Thursday, July 27, 2006

Prick up yer ears, ya little freaks!

Fred Clark makes it simple for you:
It's been awhile so it seems again it's time for a helpful reminder that noncombatant immunity isn't just a good idea, it's the law.

In other words: You're not allowed to kill civilians.

Killing civilians is against the law. Killing civilians makes you a criminal.

Yes, but ...

No buts about it. You're not allowed to kill civilians.

And, also: You're not allowed to kill civilians....

The common thread in all of these scenarios -- hypothetical or actual -- is the idea of double effect. A doctor, for example, is bound by oath to "do no harm." Slicing someone with a razor-sharp knife would certainly seem to constitute doing harm. But if the doctor is slicing someone with a scalpel because this cutting is an inescapable part of surgery needed and intended to heal, then the doctor may -- perhaps even must -- perform such slicing without violating her oath.... If there is any possible way to achieve the intended effect without producing the unintended effect, then double-effect does not apply -- the doctor may not slice, the general may not attack. If there is any possible way to achieve the necessary intended effect without producing the unintended effect and you act, instead, in a way that produces this secondary effect, then you have not produced "collateral damage," you have simply slaughtered civilians.

6 comments:

Adrian MacNair said...

I agree. There apologists are running out of excuses for Israel. It's sad that the U.S. continues to support unilateral interventions.

Olaf said...

How would you propose to achieve the "intended effect" of a) the return of captured Israeli soldiers; and b) preventing Hezbollah from firing thousands of rockets into N. Israel; and c) producing long term security for Israel?

I'm not apologising for the deaths of civilians, but your post implies there is an easy solution, and that no civilian deaths are necessary in whatever you have in mind. Please advise.

john said...

"I'm not apologising for the deaths of civilians, but your post implies there is an easy solution, and that no civilian deaths are necessary in whatever you have in mind. Please advise."

Well, I don't think Fred's words are pretty clear that - if there is no other alternative - then killing civilians may be necessary, though never a "good" thing.

That said, the three objectives you listed are entirely incompatible with military force, certainly when used on a large civilian population.

The first and third goals you list (return of soldiers and long-term security) are things that can only come from political processes, not a military one. Attacks on Lebanon actively hurt both of these objectives, not help.

As for preventing rocket attacks, those only began in earnest after the IDF started bombing Beirut.

So the simplest way for Israel not to have incurred all these losses would have been to not react the way it did, which was foolhardy and is now being seen as counterproductive.

john said...

Oops - the first paragraph should read "I think Fred's words are pretty clear..."

Sorry.

Olaf said...

The only problem with your analysis is that this is not a war between states that can be reasonably solved by a political process, as has been proven time, and time, and time again.

After these political failures, Israel has taken steps, such as pulling out of Lebanon and many of its Palestinian settlements (future pull-outs look dubious now), which could be seen as unilateral political decisions. However these have not placated Hezbollah or Hamas, or solved any of the underlying problems, while leaving Israel more vulnerable to attacks.

I understand your opinion on the futility of military operations, but are you really suggesting that there can be a political solution to the conflict short of dismantling the state of Israel? And in lieu of that, and assuming Israel can defend itself against foreign attacks on its civilians, how could this possibly be accomplished?

john said...

"The only problem with your analysis is that this is not a war between states that can be reasonably solved by a political process, as has been proven time, and time, and time again."

When was this proven? At what point - ever - did Israel attempt to negotiate with Hezbollah?

Israel may find the idea of negotiating with Hezbollah offensive or distasteful, but them's the breaks. The US found it distasteful leaving the Japanese emperor on the throne post-1945, but that was what they saw as necessary to win the peace. (BTW - it worked, didn't it? Sometimes you got to suck it up.)

Israel has conducted it entire foreign policy unilaterally, which is it's prerogative. But Israel can't on the one hand refuse to negotiate with anyone, and on the other hand say "negotiations don't work!"

Unilateral action is not, and cannot be, a substitute for negotiations, ever. Israel is trying to "solve" the problem in a way that's totally unacceptable to other parties in the dispute. No wonder it isn't working well.

Do I think there's a political solution here? Well, let me say that I'm 100% certain that there's no military solution at all. The only thing left is negotiation. Hezbollah can't defeat Israel, and Israel can't defeat Hezbollah. Simple as that. In the absence of an real military progress, stop shooting and start talking.

And stop trying to confuse Hamas and Hezbollah - two conflicts, two totally different discussions.