On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
As many critics have noted, Rosenbaum's logic is chillingly similar to that of Osama bin Laden when he justified terrorist attacks on American soil. In both cases, critics are repelled by the idea that citizens of democracies can be held responsible by offended outsiders for the actions of their elected representatives. Rosenbaum first came to my attention through a critical comment in the Albany Times Union. Victor Asal writes: "If we accept Rosenbaum's argument, we hold every citizen responsible for every act committed by their leaders. As a citizen, that is a responsibility I truly do not want and should not have placed on my shoulders."
Asal's strongest argument is in defense of the children who inevitably die in attacks on civilians, but have voted for no one. Children obviously aren't responsible for the crimes, actual or alleged, of their governments, but Asal argues that you can't accept the premise of collective civilian responsibility unless you concede that children are also legitimate targets. I think a line can be drawn so that, for instance, you can concede Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks by bombing rocket positions in urban centers while also holding them responsible -- though not necessarily exclusively responsible -- for the deaths of children. Meanwhile, something doesn't seem right about Asal's disavowal of responsibility for the acts of his government. His attitude is what you might expect under a representative form of government, and especially in the U.S., where from an early point we conceded that our representatives act at their own discretion, and not at our instruction. We have periodic opportunities to repudiate our leaders, but this only seems to prove that we as citizens are not responsible for their actions until the next election, and even then few would accept that by re-electing our leaders we assume the sort of responsibility that makes us eligible for reprisal from foreigners. For Asal there seems to be no difference between a citizen and a civilian -- but is that so? "Civilian" simply means non-military, but it has come to mean "innocent," or at least morally immune from attack during wartime. As Asal shows, civilian innocence is synonymous with non-responsibility for the actions of governments. But is this really what the political philosophy of representative government, of small-r republicanism, is about? Since the American republic was founded, politicians and historians have debated, as noted earlier this week, how involved citizens ought to be in politics. While the Founders and their biographers and students may have disagreed over how active the citizenry should have been in public life, I suspect that neither side -- neither those idealizing political activity as the highest form of human activity nor those who idealized a "society" distinct from politics -- would have endorsed the blanket abdication of responsibility for their representatives that comes when citizens see themselves primarily as civilians. The problem isn't a question of whether we "deserve" attack, but an abandonment of responsibility in peace as well as war, a delegation of responsibility to politicians who can be scapegoated as the cause of all our troubles as well as excessively idealized as the answer to them all. Our continued dependence on the Bipolarchy -- the two-party system -- is only the most obvious evidence that Americans today are not taking responsibility for their country the way the Founders intended. But at a certain point we're no longer innocence no matter how much we deny responsibility.
None of this is meant to suggest that one country is right to hold citizens of another both responsible for their government and liable to attack. Foreign relations are very subjective. Just as Israelis and their friends abroad can hold citizens of Gaza not just responsible but culpable for electing Hamas, so Palestinians and their friends abroad can hold citizens of Israel culpable for the original seizure of land for a Jewish State and subsequent offenses against the previous occupiers, while the Israeli side can still hold Palestinians culpable for refusing the deal of 1948, attacking the newborn country and arguably surrendering their entitlement to anything. As a general rule, however, an awareness that the foreign policies you vote for may have consequences for you ought to encourage voting for more modest foreign policies around the world. When people can't vote, then leaders alone are to blame.