Repeatedly firing rockets into populated areas hoping to kill as many Israelis as possible seems like a pretty intolerable provocation to me! Can anyone think of any country that wouldn’t consider it so?It's true that this has been the question often raised by those advocating the strike (and I know Conor is very middle-ground on the whole thing, much as I am). The other side then complains of disproportionate warfare, civilian casualties etc. which are also all valid points.
In the end it seems to boil down to cause and effect, though.
The question really doesn’t seem to be whether or not Israel is rightfully prickled by these attacks, or whether the defense or even proportionality of response is “right” or not. The question ought to be limited to reaction and backlash. Does this operation have any chance at success? Will it lead to greater security, or heightened threat? Does it lead toward peace or away from it? Will the backlash be worth the effort?
Everything else is an argument of abstraction, bound up in immense controversy. However, sticking to cause and effect can at least bring us into the realm of logical speculation, sans emotion or bias.
It's sad to boil this down to a cost-benefit analysis, but that's the most realistic thing to do. Do the costs here outweigh the benefits? If so, what is the purpose of this attack? I think Peter Hitchens is right:
The operation’s real purpose is to improve the standing of two politicians, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak, in impending elections. Nobody should die for such a motive.
I'm not even so sure the motive is important--it is the results that matter most at this point, and I fear that the results will be bad. This is a repetition of Lebanon in 2006. The Israelis do not have the resolve to finish this sort of mission. This will embolden Hamas, of course. The suffering will be most felt by innocent Palestinians, and innocent Israelis.
I'm not going to get into better alternatives in this post. There is no easy way through this mess, of course. I hope I'm wrong.