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Senses of Proportion

Ben Stein, Hizbollah and Israel. Also: Nation-building and U.S. security. Scotland's moods. Mensa reconsiders. Plus much more.

7.24.06

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MEASURING BEN
Re: Ben Stein's Out of Disproportion and Ben Stein's A Precious Morning:

I hope this little letter reaches you. In light of everything, I am sure everyone is busy these dark days.

There was a time not that long ago when preachers used to say the Lord does not hear the prayer of the Jews. I didn't believe that then and I don't believe that now. I am sure your prayers have reached the ears of God and have moved His hands on more than one occasion.

I am just a little man who moves papers from one end of his desk to the other. There is little chance I will ever meet the great people you have. Yet I am sure God listens to us both as evil men work to wipe our respective faiths from the face of the earth. I confess I am afraid for my family and especially for my sons. (I cried on 9/11 for all those poor people who lost their lives. But I also cried because I knew 9/11 meant war and my little sons could be sucked up into the maelstrom.) In spite of all this, I am sure God will prevail for us both. Bless be our Lord of Moses and all the prophets. Blessed be you, Ben Stein.
-- Michael Wm. Dooley
Indianapolis, Indiana

Well, a new cliche has attached itself to the throat of political discourse. "Proportionate" is another manifestation of political correctness, a sort of "play fair" argument foisted upon the Israelis by their haters. Apparently even the most vile and unprovoked attack requires the victim to somehow moderate its response. It's kinda like a handicap in golf, allowing me to play with Tiger Woods as a perceived equal, but kidding no one. The stupidity of this philosophy allows for a likely more protracted and costly struggle, resulting in a ritualistic display of a gladiatorial contest for the amusement of the "statesmen" to get airtime and seek the next Peace Prize nomination. For those who may wish to agonize over Israel's response to aggression, consider the answers to two questions: 1) Who has nukes? and 2) Who has not used them?
-- William J. Dye, Esq.
Edwardsville, Illinois

Great points, Ben Stein. Israel is showing extreme restraint. Personally I think they need to go take care of business and the U.S. and all freedom loving Nations need to assist Israel. The U.S. needs to remember what Hezbollah has done to us -- death of our Marines to name one instance. Israel has been suffering so long by these terrorists. Iran is calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth -- thru whom? Hezbollah and Hamas. Hezbollah is taking over Lebanon -- her citizens and surrounding countries will reap their wrath when they acquire full power. May God bless Israel and give her leaders His wisdom and strength.
-- Kathy
Arizona

Israel is doing what it takes to protect itself. Israel should be doing whatever it takes to destroy its enemies.

Let's a say a group of Muslim folks get on a bus in any Israeli city. At the next stop, a group of Jewish kids with over stuffed backpacks get on the same bus. Who's more likely to have bombs strapped to them? Who is more likely to be relieved that it's Jewish folks with stuffed backpacks riding on that bus? Both groups of people are.

I seemed to have missed the story about those stockbrokers on the upper-west side hijacking planes and crashing them into mosques protesting the "death tax" or high oil prices? Yet we pat down "Grandma Smith" at our airports.

To call Israel's response "disproportionate" when defending them selves simply means that people hate rules when they are equally applied. Especially it seems rules of one's right to exist and one's right of self-protection! It seems the "nice" world hates it when the 2nd Amendment is applied internationally. Terrorists are pretty brave when shooting rockets from behind the skirts of their women, or when killing those that are bound and defenseless. But they are gutless cowards who can't defeat a real army, except maybe the French.

I don't recall the press corps saying during WWII that, "…for every Nazi or Japanese soldier we killed, 3 more would spring up in its place." Why are we listening to these idiots today?
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Mr. Stein's column to day contains a viewpoint not much expressed in editorials and opinions in the media. The Palm Beach Pravda runs front page pictures each day of the poor, displaced, Muslims who are victims of "Israel's disproportionate reaction" to a few decades of having its citizens murdered by brave Muslim warriors who assault school buses and shopping malls. The Pravda propagandizes for Arabs even though it has a large proportion of Jews in its area of circulation. But this reaction should hardly be surprising. Look at how the media reacts to the forcible removal from power of a murderous, genocidal, thug as the ruler of Iraq. Look at how the media cowers before Iran and North Korea. The MSM is the mouthpiece for the democrat party and will always follow their Neville Chamberlain "peace at any cost" path. Democrats have prevailed on this point since Korea. So speaking Arabic is almost certainly in our future.

I think Newt Gingrich was correct when he said World War Three has begun. I'm teaching my grandson to bow to Mecca and say "Inshalla." I'm trying to insure his survival. The Muslim religion is a guy thing anyway. Women are just sex slaves, and slaves generally, so in the "new America" he won't have to worry about women's rights at all. Teaching him well. Got to keep the old genes in the mix, you know, and we do that by survival.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux

The war on terrorism is definitely not being won if all this rubbish about disproportionate responses is any guide. Wars are won by disproportionate responses and always have been -- attack me and I will hurt you much more, I will destroy you and everything you hold dear, so don't try it in the first place if you know what's good for you. It used to be called "massive retaliation" and military intellectuals and international lawyers were quite enamored with the idea for some considerable time, but that seems to be very much forgotten now. Massive retaliation was the official policy of the U.S. Government during the whole of the Cold War. It worked, so what is the problem? Sherman's March to the Sea was a classic example of a disproportionate response, and an extremely effective one -- ripping the guts out of the Confederacy won a peace that still prevails, 150 years later. Name me the idiot who wants to complain about that! There is nothing in Europe or in Asia that can compare to that achievement, as far as I am aware.

Letting all this nonsense about disproportionate responses get a hold, especially with Israel, where it really can do nothing but bad, is a very unhealthy sign of moral cowardice, retreat and defeat, in my book. 6 million Israelis and 100 million Arabs -- instead of requiring a proportionate response from Israel, it would be much more honest to simply tell them to commit suicide. Expecting Jews to stop defending themselves and die is a long standing intellectual and moral tradition in Europe, regardless of the squealing denials, so it is no surprise that proportionate response is being promoted now. Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel has a lot of ugly faces, and the idea of a requiring a proportionate response by Israel is just a new ugly face in an old, hideous crowd.

Leaving aside the moral issues, which are, or should be show stoppers all by themselves, the whole idea of proportionate response is simply too mind numbingly stupid for words - no wonder the UN, the EU and the media have picked the idea up, they haven't got a brain between the lot of them. What exactly should have been the proportionate response to the secession of the Confederate States, the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Zimmermann Telegram, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the invasion of Poland in 1940 and Russia in 1941, to 911 and unceasing suicide bombings and rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel? If you can't give a clear answer these perfectly simple questions, and nobody has even tried to my knowledge, then requiring that military responses be proportionate is false, empty, legal moralizing and intellectual gobbledygook of the very worst kind.
-- Christopher Holland
Canberra, Australia

What exactly is a proportionate response according to these nay saying commentators? If only these simpletons would quantify it for us, this nasty business of warfare would be a lot less messy. Let's see, two captured soldiers is that equivalent to launching four missiles, or is it only worth three? I'm sure that these geniuses can put together a chart for the Israeli military to use that would ensure that they respond appropriately to unprovoked attacks. It could even be color-coded to assist the Israelis in determining when they are approaching a disproportionate level of retaliation -- maybe mark that part in big red letters with a warning message? What a bunch of morons!
-- Rick Arand
Lee's Summit, Missouri

Were does Ben Stein get off suggesting with any seriousness that the lack of direct attacks on America during WW2 (aside from Pearl Harbor, or course) is somehow comparable to the current situation in Lebanon? I'm sorry, was the United States the only Allied combatant? Did we alone heartlessly slaughter nearly 2.5 million German and Japanese civilians in retaliation for the mere ten thousand innocent Americans killed by those regimes? Well, if that were the case, I'd probably have to say that that was, in fact, "disproportionate."

But that wasn't the case, was it? Let me lay out some numbers for you:

Fifty million Allies died during WW2, including 33 million civilians. Only 12 million Axis citizens were killed, including 4 million civilians. Not exactly all that "disproportionate" when you look at the numbers.

Contrarily, in the current conflict, Israel has so far killed 355 Lebanese civilians and 22 military personnel (who are not combatants at this time,) while only 8 Hizbollah militiamen have been confirmed killed. What's that, like a 47 to 1 ratio? (Wow, even Nazi Germany couldn't come close to that kind of a spread!) Hizbollah has killed 15 Israeli civilians and 19 soldiers. Are you beginning to understand the use of the term "disproportionate" yet?

Let's make this very clear, as disgusting as this is to face, Hizbollah are the ones who have killed more miltiary personnel than civilians in this conflict. (Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that they don't have shiny planes loaded down with thousand pound bombs, but that's neither here nor there.)

Secondly -- and maybe I should have brought this up first -- it's not really entirely about the raw numbers. Hizbollah has killed 15 people with its crude Katyusha Rockets (oddly enough, designed by Russia during WW2). This is a war crime. They are

Israel has killed 355 people. They have bombed food and milk processing plants, electrical stations, broadcasting stations, aid convoys. They have hindered humanitarian goods from being imported into Lebanon. They have made no distinction between the two separate wings of Hizbollah's organization, targeting the civilian structure -- which happens to be dully elected to the Lebanese government, not simply "admitted" as Ben claims -- as well as the military wing. These are war crimes. No Hizbollah action can justify such a response.

Maybe Ben isn't familiar with the Fourth Geneva Convention, which has been in effect since shortly after WW2, but it basically makes those Allied bombings he's so fond of a prosecutable offense. Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would all be illegal today, as they were a deliberate targeting of the civilian population, so perhaps drawing parallels isn't the wisest of things to do.

I know Ben is Jewish, and I do sympathize with the hopes of a people, any people, to have a homeland, a place to call their own. I feel much the same about the Kurds, who are currently the largest ethnic group in the world without their own state. But such sympathy, and such hope, does not justify the crimes of such a state's leaders, and it does not justify becoming a propagandist for such leaders.
-- Svlad Jelly

I'm sorry but war crimes are war crimes are war crimes, whomsoever commits them.

Please stop trying to make yourselves as the only "innocent" victims.

You are just like them, and they are just like us Americans, and most governments: terrorists all.
-- Eric Forat

Yes, Israel's measures seem just about right.
-- Jerry Wilde, Ph.D.

I am more than disturbed by Mr. Stein's article. Using his circular logic, one may all too easily justify the attack on New York of 9/11 as a response to our earlier bombings of Qaeda sites, as some have indeed justified the bombing of Dresden or the destruction of Nagasaki. Should we then look forward to the hypothetical bombings of Tel-Aviv or Los Angeles? Mr. Stein is, as they used to say, part of the problem.
-- J.M. Lofficier
Sherman Oaks, California

Thank you Ben Stein, for this commentary. I love your books, your Yahoo column, and most of all, this commentary.
-- Theo Rand

Ben Stein writes, "So, now I see that some commentators are saying that Israel's bombing of Lebanese Hezbollah strong points and neighborhoods is 'disproportionate.' The Israeli campaign, so this story goes, is bullying and terrorizing the Lebanese populace, and this is (so the argument goes) typical Israeli thug behavior."

Well, no, Mr. Stein. This isn't "typical Israeli thug behavior." Typically, Israel has been conservative and well-measured in its response to previous attacks on its sovereignty. I find myself amazed that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has gone against its history and is now blowing out the infrastructure of Lebanon, and is excusing its killing of innocent civilians. This flies in the face of its history, which is replete with measured and deliberate responses to those previous challenges.

Hizbollah has attacked northern Israel with Katyusha and other, longer-range rockets, even hitting Haifa several times. The IDF responded by attacking the Katyusha launchers, and I hope will soon blow them all to shards.

But the IDF made a mistake in taking the fight deep into Lebanon, assuming that Hizbollah spoke for the government of Lebanon, instead as a minority member of that government. It bombed Lebanese army barracks, blew up many bridges and even the runways of the Beirut International Airport, and is now bombing communications facilities all across Lebanon in preparation for a potential invasion. In the process it killed many innocents, and turned many Lebanese enemies of Hizbollah into enemies of Israel.

To quote Forrest Gump's mother, "Stupid is as stupid does."
-- Steve Jones
Scottsdale, Arizona

Just to nitpick Ben Stein's otherwise fine column, "Out of Disproportion":

The Japanese did indeed bomb and shell mainland America, though not precisely our cities. The Japanese sent thousands of balloon bombs aloft to be carried by the jet stream to American forests with the intent of igniting them. Dozens were found, probably hundreds are still hanging undiscovered from trees in remote forests. One killed a group of picnickers, mostly children, who came across it on a hilltop. The bombing campaign failed because they launched their balloons during the wet season in the Northwest.

There were at least two bombing missions by a single Japanese bomber launched from a submarine off the West Coast, again to ignite a forest fire. It was undetected and unsuccessful. There was also a Japanese submarine which, shortly after Pearl Harbor, surfaced to shell oil tanks near San Diego.
-- Steve Gregg
Vienna, Virginia

Israel's "disproportionate response" to kidnappings and thousands of rockets landing on their territory is nothing more than an anti-Semitic code phrase for NOT ENOUGH JEWS ARE DIEING!
-- Mike Horn, LTC, US Army, ret
Tracy, California

LAWRENCE LOST?
Re: Lawrence Henry's Don't Give Up the Ship:

Bless his bleeding little heart, but Lawrence Henry is wrong. Nation building is messy, expensive, and problematic. Crippling a terrorist nation's ability to support terrorism and/or threaten the United States is comparatively cost-effective and clean.

The root of Henry misunderstand can be found in this closing. He says, "...we cannot simply exercise what John Derbyshire fondly calls 'gunboat diplomacy' against states that threaten us, and then leave. We owe the world better." Why not? And besides, America owes the world nothing; it is the world which owes us.
-- Peter Skurkiss
Stow, Ohio

There are good points in Mr. Henry's piece, but one fatal flaw. He admirably notes the following -- usually not remarked on out of either ignorance or design (the latter by delusional neo-con democracy warriors bent on a pax-Americana on so-called Islamofascism in the Middle East) -- in his money paragraph:

"It's worthwhile here to remember that, while Iran is the worst of the terror sponsors, to some extent they all do it. They all do it -- that is, Middle Eastern states all exercise power through cat's-paw terrorist surrogates of one kind or another. Sometimes they share such groups, one with another. But they all do it. That relationship goes back to the 1960s, when Egypt created the PLO. And we can't let that continue."

In other words, we are dealing with states (even secular states like Syria, a point where Mr. Babbin errs while conflating that country with those ruled by religious demagogues). States can be dealt with -- persuaded, purchased, pressured, or decapitated -- whereas focusing on religious zealots is pointless.

But Mr. Henry neglects to mention Iraq is not a country in any real sense of the word. It is a collection of mutually-hostile tribes.

While partition -- the only apparent avenue to his desired "self determination" by each of the Kurd/Shia/Sunni peoples -- may seem impossible due to the who-gets-the-oil-revenue problem, it really is a far better goal than what our confused State/CIA operatives, including the White House's clueless Meghan O'Sullivan vetting policy for the President, are fiddling with while the country burns.

I recommend to the President and his advisors the Spectator's Angelo Codevilla's new translation of, and splendid introduction to, Machiavelli's The Prince (Yale University Press, paperback), as a pathway to realpolitik...
-- Jameson Campaigne
Ottawa, Illinois

ROUND 'EM UP
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's Losing Scotland:

Over the years of my young adulthood, I got some first-hand experience with Italians ... including port calls to Napoli. I observed that "If you can't get along with an Italian, you can't get along with anybody." Later in life, I became interested in my own Scot heritage ... and discovered why I act like I do. A companion saying about the Scots followed: "If you can't get along with a Scotsman, don't worry about it. Nobody else can either."

Marrying a mostly Swedish woman (Malmstrom), did not dilute the "Scotch Blessing" on my children. Of my four, three are redheads. The first of my beloved daughters I nicknamed "The Queen of Scotland." She was only about four, but became visibly irritated when I added the caveat: "...but I am the Regent." Elizabeth Tudor would have needed extra doses of God's help had Genevieve Anne Pyper been in Mary's place!

The problem, apparently, with today's Scotsmen is that they need to get into a real nasty, bloody, legitimate war. I'm for rounding the bunch of rowdies up, and sending them to a boot camp run by U.S. and British Marines (including liberal applications of corporal "discipline"). Once their attention has been properly developed, on to Advanced Infantry Training, then off to Iraq, Afghanistan, or better yet Israel. Put the bagpipes and drums behind them, and drive them into the crucible. The survivors would be obnoxious, potent, and generally ungovernable yes, but who knows, maybe they will have gotten religion.
-- Carl Gordon Pyper, Clan Murray

Scotland has an inferiority complex with England. Decades of trade unionism work ethic combined with nanny state nurturing have combined to make her the basket case of the British Isles. This economic and social regression combined with the victimhood espoused by Scottish Nationalists has created the atmosphere described by Mr. Colebatch. The irony is England displays this same inferiority complex with the United States. Some may blame this on the Bush/Blair relationship, but the economic and social decline of England from world power to also ran is the real cause. What aggravates this inferiority complex is the ascendancy of the United States in social and economic matters by succeeding with the exact opposite policy positions (low taxes, effective law enforcement etc.) than those espoused by England.
-- Donald Parnell
London, England

The thoughts of a Scot in Scotland might be instructive; in particular "The Grinch Who Stole Scotland," "A Failed State called Scotland," "The Sad State of Scotland," "An Open Letter to Nicola Sturgeon MSP," "An Open Letter to Brian Monteith MSP," "The Confession of a Faulty Unionist Pro-Lifer," "The McConnell Paradox," "The Salmond Dilemma," and "Death to the Saxonist Entity!"
-- Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

CAPITALISM'S CURE
Re: Bill Dillard's Capitalism, Socialism, and Race:

I would like to thank you for your excellent article. It is clear that, in a free economy, the fundamental motivation of self-interest leaves no room for racism. I find it odd, then, that you say "Anti-discrimination laws" must be imposed in order to permit "Every person to realize his inherent economic worth?" Isn't the whole point of your article that the market itself is the best form of protection against racial discrimination? I don't think any intelligent business owner would choose to base his decisions on something as irrelevant as race. Efficiency and merit and the standards by which potential candidates for a job in a free economy; there is no need for legislation to ensure that people are treated fairly.

In my opinion, governmental interference in the market place is socialism (or at least a step in that direction). Laws that dictate how individuals can and can't make their own decisions are contradictory to the spirit of capitalism and liberty that you seem to be championing.
-- Scott Bennett
Northville, Michigan

JUST WIN
Re: Mark Goldblatt's Two Crises and One Obscenity:

If the current Democrats had been in office during WWII, we would have lost. What has happened to the backbone of the Dems, it is hard to believe they had a Truman. At least the Republicans have a half cooked noodle for a backbone.

If people are willing to let terrorist live in their neighborhoods then they get what they are asking for when the bombs start to fall.

If America is going to put our soldiers at risk then by all means WIN THE DAMN WAR. Stop playing around.
-- Elaine Kyle

I suppose it could be said that, in Iraq, we decided to "perform surgery" and correct the problem rather than "spray for bugs" and eliminate the problem altogether. If our enemies have drawn the wrong conclusion about our will to "spray for bugs," they might someday be surprised...
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

JUDGE AND JURY
Re: Christopher Orlet's The Real Suzanne Swift:

In his article "The Real Suzanne Swift," Christopher Orlet writes, "Let's hope truth and justice prevail." Well, Orlet and I can agree on that much at least. As Orlet would have it, we must assume that Swift is lying about the harassment --otherwise it might set a precedent for others to exploit. Thank God that the mighty have Orlet to protect their interests.
-- Philip Callas
Salem, Massachusetts

REINSTATED
Re: David Gonzalez's letter (under "Sheer Genius") in Reader Mail's Reflecting on Genuflection:

David Gonzalez' Mensa discovery -- priceless!
-- Frost

The letter I wrote earlier saying that I was leaving indicated that it was temporary. I would be delighted to leave permanently, but I don't like being attacked and letting people who are in the wrong have the last word.

David Gonzalez's research is a good case in point about Mensa. I was in fact a member for several years and will send him my old membership card if he likes, since I have no further use for it. I let my membership expire but continued subscribing to Mensa Bulletin because that was much less expensive than full membership. Obviously Mensa has trouble keeping accurate records, but they did move offices from Brooklyn to Texas while I belonged. During the late '80s and early '90s, membership was on the decline -- I don't know what the current situation is. One of the striking facts to me was that Mensa accepted the top 2% on IQ tests, but with only about 60,000 U.S. members was closer to .02% of the population: in theory, nearly 5,000,000 potential members didn't belong.

Mensa was founded in Oxford, England, and the original test wasn't calibrated correctly. As I recall, it was supposed to be much more exclusive than the top 2% (top .1%?), but the test was flawed and they went with 2% anyway. Over the years, they've promoted various luminary members such as Isaac Asimov, Buckminster Fuller and Geena Davis, for publicity (Asimov later expressed regret for having joined). In recent decades, interest in IQ has declined considerably. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, Robert Sternberg's triarchic theory, and other theories have largely supplanted IQ in explaining exceptional human performance. There are cases of sub-Mensa Nobel Prize recipients (e.g. Richard Feynman in Physics), and it is not uncommon for those with exceptionally high IQ's to be completely maladjusted socially (e.g. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski). However, IQ is not to be dismissed entirely, since a low IQ still means that you may have difficulty excelling academically. Tests is tests.

On that note, I'll just say that if you play nice, I promise to leave your midst forever. Ben Stein's weepy articles are an embarrassment to read, and the good sports among you seem to be mum.
-- Paul Dorell
Highland Park, Illinois

P.S. I just confirmed my previous membership with Mensa:

Paul -

We were able to locate proof of your membership. Your account has been updated to reflect your lapsed membership.

It will take 24 hours and you should be able to access and renew your membership online.

Best regards,

Laura Kaufman, Executive Assistant
American Mensa, Ltd.
1229 Corporate Drive West
Arlington, Texas 76006

(817) 607-0060 x111
(817) 649-5232 FAX

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