Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Philosopher Any Military Could Love

Ha'aretz takes a look at Asa Kasher, who helped the IDF develop its rules of engagement for Gaza:

When senior Israel Defense Forces officers are asked about the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians during the fighting in the Gaza Strip, they almost all give the same answer: The use of massive force was designed to protect the lives of the soldiers, and when faced with a choice between protecting the lives of Israeli soldiers and those of enemy civilians under whose protection the Hamas terrorists are operating, the soldiers take precedence. The IDF's response to criticism does not sound improvised or argumentative. The army entered Gaza with the capacity to gauge with relatively high certainty the impact of fighting against terror in such a densely populated area. And it operated there not only with the backing of the legal opinion of the office of the Military Advocate General, but also on the basis of ethical theory, developed several years ago, that justifes its actions. Prof. Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, an Israel Prize laureate in philosophy, is the philosopher who told the IDF that it was possible.

If you are a philosopher, I think this has to make you a bit uneasy. Academics have long played a role as accessories in military planning, and in 2006 George Packer wrote perhaps the definitive piece about the co-opting (if that is the right word) of social scientists into the GWOT... but the apparent centrality of Dr. Kasher's views in IDF decision-making seems to be on a whole different level of complicity (if that is the right word).

And whatever happened to second opinions? What if Dr. Kasher had given the "wrong" answers? Would they have shopped around and found someone else to say what they wanted to hear?