What Would We Do If Rockets Fell?
Dan Hodges says if Britain were under attack by IRA rockets as Israel has been via Hamas rockets, there would be no question as to what London would do:
If London and mainland Britain were facing the sort of assault Tel Aviv and Israel are currently facing then we would be bombing the Falls Road, and several other parts of Northern, and southern, Irelandas well.
According to the Israeli government, since January, 563 missiles and rockets, and 204 mortars have been fired into Israel. By my rough calculation that’s more than two random attacks every day. Now, imagine if such a bombardment was currently being launched at London. Two or three times each day, as we were all going about our business, an air raid siren would sound. Most of the time nothing would happen; the incoming barrage would fall harmlessly into an empty field in Surrey or Kent; perhaps disturbing some livestock, but doing minimal damage. But every so often one would find its mark. A rocket would detonate in Leicester Square. Regent’s Street. The grounds of St Thomas’s Hospital. The playground of your child’s school.
What would our reaction be? Would we just sit back, shrug, and say “Well, there’s nothing we can really do. Remember, international law and all that”?
I’m not sure we would. In fact, I know I wouldn’t. I would be frantically tapping away on here, demanding an urgent, massive – and if necessary – disproportionate response. And I suspect I wouldn’t be alone.
In fact, says Hodges, London has behaved that way in comparable past situations:
But we don’t need to look into the crystal ball. We can just look back at what our reaction actually was, when we were the subject of our own, much more limited, assault from Irish Republican and Loyalist terrorism.
We didn’t give our military response a cool – if sinister – name like Operation Cast Lead, the last major Israeli incursion into Gaza. Ours was the more prosaic Operation Banner. Operation Banner lasted 38 years, and represented the longest unbroken deployment in the history of the British Army. At its peak 21,000 troops were on active service, including the Army, Navy Air Force, special forces and intelligence services.
Over 700 British military personnel lost their lives during the course of the operation. 150 civilians were also killed.
Britain’s proportionate response to the terrorist threat also involved the introduction of internment, the suspension of trial by jury, exclusion of UK citizens from the British mainland, unprecedented broadcasting restrictions, alleged collusion between the military and civilian authorities and paramilitary death squads, and several well documented miscarriages of justice.
And that was when Britain was confronted with terrorists whose relatively limited aim was a united – or divided – Ireland. Imagine if the daily rocket and mortar attacks we faced were from, say, Abu Qatada and his friends. Fanatics, whose objective wasn’t just a separate state for themselves, but our total annihilation.
If the US were under similar assault, there’s no question what we would do. This is how normal states behave when their civilians are facing assaults with deadly force. There is, obviously, a question of proportion, but if the rockets were falling into your backyard, or the playground of your children’s school, how willing would you be to endure that for the sake of your government making a “proportional” response to the rocket launches?
UPDATE: Jeffrey Goldberg, on Hamas’s rockets launched at Jerusalem:
I find it hard to believe that Hamas would fire rockets it knows to be inaccurate on Jerusalem. Put aside the city’s many mosques and Muslim shrines; Jerusalem and its environs are also home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
On the other hand, Hamas has never been overly concerned with creating Palestinian casualties.