The Second Lebanon War: The Question of Proportionality and the Prospect of Non-Lethal Warfare

Michael L. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following the Second Lebanon War (2006), the United Nations condemned Israel's use of cluster bombs and attacks on convoys as disproportionate. But the term ‘proportionality’ is ill defined, and disproportionate harm is often confused with unnecessary and intentional harm. Cluster bombs, for example, highlight unnecessary and intentional harm, not disproportionality. Attacks on convoys, however, may be disproportionate if harm to noncombatants is unintentional and necessary but excessive. ‘Excessive’ can be defined with an algorithm that compares enemy civilian deaths with the compatriot lives saved, or by a ‘gut feeling’ that an ordinary and sensible person has when the limits of proportionality are breached. Regardless of definition, disproportionate harm always poses a danger in asymmetrical conflicts where it is often difficult to distinguish combatants from noncombatants. In this environment, non-lethal weapons may offer parties to the conflict the capacity to gain their military objectives without causing disproportionate harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Military Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2008


  • Asymmetrical conflict
  • Cluster bombs
  • Israel
  • Non-lethal weapons
  • Proportionality
  • Second Lebanon War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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