Bloggers on Israeli retaliation.

Bloggers on Israeli retaliation.

Bloggers on Israeli retaliation.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
July 28 2006 5:47 PM

Out of Proportion

Bloggers debate the issue of proportional response in the Middle East conflict. They also discuss an ancient psalm book discovered in Ireland, and Wonkette's new job.

Out of proportion: As the exchange of Hezbollah rockets and Israeli bombs rages on, the watchword among pundits has been "proportionality." Lebanese officials report that Israeli bombs have killed 423 people, mostly civilians, while 51 Israelis have died. French President Jacques Chirac and U.N. officials have criticized Israel for its "disproportionate" response.

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Ed Morrissey at the conservative Captain's Quarters argues that proportionate responses don't win wars: "Demands for proportionality lead us to where we are today—long, bloody wars of attrition that solve nothing and embolden asymmetrical warfare." Princeton-based blogger TigerHawk counters that proportionality allows the attacker to determine its own punishment: "This is like limiting the penalty for property crimes to restitution. Why not rob the bank? If you're caught, you only have to give the money back."

A few bloggers pontificate on just-war theory. Sebastian at Obsidian Wings dislikes people tossing around the term "proportionality" willy nilly: "In the laws of warfare context it should not conjure the idea of a tit-for-tat response structure, but rather whether or not the means is justly related to the ends." Richard Waghorne at Irish blog Sicilian Notes decries the "morality by numbers" that compares body counts: "Without establishing what would be just ends for Israel to pursue, talk of whether their actions are proportionate is nonsensical. … At the moment it serves as a way of avoiding the basic question of justice."

Daniel Davies at the academic group blog Crooked Timber claims that Hezbollah's attacks on Israeli civilians constitute war crimes to which the code of proportionality does not apply: " 'proportionality' is an unfortunate word as it implies a rather silly concept of equal response which some people have decided to pick up and run with. The relevant Geneva Convention has a prohibition on 'excess' which is better." Law professor Kenneth Anderson at Law of War argues that proportionality is just an "invention by the [U.N.] Security Council": "the Charter does not remove the customary law of self-defense, which does not require a 'proportionate' response once belligerency is underway."

Umair at the business-strategy blog Bubblegeneration claims that the "economics of terror"—the decreasing cost of mass murder—makes proportionality an impossible strategy: "What does it mean to respond to the 'size' of a threat if a terrorist is a guy with a suitcase, who might blow up a city? Well, it can only really mean something like levelling the city the terrorist is from. Which means lots and lost and lots of innocent people die always and everywhere under this strategy."

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One commenter on the liberal blog Majikthise is befuddled by Israel's response: "To stay their current course in effect says, 'We can't destroy Hezbollah, but we can sure as shit destroy Lebanon.' And I thought George Bush was the only world leader who thought like this."

Read more about proportionality in the Middle East. See a visual representation of the death toll. In a different take on proportionality, Jordan Ellenberg wondered whether one Israeli death really equals 47 American deaths.

Bogging the Bible: Irish archeologists announced this week the unearthing of a medieval book of psalms in bog near Dublin. The book was reportedly open to Psalm 83, which describes the attempts of other nations in the Middle East to wipe out Israel.

Some bloggers know a sign when they see it. Hip-Hope Raven at Timekeepers thinks God has been reading the news: "The God of Israel has used an Irish bog to highlight His perspective on the war, which is occurring as we speak, and declaring His heart and plan for Israel as a nation, and His judgment on all those who come against the Jewish people."

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Huw Raphael at the Orthodox Christian blog Sarx mocks the enthusiasm of "Neocons, the American Zionists, and sundry Dispensationalists" over the discovery: "And on such things they build foreign policy on the far far right. Wiccans use Tarot and Astrology. Neocons tell the future by Bibliomancy."

But yesterday the National Museum of Ireland clarified that the open page wasn't actually the Psalm 83, but Psalm 83 from the old latin Vulgate Bible, which correlates to Psalm 84 in the King James version. Damien at Irish blog Blather.net calls the museum's announcement a sad sign of the times: "Has the ridiculous crock that is the DaVinci Code permeated popular culture that much that academic scholars and museum directors now have to spend their time allaying the fears and fantasies of people whose lens on world history is tuned to help them see the 'end of days' around every cultural corner?"

Read more about the Irish bog find.

Wonkette's New Gig: Ana Marie Cox, founder of D.C. gossip blog Wonkette, has been named Washington Editor of TIME.com. Bloggers unsurprisingly lay on the snark.

Responding to Time managing Editor Richard Stengel's assurance that Cox "has the ability to spot political angles in surprising places," gossip blog Jossip agreed: "Yes, Cox has uncovered angles in some very surprising places indeed—most notably, the limousines, bedrooms, and country houses of Washington's political players."

Wonkette's current guest blogger, David Weigel of Reason, says the critics are just jealous.

Gawker, Wonkette's corporate sibling, offers its congratulations to Cox: "We can't wait for the inevitable 'women in prison' spread." Then comes Kevin Hayden at The American Street with the kicker: "And somewhere, Henry Luce's corpse is spinning in a tutu with a strap-on."

Read more about Ana Marie Cox's new post.