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The Ignorance of Proportional Response

Posted by on May 29, 2014
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POTUS_West PointObama said something in his recent speech at West Point that caught my attention.  Specifically, he said that the U.S. should be focusing more on the practice of “proportional responses” to crisis (i.e. terrorist threats and embassy attacks).  I hope as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military on earth that he merely misspoke when he made this statement and what he really meant to say is that we need to practice more “measured responses”.  I would think that his speech writers would be smart enough to realize that there is a profound difference between the two terms. 

To illustrate the difference between a proportional response and a measured response think of the following scenario:  In a proportional response an intruder is attempting to break into your house and is armed with a .22 caliber pistol that holds 15 rounds.  Therefore, in response you get your own .22 with a 15 round clip to confront him.  You fire no more rounds or generate no more wounds to him than he does to you.  Conversely, in a measured response you simply keep count of the number of entry wounds you feel you need to place in the intruder prior to any cease fire.  My personal preference is that the number of holes should be directly related to the number of rounds in my clip. 

The tit-for-tat diplomacy of proportional response is a dangerous concept.  It makes potential victims out of even the strongest of nations.  That’s because it allows your enemies the opportunity to enjoy equal footing regardless of any real strength differentials.  It’s like that idiotic scene in movies where the good guy drops his weapon to go toe-to-toe in a slugfest with the bad guy just to prove a point.  In real life the good guy doesn’t always come out on top like they do in movies, so why take any such unnecessary chances?  The same holds true with our national security.  Why take unnecessary chances by giving the bad guys an even break? 

Sadly, there are numerous countries and groups of ne’er-do-wells that would love nothing more than to trade punches with “the great satan” just as long as they get to call the shots on how often and how hard those punches get thrown.  That’s because it becomes a great recruiting tool and PR blitz to show how brave they are to stand up to the giant beast while at the same time they are still painting that beast as the bully to the U.N. mob and world press.  The ugly truth is that to most countries we’ll get painted as the bully regardless of our response anyway.  So why not just accept that fact at the outset and go ahead and create martyrs out of morons? 

Most of us have heard the motto “Don’t get mad.  Get even”.  Personally, I’ve always thought that was a stupid idea.  I prefer the motto “Don’t get even.  Get ahead”.  We need to be smart enough to understand that if someone were to punch us, our response shouldn’t be to simply punch them back, but instead to pummel them senseless.  Let the potential for real pain be the deterrent to making bad choices.  This is what President Teddy Roosevelt meant when he said that we should “Speak softly, but carry a big stick”. 

The role of a weapon for self defense is simple.  The weapon itself is an inanimate object with no sense of proportionality.  Its greatest use is to stop the bad guys, period.  However, its greatest value is when the potential use of its destructive force deters its very need.  The same can be said of our military.  The greatest use of our military might is the total annihilation of our enemies.  However, the greatest value is when the potential for such a destructive outcome deters its very need.  Therefore, let our potential enemies be warned.  Pacifism is a noble concept, but can only be practiced in earnest by the victor.

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