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Wizbang Podcast #30

Here's what I thought you'd like to hear about today:

  1. What Kind of People Does the Military Recruit, Anyway? - Did the Pentagon lower the bar for Iraq?
  2. The Proportional Force Canard - Who gets to decide proportionality?
  3. Should we talk? - With Syria?

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What Kind of People Does the Military Recruit, Anyway?

The NY Times on Friday has a story about the man recently arrested for rape and murder in Iraq.

On the last day of January 2005, Steven D. Green, the former Army private accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family, sat in a Texas jail on alcohol-possession charges, an unemployed 19-year-old high school dropout who had just racked up his third misdemeanor conviction. Days later, Mr. Green enlisted in a soldier-strapped Army, and was later assigned to a star-crossed unit to serve on an especially murderous patch of earth.

He arrived at the very moment that the Army was increasing by nearly half the rate at which it granted what it calls "moral waivers" to potential recruits. The change opened the ranks to more people like Mr. Green, those with minor criminal records and weak educational backgrounds. In Mr. Green's case, his problems were emerging by junior high school, say people who knew him then.

Mr. Green's Army waiver allowed a troubled young man into the heart of a war that bore little resemblance to its original declared purposes, but which continued to need thousands of fresh recruits.

Now, there is shame and rage in the Army -- from the ranks of the enlisted to the officer corps -- over the crimes attributed to Mr. Green, who was discharged in April on psychiatric grounds, and four other soldiers charged with a rape and four killings in March in Mahmudiya, a town about 20 miles south of Baghdad. A sixth soldier was charged with failing to report the matter after learning about it.

The Times is describing it as a case of the Army deliberately lowering the bar to meet recruitment targets. Is that real, or is it spin? Last week the Mudville Gazette had this:
The final suspect, Steven D. Green, who was discharged from the military for a personality disorder before fellow soldiers identified the alleged perpetrators of the crime, pleaded not guilty last week in Louisville to federal charges of rape and murder.

Reports allege that Green fired all of the shots and was one of two soldiers who directly participated in the rape.

What is Personality Disorder, and how could the Army have found it? And have they actually lowered the standards? The Times says Friday:
The share of Army recruits who received "moral waivers" for criminal records increased last year and through the first half of 2006 by 15 percent from 10 percent or 11 percent before the war, according to statistics released this week. (According to the Pentagon, the number of waivers in 2001 totaled 7,640. The figure increased to 11,018 in 2005, and for the first six months of this fiscal year totaled 5,636.)

Let's review those numbers if we might. "The numbers increased by 15%", is what the Times says. 7,640 to 11,018 is a 44% increase. Then they say "from 10% or 11% before the war". Do you suppose what they mean is they previously granted 10 or 11% of the requests for moral waivers in 2001, and now grant 15% of the moral waivers. Or are 15% of all recruits receiving waivers. I can't tell from the article. Someone rushed through this analysis, and we can't tell what the numbers mean.

Let's go to the source for the facts. I'm going to play a clip from a Pentagon Channel Podcast I heard last week on the train from Portland to Seattle. From the description we read:

Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu speaks with reporters at the Pentagon, providing an update on recruiting in the military services.

Play clip.

So how did Green get in? Multiple misdemeanors is pretty nasty. No felonies, but clearly the guy was a disaster waiting to happen. Dr. Chu touched on this in the question and answer section. In this discussion, Dr. Chu refers to category 4 recruits. They are those whose mental scores are in a lower aptitude class. The Army takes 4% of their recruits in this category. At one point they took 2%. 20% of Americans are in this category.

Play clip.

Green got in because he was in the small percentage of recruits that get a waiver from a "flag officer." Would a smaller percentage have meant that Green would have been excluded. We can't be certain. Of the 300,000 recruits the military takes in each year, there are going to be some really bad people. I don't see how we can avoid it.

The Proportional Force Canard

Jay Tea has a short post on the Wizbang main site on the complaints that Israel's response is disproportionate.

When someone hits you, you don't carefully measure how hard you hit them back. You respond to aggression with DISproportionate force. You make it more painful for them than their own blows to drive the point home: attacking will cost you, and cost you dearly. As Sean Connery spelled it out in "The Untouchables:" "You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way."

The second thought I had is that what Israel is doing IS proportionate. The difference is that it's more compressed in time. Hezbollah has been carrying out terrorist attacks for years. Israel is simply repaying those years of attacks in weeks.

If someone starts a fight with you, ethically speaking, you should respond with a similar level of force. It's logical. The idea works pretty well on the playground, but some are attempting to apply the concept to the current situation in Lebanon and Israel. After Hezbolla captured two Israeli soldiers and began firing rockets at Israeli population centers, Israel responded with what appears to be a carefully designed plan of bombing of military targets in Hezbolla strong-holds in Lebanon. Since those targets were placed in the midst of civilian population centers in Southern Lebanon and Beruit, there has been widespread collateral damage. Reports have pinned that number at as many as 300 "civilian" deaths. Since Hezbolla makes no effort to place distinguishing markings on their soldiers or military installations, we have no way to know whether the "civilian" deaths are accurately described as such. Some are certainly terrorists and the buildings military installations disguised as civilian targets.

But some are saying that Israel's response has been too strong. After all, only two soldiers were kidnapped, and now 300 people are dead. The University of Pittsburg School of Law published an article on the international legal issues surrounding the doctrine of proportional force. Mary Ellen O'Connell wrote the piece, titled "Proportionality and the Use of Force in the Middle East Conflict". Here's an excerpt from the article.

A number of world leaders responding to Israel's forceful reaction to the Hamas and Hezbollah raids in recent weeks have called it justifiable but disproportionate. Applying the international law on the use of force supports both assessments. International law regulates both when force may be initiated ... and how it must be conducted .... The most important rule in either category may well be the principle of proportionality. Any use of force, to be lawful, must be proportionate.

At the end of June, Hamas militants conducted a raid on Israel from Gaza, kidnapping an Israeli soldier. About two weeks later, Hezbollah militants based in southern Lebanon launched rockets into northern Israel and also conducted a raid, capturing two Israeli soldiers, killing three and wounding two. Israel responded to the first incident with heavy bombardment of Gaza, destroying the power station in addition to other civilian infrastructure and killing civilians. In response to the Hezbollah raid, Israel bombed Lebanon, including the city of Beirut in central Lebanon, Beirut's port and airport. It imposed a maritime blockade. A week after the bombing of Lebanon began, Israeli tanks crossed into the southern Lebanon. Hundreds of Lebanese civilians had died by July 19, with no end to the Israeli action in sight. Hezbollah has launched counter-attacks, killing scores of Israeli civilians.

Israel had the right under international law to take defensive measures in response to the Hamas and Hezbollah raids. Any use of military force, however, must respect the principle of proportionality. This is a general principle of international law, meaning it is inherent to the system. It is also reflected in both treaties and customary international law. There is no question that it is binding on all parties using force. The principle prohibits attacking a military objective if doing so will result in a loss of civilian life, damage to civilian property or damage to the natural environment that outweighs the value of the objective. Our contemporary understanding of proportionality is informed by Article 51(5)(b) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions defining an indiscriminate attack. Such an attack is one "which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated."

The principle of proportionality works in conjunction with other fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, including the principles of discrimination, necessity, and humanity. The principle of discrimination prohibits the intentional targeting of civilians, persons no longer taking part in fighting because of injury, surrender and the like, and civilian property. Additional Protocol I, Article 51(2) provides, "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited." Parties using armed force may only intentionally target military objectives, and, even then, the proportionality calculation must be applied: Will the "collateral" damage be too great to justify the attack?

I just have one question about this idea of proportional force. Who gets to decide how to respond to a terrorist group with a history of civilian targeting and violence "violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population"? Later in the article, she explicitly claims that Israel is using disproportional force. After saying that the incursion into Gaza is somewhat defensible she says:
The situation is different respecting Hezbollah and Lebanon. Lebanon is a sovereign state. Under the current publicly available facts, Lebanon is not legally responsible for Hezbollah's raid into Israel. Hezbollah's acts were not those of a sovereign state and thus do not give rise to the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter. Even if the facts later show that Lebanon was responsible, the Hezbollah raid would still not give rise to the right of self-defense. Such low-level acts of violence are considered "incidents".

She has got to be kidding here, right? Israel is supposed to respond proportionally to the firing of 1000 rockets targeted at their citizens? What would Ms. O'Connell consider proportional? One rocket aimed at a Lebanese city for every Hezbollah rocket aimed at an Israeli city? In The Remedy, the blog of the Claremont Institute, Rob Driscoll writes:
Such is the case in the current conflict in the Middle East. I do not think it is too simplistic to say that Hezbollah desires to drive Israeli back into the sea and destroy it as an entity, whereas Israel wishes to survive and protect its citizens. Can there be compromise between these two extremes? What would such a compromise look like? Perhaps Israel reduces its size by one-half? But what then? Hezbollah's goal would still remain and they would demand another half, and another until Israel was exterminated. If Hitler's goal is to extend German domination across Europe, then acceding to his occupation of the Rhineland, Austria, and the Sudetenland will do nothing to appease his goal. As long as the rest of Europe wishes to survive outside of Nazi control, the two are at complete cross-purposes. Either Hitler must be countered and destroyed, or Europe must give up its wishes and quietly place itself under the fascist boot.

Israel clearly feels that to prevent the continued rocket attacks and kidnappings of its soldiers, it must disable Hezbollah, and cut off its means of resupply. The 10,000 rockets in their control today are a clear and present danger to Israel's existence. Hezbollah has shown their willingness to use them against Israeli population centers and this must be stopped by any means necessary, even if it is not proportional. Anything less is a death sentence to the state of Israel.

Should we Talk with Syria?

Talking is a topic I've covered before on the Wizbang Podcast, in connection with Iran and North Korea. Democrats are advocating that we have discussions with Syria, since they appear to be directing the actions of Hezbollah against Israel. The Syrian Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Imad Moustapha, was on Face the Nation Sunday, talking with Bob Schieffer about the current crisis in Lebanon. He said he was anxious to talk to the U.S. Should we talk to them?

Play clip.

"We don't mind direct talks", he says. Talk is cheap, after all. Living up to the commitments made during the talks is more challenging. Syria has failed to live up to their agreements in the past. Why on earth should we have more discussions when their previous commitments have not been met? You enter into negotiations with another party so that you can develop a framework of mutual actions that will benefit both parties. When one party fails to live up to their side of the bargain, why would you think that they would start doing so after the new negotiations?

The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton was on Fox News Sunday with Brit Hume replacing Chris Wallace. He was asked to comment on the Syria's willingness to talk. I'm going to play about eight minutes of his 15 minute appearance. Bolton's frank and colorful language is such a refreshing break from the double talk of the Syrian ambassador. He directly addresses what we expect of Syria. And here's a hint: It's not talk.

Play clip.

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Comments (2)

I know personaly one of the... (Below threshold)
gail johnson:

I know personaly one of the soldiers accused and I can honestly say that the army pulled lots of strings to get him in. Including,but not limited to denying he had a child. this was the army's cover up. You bet they will cover plenty more about this particular soldier. There is a lot to cover up. spc james barker broke lots of army regulations and has no family morals. He is not deserving of anything less than the maximum sentence. He left a very ugly legacy for his 2 sons.

-"7,640 to 11,018 is a 44% ... (Below threshold)

-"7,640 to 11,018 is a 44% increase." 7640 is the number for 2001. the war didn't start in 2001.

-even if there was spin, this doesn't change the sickening nature of the crime. and of the fact that the army hires criminals.

-your thoughts on "proportional force" are interesting but biased of course. you talk of delivering all of hizbollah's missiles of the past 50 years, in one week. I suppose Israel doesn't bombard the palestinians daily? and hasn't bombarded them in the past?

The problem with people like you is, you have never tasted war. you talk about it as if you know . And so you think war is ok, war's war, it's ok for war to be nasty, etc. You fit the typical profile of the ignorant fool who, if ever faced with the real dark nature of war, would become exactly the opposite of what you are now. And I suppose you're being a good Christian, too?

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