Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for July 18, 2014
Afternoon Must-Read: John Maynard Keynes (1926): The End of Laissez-Faire

Michael Walzer Does Not Dare Say That the Current Israeli Bombing of Gaza Is a Proportionate Response to the Crimes of Hamas, But...: Live from La Farine CCXXI: July 18, 2014

NewImageSo what does he talk about? This:

Michael Walzer: On Proportionality: "'Disproportionate' is the favorite critical term... current discussions of the morality of war. But most of the people who use it don’t know what it means in international law or in just war theory....

Proportionality doesn’t mean “tit for tat,” as in the family feud. The Hatfields kill three McCoys, so the McCoys must kill three Hatfields.... Proportionality implies a measure, and the measure here is the value of the end-in-view.... Because proportionality arguments are forward-looking... speculative... we need to be very cautious.... The commentators and critics using it today, however, are not being cautious at all.... “Disproportionate” violence for them is simply violence they don’t like, or it is violence committed by people they don’t like.

So Israel’s Gaza war was called “disproportionate” on day one, before anyone knew very much.... Before the six months of cease-fire (when the fire never ceased), Hamas had only primitive and home-made rockets.... By the end of the six months, they had... rockets... that can hit cities 30 or 40 kilometers away. Another six months... which is what many nations at the UN demanded, and Hamas would have rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv. And this is an organization explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel. How many civilian casualties are “not disproportionate to” the value of avoiding the rocketing of Tel Aviv? How many civilian casualties would America’s leaders think were “not disproportionate to” the value of avoiding the rocketing of New York?...

Who is responsible for putting civilians in the line of fire?... In... 2006, Kofi Annan... though he criticized Israel for a “disproportionate” response to Hezbollah’s raid, also criticized Hezbollah--not just for firing rockets at civilians, but also for firing them from heavily populated civilian areas.... I don’t think that the new Secretary General has made the same criticism of Hamas, but Hamas clearly has a similar policy.... Is the attacking army acting in concrete ways to minimize the risks they impose on civilians?... I haven’t heard this question asked... by commentators and critics in the Western media; it is a hard question, since any answer would have to take into account the tactical choices of Hamas.... Commentators and critics are supposed to enlighten us about the moral obligations of soldiers. There hasn’t been much enlightenment these last days.

Walzer is very clear on one thing and only one thing: the most important thing for him to talk about is the intellectual errors made by those who assert that the Israeli response in Gaza is "disproportionate".

A lawyer can argue the facts when they are on the side of his or her client, argue the law when the facts aren't on his or her client's side, pound the table when neither the facts nor the law on on his or her client's side, and not lose reputation. Someone who purports to be a political philosopher cannot,