The Corner

Disproportionate Idiocy

You have to watch the media like a hawk because you never know when the next perverse theme will come flying out of the sky and start becoming conventional wisdom.

I just heard on MSNBC the moronic observation that the Israelis had inflicted “disproportionate” civilian casualties because the number of Lebanese killed is much higher than the number of Israelis killed.

Comparative civilian casualties is not what the international law concept of “proportionality” is about.  Proportionality has to do with the number of civilian casualties considered against (a) the military value of the operation in which the casualties occur, and (b) the threat against civilians that would result from failure to act.

Ten civilian casualties can be ten too many if there is no military value in the target. (See, e.g., the typical terrorist suicide bombing.)  Hundreds (even thousands) of civilian casualties can be justified if they are fall-out from an appropriate military operation and/or if, in the long run, enduring them means fewer civilian casualties (e.g., strikes that destroy the capabiities of a terrorist organization that hides among civilians).

In either event, it is irrelevant to compare the numbers of civilians killed by competing sides.  Indeed, reports today were that Hezbollah was preventing Lebanese civilians from leaving areas Hezbolla well knows are military targets.  That’s because a terrorist organization knows civilian casualties on BOTH sides serve its interests.

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