There's a lot of discussion about whether Israel, in responding to undisputed aggression from Lebanese territory, is overreacting or -- in the words of Just War doctrine, being "disproportionate."
This situation highlights one of the difficulties in applying Just War doctrine: answering the questions posed by the doctrine depends on how much you know; and those of us who observe from a distance, who rely on the media to inform us, have to question whether we know enough.
It seems to me, the question of "proportion" applies not only to the aggressive acts that came immediately before -- i.e., the seizure and killing of Israeli military personnel, the launching of weapons against Haifa, etc. -- but also, what Israel can see is poised to come next. So a lot of folks are wondering why Israel, in responding to Hizbollah's attacks launched from southern Lebanon, is striking at the whole country. I make no pretense of being an expert in military matters, but what many say -- that Israel is knocking out command-and-control, cutting off information, sources of supply, and avenues of escape -- seems reasonable to me.
The idea that the government of Lebanon is somehow an innocent victim in this strikes me as odd. Understanding the mess in Lebanon, and feeling sympathetic for the plight of a fragile government is one thing; but when harm comes from across your border, you hold the government of the other nation accountable.
After all, these comments seem to assume that the government infrastructure of Lebanon is uninvolved -- do we know this? Insofar as Hizbollah is so powerful in Lebanon -- the central government has, notably, chosen not to challenge Hizbollah, let alone disarm it or drive it out -- one may reasonably wonder just how deeply Hizbollah has penetrated Lebanese society and government. Israel may reasonably wonder, too, beyond whatever its intelligence tells it.
Am I endorsing Israel's course of action? Nope. I'm basically saying, I am not fooled by all the data that is available on the Internet and TV into thinking I know enough about this situation; and I haven't seen anything that couldn't be reasonable. I have to wait and see.
Some might wonder if I am disagreeing with the Holy See? I don't see that I am. I understand the statements of the Vatican -- whether from the Secretary of State, or the Holy Father -- to focus on restraint and solicitude for civilians. Neither the pope nor his surrogates have disputed Israel's prudential judgment in these matters.
Some have accused the Vatican of being naive in this situation; I rather doubt that. Others have faulted the Vatican for seeming to equate Israel and its attackers. I don't see that, either; I think some of that is colored by an emotional attachment to Israel.
It's not "moral equivalency" to have in mind ways that Israel has misbehaved and contributed to the ledger of injustice and hatred. Not moral equivalency, because even after all that, it seems clear that Israel is willing to coexist with its neighbors, but few of Israel's neighbors are yet ready to do likewise. I think the "Israel right or wrong" attitude of Pat Robertson, many misguided Christians under the sway of Dispensationalist theology, and too many of our feckless politicians is goofy and offensive.
That said, I think it's abundantly clear Israel operates far more according to values of compassion and human dignity; and who can say that about Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran or Syria, with a straight face?