Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Vanderbilt University Law School International CrimProf Mike Newton's quote in a backgrounder distributed this summer by the Council on Foreign Relations attracted the attention of New York Times columnist William Safire. Noting that proportionality in terms of military response is open to wide interpretation, Lionel Beehner, a staff writer for the Council on Foreign Relations, had quoted Professor Newton in an analysis of the doctrine of proportionality: “It's always a subjective test," Newton said, "but if someone punches you in the nose, you don't burn their house down.”
"That was an unexpectedly colorful figure of speech from a lawyer," Safire noted in a column published in the August 13 edition of the New York Times Magazine, that his researcher, Aaron Britt, tracked Newton down Baghdad, where he was finishing a stint as adviser to the Iraqi tribunal trying Saddam Hussein and other accused war criminals, for additional comment.
“The doctrine of proportionality for conducting war — the so-called jus in bello (“law in war”) — is one of the cornerstones of military professionalism," Professor Newton wrote Britt in an email quoted in the Safire column. "No responsible and lawful commander ever intentionally targets civilians. Israel in general is very clear in its targeting decisions and seeks to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. So long as the attempt is to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage — but is directed at a target with very large military value — would be lawful.” [Mark Godsey]