The Myth of Proportionate Warfare

Muffling the screams of the Israeli jet engines over Gaza , protests decrying the Israeli response to Hamas’ rocket attacks as not proportionate, now fill the air.


     What some of these well-meaning activists don’t seem to consider, is the strategic necessity of disproportionate damage to an enemy’s war-fighting capabilities. When a country lends blood and treasure to fighting, that country’s leadership should have in mind exactly what it intends to accomplish. All military means must be brought to bear in order to see the political goals through. In the case of Israel ’s recent invasion of Gaza , the goal is clear: To put an end to Hamas’ rocket attacks, or more specifically, to stop the attacks by destroying as much of Hamas’ equipment and killing as many of its operatives as possible. The goal is not punishment, but decisive victory.


     When looking at historical wars, consider proportion. The more equally matched the opposing forces were, the longer and bloodier the fighting tended to be. As two equally matched wrestlers must expend all their energies so that the slightest advantage is gained, so in war does parity impel nations and armies to send more men to the thresher of battle.

A balance of power may well keep the peace, but if the peace is broken it is an oblique evil to intentionally limit your ability to win. Only those conveniently distant—either ideologically or geographically– from the battle, propose “ramping down” an army’s ability to defeat the enemy. It is in this holding back that men’s lives are thrown away for nothing, their blood spilled and nothing of value accomplished.


     Shattering the myth of proportionate warfare’s morality, the Iran-Iraq war stands in relevant and stark relief. Two armies of equal strength smashed themselves against one another for eight years. One million souls and half a trillion dollars later, the withered forces withdrew from a pointless fight. Iran and Iraq were not equal because they wanted to be. The countries cast everything into their fight. But to ask a soldier to intentionally make himself equal to his enemy, is to ask too much.


    Israel must bring its combat forces to focus. It must ignore even the most well-meaning calls for proportion, while doing all it can to minimize civilian casualties. If it quits the fight before Hamas’ military capabilities are destroyed, Israel will have only emboldened her enemies, wasted the lives of its soldiers and innocent Palestinian civilians, and resurrected the specter of its 2006 war with Hezbollah.





2 Responses to “The Myth of Proportionate Warfare”

  1. 1 Mike Rozos
    January 17, 2009 at 12:31 am

    I find it ironic the people who would present the proportionate war argument are exclusively those who would never, ever even consider being involved in any conflict whatsoever.

    So, those who don’t fight say nation should, what;

    Fight gently?

  2. 2 kernunos
    January 17, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    They should say “I’ld like the non-rusty barrel;more kitty litter please.”.

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