Proportionality and the Loss of Common Sense

Thursday, July 31, 2014 |  Tsvi Sadan

Chile recalled its ambassador to Israel on Wednesday because, it said, the scale and intensity of the Israeli operation in Gaza violates the principle of proportionality.

This lack of proportionality, according to the Chilean government, forfeits any justification for this otherwise legitimate act of self-defense. In the name of proportionality, therefore, Israel's right of self-defense is denied.

Chile was only the latest of a handful of South American countries to adopt this position and recall their ambassadors.

I was left to wonder, what should the proportional response of the Chilean police be when faced with a thug trying to break into a house with the clear intention of killing everybody in it with his machete? If Chile's condemnation of Israel is valid, it should employ no more than three policemen similarly armed with machetes to take the thug down.

Let's look at proportionality from a different angle. Suppose for every rocket Hamas fires at an urban area in Israel, we retaliate proportionally by firing one of our own rockets indiscriminately at Gaza. Would that be considered proportionate? Or, maybe for Chile proportionality simply means an equal number of dead on both sides.

Contrary to the world of make-believe, the first thing every sergeant in the real world learns is that the use of disproportionate force is the very key to military success.

This simple, common sense principle does not require validation by any Chilean ethics professor or military genius. It has been known and practiced from time immemorial.

Sun Tzu's The Art of War is still studied today by every officer who aspires to lead armies. It was he, and not some wicked Zionist, who taught that disproportionality is a prerequisite for any real chance of winning a war. In the third chapter of his book Sun Tzu gives this simple piece of advice:

"It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two. If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force."

If Sun Tzu is right, what Chile is demanding of Israel is to lose its battle against terror before it even started. By condemning Israel for the use of excessive force, Chile tries to restrict Israel to a battle it can't win. In so doing, Chile is not only robbing Israel of its right of self-defense, but also condemns both sides to an indefinite war.

If this is Chile's sense of morality, it must be rejected by every sensible human being, including Chileans.

I doubt that the Chilean government decision to recall its ambassador has anything to do with anti-Semitism. It may be that Chile merely has lost its common sense. If this is the case, sensible human beings must do whatever they can to bring Chile to its senses.

NOTE: While this article focused on Chile, its points can be applied to any number of nations and individuals currently condemning Israel for disproportionate use of force.

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