Israel Is Within Its Rights
Israel Is Within Its Rights
- David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey (Washington Post)
In its operations against Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Israel's conduct has been fully compliant with the applicable norms of international law. In determining the existence of a legitimate casus belli, a state is entitled to consider the entire context of the threat it faces.
Hizballah is not simply a terrorist gang, like Germany's Baader-Meinhof or Italy's Red Brigades. It is a substantial political and military organization that has more than 12,000 short- and medium-range rockets and that has operated freely on Lebanese territory for many years, whose stated goal is Israel's destruction, and is the client of a major regional power - Iran - whose government appears dedicated to the same goal.
Moreover, although international law requires a state to have a lawful reason to use force - such as self-defense - it does not mandate that a state limit its military response to "tit for tat" actions. Once a country has suffered an armed attack, it is entitled to identify the source of that attack and to eliminate its adversary's ability to attack again. It is not required to accept a limited conflict that fails to meet and resolve the danger it faces.
No state has the right to permit a foreign military force to use its territory to launch attacks against another country. Lebanon's failure to expel Hizballah would in and of itself have been a legitimate cause for Israeli military action. It was the Taliban's sheltering of al-Qaeda that was the basis of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan in 2001.
Although there is some grim humor in the spectacle of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose troops have ravaged Chechnya, criticizing Israel for a "disproportionate" use of force, the claims are without merit. In NATO's 1999 war against Serbia, airports, bridges, and the power grid were attacked - with the agreement and approval of the European governments involved. In the current conflict, Israel's primary military purpose in attacking these targets appears to be to cut Hizballah's supply lines, not to punish Lebanon.
Hizballah intentionally operates from civilian areas, both to protect its military capabilities from attack and to increase civilian deaths, which can then be trumpeted for propaganda purposes. But the presence of a large civilian population does not immunize Hizballah or Hamas forces from attack. Responsibility for any additional civilian casualties must be attributed to those groups, not to Israel.
The legal rights Israel is exercising to defend itself today are the very same legal rights on which the United States must rely in the war on terrorism. Attempts to revise the traditional laws of war so that law-abiding states cannot effectively protect their own populations from attack or even defend their territory from armed incursion are not humanitarian advances. They simply make the world safer for those who reject any notion of law in war.
and see also
Empty ethical arguments
As time goes by, world protest against the IDF offensive operation in Lebanon becomes more widespread. Not all protesters do so on ethical grounds, but most use ethical arguments. Yet further exploration of these arguments might show most of them to be mostly empty, or at least they don't come to terms with what we learn from war ethics literature. Following are four of these arguments.
Hezbollah's provocation constituted a reasonable use of force.
The shooting on the patrol and the kidnapping were aimed at military forces, but this act was not executed in a fighting context. After IDF forces withdrew behind the international border as part of a settlement validated by UN resolutions, all use of force against them, including the killing and kidnapping of soldiers, is not legitimate.
Also, there is no doubt the Katyusha firings along the border prior to the kidnapping where illegitimate, since they were aimed at a civilian population, an act that is prohibited also in a time of war. The fact that it was a limited action does not make it reasonable. Hezbollah's interest is to keep the conflict on a low level, since in that sort of warfare it has a relative advantage. Furthermore, since the act took place as part of an ongoing attrition strategy, Israel holds the right to respond not only to that one act, but to all acts that result from practicing such a strategy.
IDF reaction is not a measured one.
Harming the civilian population in Lebanon constitutes a war crime.
Aiming for civilian infrastructure is a war crime as it is intentional.