I argued that the right to self-defense is the most fundamental human right. Modern Israel has the job of explaining this to the world.
I wrote the blog nearly a year ago, at which time my son pointed out that self-defense is moderated by examining the opponent’s: intent, means and opportunity. It is further moderated by the response of the defendant.
In national terms, intent is easy to measure because governments can only motivate their military by open statements. Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are good examples. Iran has the intent but has neither the means nor the opportunity to attack Israel, so any self-defense by Israel is preemptive.
Israel’s preemptive self-defense is based on a future means and opportunity for Iran. That should be part of the understanding of the self defense lesson for Israel to teach. Intent combined with future means and opportunity is a basis for self-defense. The world used this understanding in the second attack on Saddam Hussein.
Hezbollah, has the means and the opportunity to attack Israel and the world seemed to understand the last Israeli response. Israel has announced that the next self-defense will not protect civilians who allow Hezbollah to hide.
Hamas has the opportunity but the means have been weak. Israel seems to be waiting until the means are demonstrated at which point Hamas will have to respond to self-defense by Israel.
Self-defense is moderated by the level of response. Killing someone who throws a rock at you is disproportionate. Killing someone who throws a firebomb at you is not disproportionate.
This part of self-defense may be the most difficult part for Israel to teach the world. Israel’s enemies always hide behind civilian populations. There is a scale that Israel must someday elucidate.
1. When the bulk of the population supports the attacker, the defender is entitled to full damage to the population as the United States did to Germany and Japan in WWII.
2. When a small part of the population supports the attacker and another part actively provides information to the defender, then great care must be taken to protect civilians.
3. All other levels of response are somewhere in between one and two. It is best if the self defender can explicate its goals at the outset of hostilities and warn civilians to get out of the way. Israel, of course, does this.