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The Israelis Invade

Andrew Sullivan asks the following question:

How does just war theory defend the deaths of many innocent civilians as a means to increase “deterrent strength”?

The first answer is that Andrew is being coy; the ground operation is not only intended as a deterrent measure, it is intended to push Hamas off the territory it has been using near the Israeli border to launch rockets, and it is intended to kill important members of Hamas — its vanguard of fighters and leaders — and yes, it is also intended as a deterrent measure. If Andrew does not want to see the IDF either completely re-occupy Gaza or lay waste to ever-larger parts of the territory, he must allow the IDF a third way: create a new deterrence posture against Hamas so that the terror regime will be forced to make a new calculation about the value of its rocket war on Israeli civilians versus the destruction to its own infrastructure and lives that such attacks invite.

Increasing “deterrent strength” against an enemy is simply another way of saying that you intend to fight them until they stop attacking you. As far as just war theory is concerned, I invite Andrew to cite chapter and verse, or even vague tenets, which might guide us toward his claim of the illegitimacy of the ground operation.

Nobody knows at this moment whether Hamas is deterrable. The question depends on whether Hamas actually intends to fight to the last man and on the efficacy of the IDF’s ground war. But surely it is also true — according to just war theory, no less — that the sovereign state of Israel, in an attempt to protect its citizens, is allowed to discover whether deterrence is possible. I note that since August 2006, Hezbollah has been awfully quiet on Israel’s northern border; and that since 1973, so have Syria and Egypt.

UPDATE: Yaacov Lozowick: “Bye Andrew.”



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