Monday, December 29, 2008

The Disproportionate Response

Virtually every time Israel takes action in Gaza or the West Bank, it is heavily criticized for "over reacting." Every time, in response, I think of the same dialogue from the West Wing, season 1:

President Bartlet: What is the value of a proportional response?

Admiral Fitzwallace: I'm sorry?

B: What is the virtue of a proportional response? Why is it good? They hit an airplane, so we hit a transmitter, right? That's a proportional response.

F: Sir, in the case of Pericles...

B: They hit our barracks, so we hit two transmitters?

F: That's roughly it, sir.

B: It's what we do. I mean this is what we do.

Chief of Staff McGerry: Yes sir, it's what we do. It's what we've always done.

B: 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?

M: Sir, if you would turn your attention to Pericle One.

B: I have turned my attention to Pericles one. Its two ammo dumps, an abandoned railroad bridge and a Syrian intelligence agency.

F: Those are four high rated military targets, sir.

B: But they know we are going to do that, they know we are going to do that. Those areas have been abandoned for days. We know that from the satellites. We have the intelligence. They did that, so we do this. It's the cost of doing business, it's been factored in, right? Am I right or am I missing somethhing here?

F: No sir, you're right sir.

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

F: It isn't virtuous Mr. President, it's all there is sir.

B: It is not all there is.

F: Pardon me, Mr. President, just what else is there?

B: A disproportionate 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 with total disaster!

Unnamed General: Are you suggesting we carpet bomb Damascus?

B: 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.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Seriously? The desire to disproportionately react is to scare your enemy into submission. There may be some merit to that -- if you don't value innocent lives.

But repeated disproportionate reaction after its shown to be not effective is simply brutality. It can't be defended.

(Furthermore, your quote needs context. The desire to crush is an example of Bartlet's naivety. He's taken an international situation personally, and has responded emotionally. He eventually decides against disproportionate response. The discussion involves the realization that disproportionate response would make him at least as bad as the attackers).