Proportional Response

I had a conversation with Phil Wilson a couple nights ago in regards to the Israel/Hezbollah situation and the merits of proportional response. Whenever I hear that phrase, it reminds me of Jed Bartlett and the West Wing and this scene

FITZWALLACE All three scenarios are comprehensive, meet the obligations of proportional response and pose minimal threat to U.S. personal and assets. To turn our attention to scenario one, or Pericles One, to use its code name…

BARTLET
What is the virtue of a proportional response?

FITZWALLACE
I’m sorry.

BARTLET
What’s the virtue of a proportional response? Why’s it good? [beat] They hit an
airplane, so we hit a transmitter, right? That’s a proportional response.

FITZWALLACE
Sir, in the case of Pericles…

BARTLET
They hit a barracks, so we hit two transmitters?

FITZWALLACE
That’s roughly it, sir.

BARTLET
It’s what we do. I mean this is what we do.

LEO
Yes sir, it’s what we do, it’s what we’ve always done.

BARTLET
Well, if it’s what we do, if it’s what we’ve always done, don’t they know we’re
going to do it?

LEO
Sir, if you would turn your attention to Pericles One.

BARTLET
I have turned my attention to Pericles One, it’s two ammo dumps, an abandoned
railroad bridge and a Syrian intelligence agency.

FITZWALLACE
Those are four high rated military targets, sir.

BARTLET
But they know we’re going to do that, they know we’re going to do that. Those areas
have been abandoned for four days. We know that from the satellites. We have the
intelligence.

LEO
Sir.

BARTLET
They did that, so we did this, it’s the cost of doing business, it’s been factored
in, right?

LEO
Mr. President…

BARTLET
Am I right or am I missing something here?

FITZWALLACE
No sir, you’re right sir.

BARTLET
Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response?

FITZWALLACE
It isn’t virtuous Mr. President. It’s all there is sir.

BARTLET
It is not all there is.

LEO
Sir, Admiral Fitzwallace…

FITZWALLACE
Excuse me Leo, but pardon me Mr. President, just what else is there?

BARTLET
A disproportional response. Let the word ring forth from this time and this place, you kill an American, any American, we don’t come back with a proportional response, we come back [bangs fist on table] with total disaster!

GENERAL
Are you suggesting we carpet-bomb Damascus?

BARTLET
General, I am suggesting that you and Admiral Fitzwallace and Secretary Hutchinson
and the rest of the national security team take the next sixty minutes and put
together a U.S. response scenario that doesn’t make me think we are just docking
somebody’s damn allowance! [gets up and leaves the room. Everyone stands.]

 

Today, I came across a discussion of this at Allison Kaplan Sommer’s blog. One of the commenters refered to a section of literature written by Bonhoeffer on this same situation and said:

Let us not forget what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

It is better to do evil than be evil.

Bonhoeffer sees judgments of character and not action as fundamental to moral evaluation. Evil actions should be avoided, of course, but what needs to be avoided at all costs is the disposition to do evil as part of our character. “What is worse than doing evil,” Bonhoeffer notes, “is being evil” (Ethics, p.67). To lie is wrong, but what is worse than the lie is the liar, for the liar contaminates everything he says, because everything he says is meant to further a cause that is false. The liar as liar has endorsed a world of falsehood and deception, and to focus only on the truth or falsity of his particular statements is to miss the danger of being caught up in his twisted world. This is why, as Bonhoeffer says, that “(i)t is worse for a liar to tell the truth than for a lover of truth to lie” (Ethics, p.67). A falling away from righteousness is far worse that a failure of righteousness. To focus exclusively on the lie and not on the liar is a failure to confront evil.

I’d never heard that before, but it makes a lot of sense, and explains almost precisely how I feel about the matter.

Another commenter added this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

“If your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi and non-violence. But if your enemy has no conscience like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.”

It is irrational to let someone with no conscience take over the world. I think it would be un Christ like to sit idly while people suffer. Because we live in a fallen world, I think its essential that we don’t sit by while people suffer. We may still repent for having to harm another human, but sometimes, I just don’t believe there is any other options

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