Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lebanon/Israel - "Disproportionality" in Perspective (Stuart Elliott)

A compact but highly clarifying discussion by Stuart Elliott on his always intelligent blog, New Appeal to Reason: Politics from a Democratic Left Perspective.
--Jeff Weintraub
Stuart Elliott (New Appeal to Reason)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
"Disproportionality" in Perspective

Most people acknowledge that Israel had a right to react militarily to armed attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanese territory. But it is said that Israel's response is "disproportionate."
Because of diplomatic concerns and "oil," some criticism is necessary. But this has led to some confusion. Some simple-minded people think "proportionality" means that acting in self-defense, a nation can respond only on a tit for tat basis. To this way of thinking, if the enemy kills one of your soldiers, killing two in response is disproportionate. This is, of course, nonsense. The proportionality requirement is that military actions "should remain strictly proportional to the objective desired." (Source)

I'm not going to attempt that analysis today, instead I'd like to focus on a slightly different question.
Is the number of deaths in the current conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon disproportionate?
For the moment, let's leave aside places like Darfur and the Congo, Bosnia and Chechnya and look at deaths in conflicts in the Middle East not involving Israel and two cases of persecution of Muslims in China and Bulgaria. This is by no means a comprehensive list

Middle East Casualties

Lebanese Civil War 1958 4000 killed (Source)

Lebanese Civil War 1975-1976 44,000 killed
"deaths may have approached 44,000, with about 180,000 wounded; many thousands of others were displaced or left homeless, or had migrated. Much of the once-magnificent city of Beirut was reduced to rubble and the town divided into Muslim and Christian sectors, separated by the so-called Green Line." (Source)

Algerian Civil War 1993-1998 70,000 civilians killed
"the Armed Islamic Group, was believed largely responsible for the series of village massacres that characterized the war. About 70,000 civilians were butchered (1993-98) in surprise raids throughout the country, especially in places where members of civil defense groups were believed by the militants to be located." (Source)

Black September PLO vs. Jordan 1970-1971 3,500 killed (Source)

Druze Revolt 1924-1927 9, 000 killed
4000 French, 5000 Druze
"News of the Druze rebellion spread throughout Syria and ignited revolts in Aleppo and Damascus among Syrian nationalists, who pleaded with Atrash to attack the Syrian capital. In October the Druzes invaded the Damascus region; nationalist leaders led their own demonstrations; and the French began systematic bombardment of the city, resulting in the death of 5,000 Syrians. The rebellion collapsed by the end of the year, and reluctant order replaced open revolt." (Source)

Syrian Baath Vs. Muslim Brotherhood 1980-1982 20,000-50,000 killed
"The armed conflict between the Muslim Brethren and the regime culminated in full-scale insurrection in Aleppo in 1980 and in Hamah in February 1982. The government responded to the Hamah revolt with brutal force, crushing the rebellion by killing between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians and leveling large parts of the city...
"In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed government forces who were searching for dissidents in Hamah. Several thousand Syrian troops, supported by armor and artillery, moved into the city and crushed the insurgents during two weeks of bloodshed. When the fighting was over, perhaps as many as 10,000 to 25,000 people lay dead, including an estimated 1,000 soldiers. (Source)

Turkey Vs. The Kurds 15,000 killed
"...between 1982 and 1995 some 15,000 people were killed, the great majority of whom were Kurdish civilians. Dozens of villages were destroyed and many of the inhabitants driven from their homes. Turkish forces also attacked PKK bases in Iraq, first from the air and then with ground forces; in an operation in late 1992 about 20,000 Turkish troops entered the safe havens, and in 1995 some 35,000 were employed in a similar campaign..." (Source)

Bulgaria vs. Turkish Minority 1984-1985 500-1,500 killed
"500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled." (Source)

Armenian Genocide 1915-1917 600,000-2,000,000 killed
"In the early stages of World War I, in 1915 Russian armies advanced on Turkey from the north and the British attempted an invasion from the Mediterranean. Citing the threat of internal rebellion, the Ottoman government ordered large-scale roundups, deportations, and systematic torture and murder of Armenians beginning in the spring of 1915. Estimates vary from 600,000 to 2 million deaths out of the prewar population of about 3 million Armenians. By 1917 fewer than 200,000 Armenians remained in Turkey." (Source)

China: Shadian Incident 1975 5,000 killed
“....the Chinese army used artillery to crush a Muslim uprising in the village of Shadian in Yunnan, killing as many as 5,000 people."
( Source: James Miles, The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,1997. p. 180.)

// posted by Stuart @ 7:28 AM

[Along similar lines, here are some pertinent reflections by Hasdai Westbrook at his small-d blog. --JW]

July 14, 2006

I don’t mean to minimize the current violence in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, and it’s certainly a conflict that I find endlessly fascinating to follow, if a little exhausting. I do, however, think that the current escalation and the conflict as a whole needs to be placed in the context of more serious conflicts.

The suffering of all those involved is utterly tragic (less so in the case of Hamas and Hizbollah fighters) and I think it’s always worth pointing out how easy it is to condemn, pontificate and bloviate when you’re not in the line of fire (or its target for that matter). But it seems to me that the war between Israel on the one hand and the Palestinians and Shiite Lebanese on the other has received and is receiving an inordinate amount of media attention, given its severity. When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is pretty much inevitable and the conflagration does have important geopolitical implications - implications and an inevitability that I won’t go into here for fear of losing what’s left of my mind.

For the sake of comparison, however, it’s worth noting that since the outbreak of the first intifada, which to me marks the point when the Palestinian-Israeli conflict truly became distinct from the Arab-Israeli conflict, roughly 5,000 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed in total throughout the war’s various manifestations (sources: B’Tselem, Haaretz, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Time) out of a total combined conflict-affected population of about 10 million. That’s about 0.05 percent. In the course of Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon and the ensuing conflict with Hizbollah, the death toll was around 20,000. That’s out of a total Lebanese population (plus Israeli soldiers) of around three and a half million, about 0.6 percent.

The ongoing conflict in Darfur has taken the lives of 200,000 people since 2003 (estimates vary quite a bit, this seems to be something of a consensus figure - other estimates are much higher) out of a population of about seven and a half million. That’s almost 3 percent of Darfur’s entire population. The war in the Russian breakaway province of Chechnya has resulted in the deaths of at least 46,500 people. Out of a population of a little over a million that’s about 4 percent. Iraq: around 200,000 out of a population of 28,807,000, around 0.6 percent. Congo: Deaths resulting from the war are estimated at 3.8 million from surveys conducted by the International Rescue Committee, out of a population of 59,319,660. Almost six and a half percent of the population.

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