What's the Difference between Israel and the US?

The difference is that the Israeli assault abjectly violates the Just War Theory:

Jus Ad Bellum

  1. Just cause
    In the short term, Israel probably meets this criteria. In Sharon’s longer-term goals, this is, well, subject to debate.

  2. Competent authority
    Again, meets this criteria, at least when “competent” is used to mean “legal”.

  3. Comparative justice, i.e., “Which side is sufficiently ‘right’ in a dispute, and are the values at stake critical enough to override the presumption against war?”

  4. Right intention. War must be intended only for reasons which constitute just cause and it must be waged with the goal of peace and reconciliation, 'including avoiding unnecessarily destructive acts or imposing unreasonable conditions (e.g., unconditional surrender).
    Sharon and Israel appear to be violating this. Sharon is doing much more than simply “rooting out terrorists.” An overlooked incident was Israel’s attack on the PA’s Preventive Security Force’s headquarters. The PSF was one of the very few Palestinian forces not engaged in combat with Israel. This leads to the suspicion that Sharon is using the situation to dismantle the PA and overturn Oslo. This is what Bush wants to prevent.

  5. War must be the last resort.
    Not even going to touch this one.

  6. There must be a reasonable “probability of success.”
    Here is where Sharon’s war policy abjectly fails - and here is the key difference between Afghanistan and the occupied territories.
    Quite simply, Israel’s strategy is not an effective one for stopping the suicide bombings. The occupied territories are not Afghanistan, and the suicide bombers are not Al-Qaeda, so the tactics used in Afghanistan.

In both instances, the idea is to demolish the infrastructure, to eliminate or reduce the ability to conduct further terrorist attacks. But in Al-Qaeda’s case, the infrastructure was (relatively) sophisticated - an ability to manage finances, direct operations across international borders, detailed planning, etc.

In the situation in Israel today, the “infrastructure” is a few pounds of explosives, bus fare, and an embittered person willing to give up his or her life. A military assault can’t destroy that infrastructure. Indeed, Israel’s military assault probably strengthens that infrastructure by producing more embittered Palestinians. How does rounding up militants stop a 16 year old girl from blowing herself up and taking others with her?

  1. Proportionality, i.e., “the damage to be inflicted and the costs incurred by war must be proportionate to the good expected by taking up arms.”

Since there is no reasonable probability of success, the Israeli assault also fails this one.

Jus in Bello

The two criteria that govern Jus in Bello, the manner of conducting a war, are “proportionality and discrimination.” Proportionality requires that the war itself must be for a proportionate good, and also that tactics and weapons used in that war must be proportionate to the situation. Discrimination “prohibits directly intended attacks on noncombatants and nonmilitary targets.”

Israel has failed on both counts.



Let’s look at those still debated critera.

Just cause. Civilian terror attacks for no purpose other than terror on scale that for population size dwarf the 9/11 attack. Long term goal of survival. Just cause met.

Justice? Well, if believes it was just for the US to defend itself then one must accept that it is just for Israel to defend itself.

Like in Afganastan, some who are not explicitly involved in terror will be hurt. It would be nice if terrorists wore uniforms identifying themselves and seperated themselves from “civilians”. It would be nice if they located themselves in units. They don’t. They set up shop in the middle of the camps. They use every possible cover. They hole up in churches. If you can figure out a way to go into such a situation and confidently dismantle a terrorist infrastructure without any “civilian” casualties, and without subjecting many to being “humuliated”, then pleaswe suggest it. Israel has tried. But it has come to believe that the goal of dismantling the terrorist infrastructure will not be stymied if that goal cannot be fully met. And America didn’t blow up some freindly forces?
Imposition of unreasonable conditions? I don’t see the request to stop blowing up cafes and buses as an unreasonable request.
Goal is peace? I see no hope for peace while terror bombings continue. I see some infintessimal hope when they are stopped. critera met

Last resort? Hmmm… Barak’s approach offered almost all the PLA asked for and more than they could hope to get from any other Israeli administration. It was a chance for an autonomous and economically viable Palestininian entity. It was refused. The current administration has tried unilateral ceasefires … attacks persisted. I don’t see this operation as anything other than a last and a desperate resort.

Probabilty of success? I think that you underestimate the infrastructure that supports the bombings. Your comparison to the sophistication of Al-Qaeda is specious … hell, all they needed were a couple of box-cutters, airfare, and a few flying school lessons. Why did you expect that dismantling Al-Qaeda’s Afganastan base would work (when anyone with terroist intent could cheaply strap explosives on here too, and the organazation is international) yet think that dismantling the structural support that the PLO provides will not reduce their effectiveness.

Proportionality? Lock-down, “humiliation”, house to house searches, final exams destroyed, and yes, some unavoidable civilian deaths balanced against daily attacks that culmatively make 9/11 look like a traffic accident and destroy any hope for a long term solution. Discrimination? The best possible under the situation of fighting terrorists hiding in civilian populations and using civilian organizations as shells.

Meets critera on all counts.

Look, I won’t claim that Israeli soldiers have all been “Excuse me Sir, please step this way for a security search, Thank you” (Heck, I don’t get treated politely at US airports, always) and I would not be surprised if individual soldiers or units even have used excessive force. This is a war, afterall. Show me one war where such does not occur and I’ll show you a war where we don’t know all the facts.

The difference between the US situation and the Israeli? The US is an 800 pound gorilla rightously angry; Israel can be dismissed as “that shitty little country.” The US could send its surrogates to do most of the actual fighting and attack with airpower; Israel has the ability to do neither in this circumstance, its soldiers are at constant risk. As is its entire population everyday.

The difference? Israel’s actions have much greater justification, is much more of an action of last resort, is not imposing “unconditional surrender” (as did the US), and is more proportionate to the threat (which is much greater for Israel).

jus ad bellum

Agreed. I’ve always wondered why, though, the U.S. hasn’t swooped down and made the various EU infusions look like a pittance. Would it be worth it to pour $100 billion on modernizing Palestine, building industry and whatnot (with hopefully most of it going into wages for Palestinian workers) if it sealed a peace deal? Probably it would be decried as a bribe, but if only the U.S. got to decide how it was spent, it would be hard for Arafat and friends to corrupt it.

I think someone has been playing a little too much Civilization.. Although it would be nice if the Israelis simply built the Great Wall and forced Arafat to offer a cease-fire. :wink:

*Originally posted by DSeid *

What in God’s name are you talking about??

  1. By best evidence thus far, 9/11 was two years in the making, cost an estim cool couple of million of dollars, and required advance training, coordination of good-sized groups of individuals, training (remember the pilot schools?), repeated movements of people over several international borders, etc.
  2. The number of Israeli deaths thus far is stated by all parties to be somewhere between 400-500. Here is one cite:
    Ten times as many were killed at the WTC and the Pentagon, but it’s merely a “traffic accident”? You would have done great doing body counts in Viet Nam.

As for your other points,
1, 2, & 3 we are either in agreement on, or I have already conceded the point is debateable.

#4, I note that you utterly ignored Sharon’s desire to go beyond uprooting the “terrorist infrastructure” and instead to turn back the clock to before Oslo. Sharon stated in the Knesset last week that his goal is not a peace settlement, but a “long-term interim agreement” - one that, quite obviously, means continued occupation of the territories.

#5 I stated that I wasn’t going to even touch that one. It’s essentially an unanswerable criteria, at least in these circumstances.

#6 - probability of success. I think the continued suicide attacks, despite Sharon’s assault, occupation of territory, and isolation of Arafat speak for themselves.

As for proportionality, I would submit that killing more non-combatants on the other side (in a smaller population base than your side) than you have lost on your side is, um, “non-proportional.”

Don’t get me wrong - the suicide attacks are vile and need to be stopped. But mass punishment is not an acceptable response to the evil of a few.


And I’ve wondered why the various Arab oil states in the neighborhood don’t cough up one-tenth of one-percent of their revenues to send every Palestinian kid to college. Unfortunately, though, they can make politicial points with their own oppressed citizens by talking about Palestinian suffering at the hands of the Israelis without actually helping to relieve it.

I love Civilization. At the very least, I can’t see a Jewish administration doing a worse job than, say, Saddam Hussein. Oh, well, slap up some Universities and a Superhighway, and hire some Entertainers, and maybe we’ll see “I Love the Prime Minister Day” yet.


What in God’s name am I talking about?

  1. Terror is generally effective as low tech. The bottom line is the attack was accomplished with a couple of box cutters and getting a dedicated suicide bomber trained to plilot a plane enough to crash it. I am thrilled beyond belief that we have not experienced more attacks, but am doubtful that it is over yet. Flying a few dedicated suicide bombers here and blowing up a bus or a train or … to believe that destroying the infrastructure within Afaganistan is enough is foolish thinking.

  2. I can’t get to your link without a subscription so I’ll presume that is for the time period of this year so far. The typical annual Israeli death toll from terror is about 40 a year. This in a country of less than 5 million Jews. So compare the relative toll: 500/5 mill compared to 5000/278 mill. Yet every American felt that they were personally affected and at risk, and as a whole felt that the US was justified in whatever was needed to restore a sense of security. Imagine a comparable situation in the US: A 9/11 every week for a year would be the same terror effect that the Israelis have lived with so far this year alone. A 9/11 once a year as a baseline for years and years past. Imagine what the US people would demand as response from their government.

  3. Oh c’mon. That is just a realistic statement. Talking a peace settlement now is ridiculous. The offer that was on the table from Barak is gone. The hope for a Palestinian entity that could be trusted to assure Israeli security from attacks is gone. The best to hope for now is for some long term process that builds back in that direction. And that is awfully optimistic.

  4. No one expects to be able to stop them entirely. To handicap them, yes.

As for proportionality. How many Afganis were killed? How much more populous is the US? What was the op again?


I love this media bias in America, it cracks me up that people claim it is anything other than slanted to the Palestinian side. Let’s take this as a case in point.

What do you image when they say “human sheilds”? Shooting round them kind of stuff, right? Okay, now I read today’s Chicago Tribune where the first paragraph of a front page article says the same charge. Only after you turn to page twelve, 18 paragraphs into the article, do you find the detail of that charge: a Palestinian who claims that he is not a terrorist and whose claim is that the Israeli Defense Forces made him knock on the doors of houses that they wanted to search. 12 houses over two days. If you believe that this is “using a human shield” then you acknowledge the danger that every doorway presents to a member of the IDF, and you appreciated how impossible it is to do this “clean.” Me, I see it as wrong, but I do not see this as the same as placing a wall of civilians in front of you while you shoot, which is what is implied.

This is like killing your parents and then asking for mercy because you are an orphan. Isn’t it the Palestinian fighters who hide among thier own civilian population? Aren;t the Palestinians who encourage their children to go throw rocks at the Israelis? Shouldn’t the blame go to them? Why does nobody blame the Palestinian fighters for that? If the Palestinian fighters did not use their own population as shields and cover, the population would not be at risk. Yes, it sucks that civilians are getting hit by this mess but it is the Palestinian fighters who are to blame.

Asked when there would be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, she replied,

“When the Palestinians learn to love their children more than they hate the Jews.”

You know LaurAnge, I’m glad you started this because this thought has been on my mind a lot lately. To answer your OP, IMO there is no difference between Us and Israel.

A little thought experiment: Imagine if Mexico or Canada became hostile to us. Once a week, a Mexican or Canadian suicide bomber was blowing up a mall, restaurant, or bus. They’re only killing 5 - 10 people at a time, but it’s happening regularly. How long do you think it would take before we went ape shit and invaded the offending country in order to put a stop to it?

For an interesting review from a conservative viewpoint, see National Review editor William F. Buckley’s Sharon’s Contribution. Buckley, who fully supported the U.S. mission in Afganistan, contrasts that with the current events in the Middle East, and states that “General Sharon’s offensive is the stupidest campaign in recent memory” because it has “solved nothing, increased Israel’s problems, intensified Palestinian hatred of Israel, estranged many Europeans and Americans, and fanned Islamic hostility”. Also, "Sharon has wounded the State of Israel incalculably, causing ache and pain not only to Palestinians, but to his people, and to friends of Israel everywhere. "

What insight is this particular thought experiment supposed to show us?

There is a big diference between Israel and the US. The fact that the US has a role as a world leader changes your thought experiment. The facts that Israel is the size of New Jersey, one of the smallest STATES in the USA and that we are surrounded by oceans while Israel is surrounded by angry Arabs changes your thought experiment. Simply comparing Israel and Palestine to a hypothetical US vs Mex/Canada over simplifies the situation and ignores many of the realities of that part of the world that don’t exist here in North America.

What the heck does that change?!? Because the USA is a superpower, it’s okay for them to act like it and wield such force? It’s because Israel is territorially small that it’s actions are illegitimate?