Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived
A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?
Update: seemingly not
Update: Oh yeah!
Monday, December 29, 2008
A brief note on proportionality
Much comment around and about the commentosphere about what is and isn't "disproportionate". The same gang of chuckleheads were pissing out squid ink around this fairly simple concept of international law two years ago, during the invasion of Lebanon. Typically the way it goes is that someone takes it into their head that the Geneva Conventions might require "proportionality" in the sense of an eye for an eye, constructs some case in which that would be ridiculous and then goes "how ridiculous these people are with their hilarious 'war crimes' accusations! Tch!".
Actually, the word "proportionate" doesn't appear in the conventions; they talk about collateral damage to civilians being "reasonable". And in context, it's clear that there's no requirement of tit for tat, just that unintended but inevitable risk to noncombatants has to be proportionate to the military aim which is being carried out. Thus, it is argued (both ways - I don't have a view on this myself) that the bombing of Hiroshima was not necessarily a war crime, because the war aim in doing so (the early ending of the war in the Pacific) was such a huge one. And this despite the fact that Japan as a belligerent had not inflicted anything like similar civilian casualties on the USA. Conversely, the bombing of Dresden is argued to have been a war crime (again, both ways, and again, I don't have my own opinion) not because the casualties were greater by orders of magnitude than those of the Blitz, but because there was no very great military prize at stake.
As an obvious corollorollorollorollrary to this (fixed! thanks Phil), any military action at all can be disproportionate if it has no point to it at all; no sensible or realistic objective other than shoring up political support for the people who ordered it. And as a further corollary, it is entirely possible (and indeed, not even unusual) for both sides in a conflict to be guilty of disproportionate use of violence.
this item posted by the management 12/29/2008 12:13:00 PM