Final Thoughts: Proportionality and @TheIRD

Since Keith Pavlischek has “graced” me with a response, I feel inclined to clear up a few things in my final thoughts on proportionality.

Pavlischek begins:

A blogger who goes by Theonerd  thinks Israel is “carpet bombing” Gaza and is “waging an unjust war.” For a decidedly more expert opinion on that subject you might check out the testimony of someone who knows what he is talking over at the Huffington Post.

1) First off, I do not go by the name TheoNerd (yes, the ‘N’ is capitalized), that is the name of my blog. I have never gone by the name TheoNerd. I post under my given name for all to see.  If you go into the individual posts, it’s down at the bottom of each individual post for all to see, right up above button for the previous post. If you have a hard time finding that, it’s also on the right sidebar on the home page of the blog, under “Authors.” I’m the first one on the list of authors. I take ownership of my posts and comments and I find it a little offensive that Pavlischek and his commenter refer to me as “Theonerd” in what I perceive to be an attempt to dehumanize me. If Pavlischek’s response was a means to “correct” what he saw as flaws in my opinion, well, he lost me in the first paragraph!

2) What makes someone’s opinion “expert?” Education? Experience? Writing on? I fully expect some comment to come forth pointing out the fact that I do not have a PhD in Ethics. So, maybe my opinion isn’t “expert”, but it is valid.

3) If you haven’t seen it, there was a article released by Mother Jones in which some former IDF soldiers tell their side of what goes on in Gaza. It just reaffirms my belief that Israel does not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. The way I was taught the just war tradition, if a conflict fails just one of the criteria, it is to be opposed as unjust. I wonder if it came to light that these kinds of practices were going on in the latest round of violence in Gaza, would Pavlischek come out and denounce Israel’s military response as unjust?

Further, Pavlischek writes:

Theonerd also thinks I have distorted the jus in bello principle of proportionality. Which raises the question, Does Theonerd know any more about the Christian just war tradition in general and the jus in bello principle of proportionality in particular than he does about the extraordinary and even unprecedented efforts of Israel to avoid civilian casualties.

And commenter Daryl Densford writes:

I agree with your post and assessment of Theonerd’s inaccuracies and (should I say it?) ignorance about the issue, but I fail to see why you felt the need to respond to him.

While I only have a BA in Political Science with a minor in Economics and a Master of Divinity, I know enough to know the difference between the jus in bello criteria of proportionality and jus ad bellum criteria of reasonable chance of success, which Dr. Dan Bell states there must be a proportionality between the cost and benefit of going to war. If we’re talking about whether Israel is justified in going to war on this one principle, then I would say yes, the criteria is met because the costs in waging war with Hamas because the benefits are proportional to the costs. It seems to me that Pavlischek is thinking jus in bello proportionality and writing about jus ad bellum proportionality as it falls under reasonable chance of success and randomly flipping to the jus in bello principle of proportionality and discrimination. Look at Pavlischek’s own language:

Proportionality has to do with weighing the unintended bad effects to noncombatants against the intended good effects of an attack.

It’s simple cost verses benefit. Or, as Glen Stassen refers to it, proportionality of cost, and it falls on the jus ad bellum side of the tradition. Of course, that’s not the only interpretation I have for this comment; it can also be interpreted as what Glen Stassen calls double effect.

But we’re not talking about going to war, we’re talking about how a nation should act while at war. If you’re going to use the terms, use them correctly. However, using the terms correctly is problematic because there really is no set criteria for the just war tradition. Every ethicist has their own criteria for the just war tradition. Sure, certain ones are universally agreed upon, but that doesn’t change the fact that the criteria are not etched in stone somewhere. John Howard Yoder put forth eleven in When War is Unjust. Glen Stassen provides eight in Kingdom EthicsMy former professor, Dan Bell has seven. But then, what do I know, I’m just ignorant. Except that I’m not!

To further prove my point, I’ve grabbed a few quotes from the books I have on the just war tradition as they relate to proportionality.

From When War is Unjust by John Howard Yoder:

VII. Means must be proportional.

A. The damage must not be greater than the damage prevented or the offense being avenged. (156)

From Moral Choices by Scott Rae (under the jus in bello criteria):

The war in question must be conducted with proportionate means, that is, the amount of force used must be proportionate to the threat. Only sufficient force to repel or deter the aggressor can be justifiably used. (315)

For the record, my initial response to Pavlischek was 373 words. Pavlischek’s response to those 373 words was 1218 words. As someone pointed out to me on Facebook, it took about a 4:1 ratio in words for any attempt to refute my brief statement.

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