Other writers such as Charles Krauthammer and co-blogger David Bernstein (link below) have made the moral case against blaming Israel for civilian deaths in Lebanon resulting from Hezbollah's tactics of hiding behind civilians.
I want to focus on a different point and emphasize the perverse incentives this practice creates. If terrorists know that liberal democracies will be blamed for civilian casualties resulting from the use of human shields by the terrorists themselves, they will have a strong incentive to keep up the practice and even expand.
Hezbollah is not the first terrorist group to use the tactic and probably won't be the last. But its tactics and the "international community's" reaction to them pose an unusually grave risk of creating perverse incentives. If world reaction against the Qana bombing and other similar incidents forces the US to compel Israel to accept a ceasefire before Hezbollah has been decisively defeated, this will be the first time in history that the use of civilian human shields has actually saved a major terrorist group from imminent catastrophic defeat, as opposed to merely protecting individual terrorists. Both Hezbollah and other terrorist groups are likely to learn from the experience and greatly increase the use of human shields in future conflicts. This makes it all the more important to resist calls for a premature ceasefire - even for those who care little about Israel or disapprove of its policies.
Ideally, world opinion would blame the terrorists rather than their adversaries in such cases. That approach would punish the use of human shields rather than reward it, thereby impeding the spread of this pernicious practice. Unfortunately, European, Arab, and even many American commentators are unlikely to adopt it anytime soon. For the time being, all we can do is strive to diminish perverse incentives. But the ultimate goal must be to first eliminate and then reverse them.
Related Posts (on one page):
- The Perverse Incentives Created by Rewarding Terrorists for Hiding Behind Civilians:
- Self-Refuting Article in Salon.com:
- Party of God Using Human Shields in a Christian Neighborhood: