You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Editorial: A ‘proportional’ response
Guest EditorialApril 17, 2013 | 985 views | Post a comment
Since when has it been considered smart to tell your enemies what your plans are?
Yet there on the front page of the April 8 New York Times was a story about how unnamed “American officials” were planning a “proportional” response to any North Korean attack. This was spelled in an example: If the North Koreans “shell a South Korean island that had military installations” then the South Koreans would retaliate with “a barrage of artillery of similar intensity.”
Whatever the merits or demerits of such a plan, what conceivable purpose can be served by telling the North Koreans in advance that they need fear nothing beyond a tit for tat? All that does is lower the prospective cost of aggression.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, should we have simply gone over and bombed a harbor in Japan? Does anyone think that this response would have stopped Japanese aggression? Or stop other nations from taking shots at the United States, when the price was a lot lower than facing massive retaliation?
Back before the clever new notion of “proportional” response became the vogue, our response to Pearl Harbor was ultimately Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And Japan has not attacked or even threatened anybody since then. Nor has any war broken out anywhere that is at all comparable with World War II.
Which policy is better? There was a time when we followed the ancient adage “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The track record of massive retaliation easily beats that of the more sophisticated-sounding proportional response.
Back in ancient times, when Carthage attacked Rome, the Romans did not respond “proportionally.” They wiped Carthage off the face of the earth. That may have had something to do with the centuries of what was called the Pax Romano -- the Roman peace.
When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, the British simply sent troops to take the islands back -- despite American efforts to dissuade Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from doing even that.
For more than a century since the British settled in the Falkland Islands, Argentina had not dared to invade them. Why?
Because, until recent times, an Argentine attack on a British settlement would be risking not only a British counterattack there, but the danger of a major British attack on Argentina itself. That could mean leaving Buenos Aires in ruins.
Today, Argentina’s government is again making threatening noises about the Falkland Islands. Why not? The most the Argentines have to fear is a “proportional” response to aggression -- and the Obama administration has already urged “negotiations” instead of even that. When threats are rewarded, why not make threats, when there are few dangers to fear?
Can you think of any war prior to Iraq and Afghanistan where the United States announced to the world when it planned to pull its troops out? What has this accomplished? “By their fruits ye shall know them.” What have been the fruits?
First of all, this constant talk in Washington about not only pulling out, but also announcing in advance what their pullout timetable was, meant that Iraqi political leaders knew that a powerful Iran was on their border permanently, while Washington was a long way away and intended to stay away.
Should we be surprised that the Iraqi government has increasingly come to pay more attention to what Iran wants than to what Washington wants? Once more, vast numbers of American lives have been sacrificed winning victories on the battlefield that the politicians in Washington then frittered away and turned into defeat politically.
What about other countries around the world who are watching what the American government is doing? Many have to decide whether they want to cooperate with the United States, and risk the wrath of our enemies, or cooperate with our enemies and risk nothing.
There is no need to respond to a North Korean artillery barrage by wiping North Korea off the map. But there is also no need to reassure the North Koreans in advance that we won’t.
What announcing the doctrine of “proportional” response does is lower the price of aggression. Why would we want to do that?
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His website is http://www.tsowell.com.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Section A: General News Archives
American Legion ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Annexation for fire services will be on November ballot (May 25, 2016)
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts to honor fallen heroes (May 25, 2016)
Camino Real plans Open House events (May 25, 2016)
Chief Hull resigns from Poth police (May 25, 2016)
County sets sights on new tax (May 25, 2016)
Court Update (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: Grim choices have put America in a grave situation (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: On the other side of politics in a world of digital divide (May 25, 2016)
Fire, EMS services — Who’s got you covered? (May 25, 2016)
It’s okay to take control (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Free ride over hard work … a no-brainer! (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Housing Foundation expresses gratitude (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Mainstream media ‘brainwashing’ Hispanic/Latino voters (May 25, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Memorial Hospital District (May 25, 2016)
Memorial Day office closures (May 25, 2016)
One viewpoint: Making Floresville marketable with recreational facilities (May 25, 2016)
Parish plans Cemetery Ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Police arrest man in case of burned body (May 25, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 25, 2016)
Police ticket six for violating cell phone ban (May 25, 2016)
Post 539 service (May 25, 2016)
Poth electric vehicle users could be in for a 'shock' (May 25, 2016)
Poth High School students earn awards (May 25, 2016)
Severe storms shred Wilson County (May 25, 2016)
SSCA ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Teacher salaries, student lunch prices on the rise (May 25, 2016)
Tejano music to fill the air during Labor Day event (May 25, 2016)
Turner: New businesses coming to Floresville (May 25, 2016)
Berger earns Ph.D. from Columbia University (May 18, 2016)
Brahma Happenings (May 18, 2016)
Burning body spurs murder investigation (May 18, 2016)
Can I negotiate? (May 18, 2016)
Court Update (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: Narrow views promote intellectual, moral dry rot (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: The political climate in America goes from bad to worse (May 18, 2016)
Falls City ISD’s new K-12 building almost complete (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks master plan would relocate ball fields (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks plan wins council approval (May 18, 2016)
Foundation awards $9K in grants (May 18, 2016)
Foundation opens health grant process (May 18, 2016)
Graco recalls booster seats (May 18, 2016)
Grass fires on the rise (May 18, 2016)
Letter: An open letter to Congress (May 18, 2016)
Letter: Illegal immigration: Who will laugh last? (May 18, 2016)
Letter: What Hispanic vote? (May 18, 2016)
Lone Star Greys to meet (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia City Council (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Poth ISD (May 18, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 18, 2016)
Police recover one of two stolen trucks (May 18, 2016)
Register for free watercolor lesson (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale campus to get upgrade soon (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale City Council approves electronic payment processing (May 18, 2016)
TAMU-SA matches student scholarships (May 18, 2016)
Time to make plans to attend Jubilee (May 18, 2016)
Want fire protection? Attend May 19 hearing (May 18, 2016)
Acme Gold Buyers marks fifth year in Floresville (May 11, 2016)
All Veterans Job Fair (May 11, 2016)
Cemetery group to meet (May 11, 2016)
Children’s Alliance enhances care services (May 11, 2016)
China Grove mayor, police chief trade barbs at meeting (May 11, 2016)
Commissioners lukewarm toward hot coffee at library (May 11, 2016)
Competency and integrity (May 11, 2016)
Court Update (May 11, 2016)
Coy to get Ranger Cross (May 11, 2016)
Cub Scout Roundup (May 11, 2016)
Donate blood in May (May 11, 2016)
Editor: Trump’s candidacy sets in motion affliction in future elections (May 11, 2016)
Editorial: The voters have spoken — well, some of them have! (May 11, 2016)
Former Sutherland Springs VFD considered as a substation (May 11, 2016)
Free caregivers class starts May 26 (May 11, 2016)
Information sought in Walmart theft (May 11, 2016)
Lack of super majority vote keeps Clean Water Rule flowing (May 11, 2016)
Leetter: The government is a terrible investor (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Injection well site is near river, creeks (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Stop being negative (May 11, 2016)
LV youths win new wheels at Bike Rodeo (May 11, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia ISD (May 11, 2016)
Mineral rights workshop set (May 11, 2016)
Miss LV Pageant, Bluebonnet Parade, graduation fill La Vernia calendar (May 11, 2016)
New Wilson County justice center nears completion (May 11, 2016)
Personalized brick for Veterans Memorial (May 11, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 11, 2016)
Precinct 3 primary runoff is May 24 (May 11, 2016)
Rangers to honor Lorenz (May 11, 2016)
Rohrs takes over Floresville athletics (May 11, 2016)
Tanneberger qualifies for Executive Club membership (May 11, 2016)
Voters respond: One bond passes, another fails (May 11, 2016)
Wednesday morning crash injures nine (May 11, 2016)
AACOG plans public meeting (May 4, 2016)
Accident injures two drivers (May 4, 2016)
AgriLife offers tips to protect from Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (May 4, 2016)
Behind the lens: Solitary stillness (May 4, 2016)
Celebration Mass June 12 (May 4, 2016)
Cemetery association meeting (May 4, 2016)
Condos are fine, but do your research (May 4, 2016)
Court Update (May 4, 2016)
Crime Stoppers aids police anonymously (May 4, 2016)
DA, DPS bust nets 86 charges (May 4, 2016)
Debate over citizens comments dominates Floresville council (May 4, 2016)
Dwellings At Home offers lodge, ranch furnishings, more (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Overbearing city council threatens boards’ independence (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Taking personal responsibility will bring possibilities (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Trump is the same old song with one more verse (May 4, 2016)
FEDC tables recommendation of master parks plan (May 4, 2016)
FELPS tornado repair continues as FEMA help stalls (May 4, 2016)
Floresville Chamber Luncheon May 18 (May 4, 2016)
Hall of Fame inductees: Joe Kotwig, Malcolm and Beverly Talley (May 4, 2016)
Letter: Alamo Colleges: A bust for Floresville (May 4, 2016)
Local nursing homes plan Senior Olympics May 9-13 (May 4, 2016)
Look twice for motorcycle riders (May 4, 2016)
Lyssy’s vault earns gold, sets records! (May 4, 2016)
Medicaid, CHIP application assistance (May 4, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Commissioners Court (May 4, 2016)
National Day of Prayer May 5 (May 4, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 4, 2016)
Ramirez promoted to colonel (May 4, 2016)
Reserve a seat for SA Tea Party (May 4, 2016)
Tanneberger tops in sales (May 4, 2016)
Treviño prepares to take reins of East Central athletics (May 4, 2016)