A Bad Idea Is A Bad Idea No Matter Who Thought Of It

There’s an idea going around (and not for the first time) that Israel set up an automated rocket response system. Everytime a rocket is fired out of Gaza, we randomly fire something back into Gaza.

This is not the way we do things. The idea is notable now because it’s been suggested again by a Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Yisrael (Robert) Aumann (Economics, 2005) in Arutz 7. I saw it linked, approvingly from Treppenwitz and the Muqata’s Facebook page.

I gave a glib response on the Facebook page and came in for some flack because, apparently, I wasn’t deferential enough to a Nobel Prize winner (in Economics). Well he might know about Game Theory, but he doesn’t understand the fundamental difference between Jewish and (in this case) Islamic ideologies. This was my answer:

This is bunk, and dumb because it assumes the people in Gaza are like us and value life. Sorry, they don’t. They’re not like us. They seek death. They are not deterred by the death of their mothers, children and so on. They can fire happily: we set up the system, we’re responsible.

It boils down to the fundamental difference between THEM and US. We are deterred by Human Shields. They USE Human Shields.

[Sorry to shatter the “doesn’t everyone just want peace except for a few extremists” line. There just isn’t any evidence that the majority feel that way.]

I’m glad to say I have now seen a more nuanced view of this idea. It arrives at the same conclusion as I did.

From Cmdr J.E.Dyer (US Navy retired)

It’s more important, frankly, to have a strategic assessment than a legal one. (Although I believe the moral one remains of the greatest importance.) The automated-response model would actually change completely what Israel is doing. It would turn a positive strategic purpose into a negative one, by making the response pattern one of mere rote retaliation.

Israel has never at any time been engaged in mere rote retaliation against the Hamas rockets, which is why it’s so important to make the distinction military planners make between “retaliation,” in the generic, and “reprisal,” which is a subset of retaliation. A reprisal response assumes the initiative and serves not a symmetrical retaliatory purpose, tethered narrowly to the logic of the Hamas attack, but a discretionary, Israeli strategic purpose. Even if the individual response is small – say, only a 4-ship strike event – the target(s) is/are selected to serve a larger plan of operations. The IDF is aware 24/7 of the preparations Hamas is making, and is constantly developing its target list. I trust readers to understand that the IDF cannot be constantly attacking Hamas targets, even though the targets are constantly emerging and being developed. A Hamas rocket volley becomes a pretext for attacking priority targets on the target list, to serve Israel’s larger ends for keeping the Israeli people and territory secure. (Israel takes care to make the counterattacks relevant to the source of the provocation. But the counterattacks are never merely a tit-for-tat matter. The media don’t always understand that.)

That’s a responsible use of force, where automated retaliation is not. It’s ingrained in the Western military-strategic mind that armed force should never be used by rote, and I believe that’s for a good reason. It gets back ultimately to the Western concept for morality in war (tracking particularly to moral accountability), although “Eastern” military thinkers would also applaud the principle because it keeps force under positive discretion at all times. (Which is itself an element of morality in war.) To not ensure discretion is to court waste, misapplication, and unintended consequences. The two premises – moral accountability and the importance of keeping force under positive discretion – are what enable a democratic nation that answers to its people to use force with moral authority for political purposes.

It’s actually the discretion to hold fire, and use it at a more strategically useful, or even morally preferable time, that defines using force effectively, and therefore responsibly. I have no doubt that Israel will always reject the idea of giving up discretion in favor of a predefined automated response pattern.

Finally here’s a fun video: The Gaza Dome. Now if we could do this (which would be purely defensive) then I’d be up for the idea.

About Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian's interests include electric cars, world peace and an end to world hunger. Besides blogging here, Brian of London now writes at the Times of Israel. Brian of London also hosted Shire Network News

Facebook Comments

  • sasah

    There’s something you misunderstood in the idea. It’s not about shooting randomly to Gaza as retaliation. It’s shooting back to the exact spot where a rocket was launched from. And that changes a lot actually.

    First, it means ‘shooting back to the source of fire’. Which is quite reasonable and actually I don’t see a moral problem with that, it’s what is naturally done in a war.

    Second, it takes away a lot of criticism of the public opinion, which is done under pretext of Israel shooting at civilian targets. If a bomb hits back a hotel, it means that a rocket was shot from a hotel.

    Third, it will make it much harder to employ human shields. It’s one thing to push people into buildings knowing that it might convince a pilot to abort a mission. Another thing is to make people commit certain suicide knowing that a bomb is dispatched at the fire site before the kassam actually hits its target (which it probably won’t)

    There is one thing Hama’s might do against it, which is to deliberately shoot from a place where foreigners are stationed, but on the other hand, foreigners will not stand calmly near launch sites any more.

  • Norman_In_New_York

    The first priority should be to put out contracts on Hamas kingpins wherever they are, using commandos if necessary.

  • mzk1_1

    “I trust readers to understand that the IDF cannot be constantly attacking Hamas targets, even though the targets are constantly emerging and being developed.”

    Actually, could someone explain this? I understand why we cannot use ground forces a great deal, because we do not have a large standing army, and they are our children.. But why not the IAF, which is not as much in harm’s way?

  • mzk1_1

    The argument, and I am not judging it, is that as the response would be automatic, it would be Hamas firing the rockets at itself. (BTW, Dr. Auman is a Holocaust refugee.)

    While I tend to agree with Brian’s thinking, and I know he has a lot of personal contact with Palestinian (non-citizen) Arabs, yet I still recall what I was told by a young man who had served in the permanent the house-to-house Gaza fighting unit (rule one: don’t), that the average Gazan does not think like Hamas. When I brought up the polls, he just looked at me, as if to say that the average Gazan isn’t (and never has been) free to say what he wants. I would appreciate any comments from Brian or others who have first-hand experience with members of this subset of the Arab population.

  • Travis

    I support firing artillery barrages at Gaza. We will never be like them.

  • Merkaz

    How about 5 rockets in return for every rocket Gaza sends our way?

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