Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Proportional Response

As you might guess, your CaliBlogger is a huge fan of The West Wing. One of the reasons is that it frequently tried to present a rational response to the tragedies too common in today's world.

In one episode, called, appropriately enough, A Proportional Response a plane carrying US officials, including a close friend of President Bartlett's is shot down by a middle-eastern country. The President's reaction is a very human one: he wants to bomb the s**t out of the entire country.

When Bartlett, questions as to why a disproportionate would be so wrong, his Chief-of-Staff, Leo McGarry (the sorely missed John Spencer) tells him, essentially, that a proportionate response is how grownup country's behave. It's part of what makes them reponsible players on the world scene.

The implication being that being perceived as responsible is a postitive for the United States.


As you might guess, my belief is that since 9/11, and especially beginning with the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, BushCorp™ has abandoned the concept of proportional response. This is well illustrated by the One Percent Doctrine, as outlined by Ron Suskind, which doctrine (promulgated by Darth Cheney) runs thusly: If there is a one percent chance of something bad happening to the US, the US must treat that threat as a certainty.

Five years on we can see some of the problems inherent in that doctrine.

We can see that invading Iraq on the small possiblity that it posed an actual threat to the US has been a disaster.

And we can see that relinquishing our role as a grownup on the world stage can have disastrous consequences for other nations in the region.

If US foreign policy is irresponsible, then it makes sense for other irresponsible nations (say North Korea and Iran) to arm themselves to the teeth, anticipating that the US may well use force against even the smallest threat. Which, of course, gives the US even greater incentive to attack. Which gives them more incentive to arm. And so on, and so on.

The US, having given up its daddy role in the world, also encourages disasters like the one we're currently witnessing in Israel and Lebanon.

So, rather than step in immediately to broker a cease-fire after Hezbollah's attack on Israel and Israel's ham-fisted response, the adult thing to do, the US actually encourages and abets the Israeli escalation. It is increasingly apparent that this was a bad idea. And not just for Lebanese civilians.

Not only has the Israeli response failed to reign in Hezbollah, it has proven a PR fiasco for both Israel and the US.

As Peter Baker points out in today's Washington Post:

The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.

With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials.

And may I suggest to those that defend the civilian carnage caused by Israel's actions as accidental, as oppposed to Hezbollah's intentional targeting of civilians, such distinctions make absolutely no difference to the arab masses who provide terrorism's recruits.

And it matters even less to the dead.

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