Gaza and Lebanon strengthens or weakens that trend?

Look forward to your reply.