Friday, July 14, 2006

Civilian casualties

A quote from this story stuck out to me -

President Bush rejected Lebanon's calls for a cease-fire in escalating Mideast violence on Friday, saying only that
Israel should try to limit civilian casualties as it steps up attacks on its neighbor.

The tone of this really pisses me off. It's not - "Ohmigod, they're killing civilians!", it's - "Hey, we're behind you, just try not to kill too many bystanders, ok?"

I don't really want to get into the particulars of this situation, it just makes me wonder when did we decide that killing civilians was ok, as long as the end is justified? We do it too. How many times have we heard about the "regrettable" loss of civilian life in Iraq, or more likely the unfortunate "collateral damage" that inevitably accompanies air strikes.

Yes, the terrorists have to hunted down, the insurgents have to be caught, Hezbollah has to be eliminated, but when did we decide that any action in pursuit of these goals was forgivable? Maybe we should conduct criminal operations in the US the same way. FBI gets word that there's a fugitive in some semi-public area or holed up in a house in a neighborhood. We could call in an air strike. That would mean zero law enforcement casualties and a high liklihood of success. So we might off a few civilians, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

Again, I'm not suggesting that we don't go after the bad guys overseas, just that we need an attitude adjustment. Our leaders have made the decision that American lives are more important than foreign lives, regardless of their innocence. Why else would we use air strikes in dense urban areas? Speed is a factor, sure, but limiting US casualties is the main reason we hear. We need to find ways to limit US casualties without trading the lives of civilians.

Hat tip to Shakes

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Storm said...

You are mixing applications of force in analogy. Police seeking to arrest someone is vastly different from a war scenario.

Captain obvious here to say Civilian casualties are a regretable fact in war.

I think the more appropriate question is why is Lebannon not trying to remove the terrorist or combative element from its own country? Lebannon can stop this any time it wants just by deciding to stop its citizens from attacking another country.

Chris Howard said...

I mixed them on purpose. We have a great capacity to create false compartments so that we can legitimize different actions. Regardless, the bottom line is we can only control our own actions. If our actions result in the deaths of innocents, we can't point fingers and say "But they made us do it!". If we're the good guys, it's because the way we act exemplifies good behavior.

Captain obvious here to say Civilian casualties are a regretable fact in war.

Perhaps, but we've come to accept them rather casually. Regrettable is a pretty weak word. Even if it's unavoidable, it doesn't mean we should just casually accept it. We have an obligation to do as little harm as possible, even while we pursue the greater good.

I think the more appropriate question

It's not a more appropriate question, just a different one. I agree that Lebanon has to stamp out Hezbollah if it truly wants this cycle of violence to stop. But if Israel kills non-Hezbollah Lebanese, they can't blame it on Hezbollah.

medvegonok said...

Hezbollah intentially puts its camps and stores ammunition in living suburbs. So, what do you think Israel should do?

John Howard said...

When 3,000 or so American civilians are killed, we are all justifiably outraged. Too bad we don't feel the same way about civilians in other places.

certainly needless civilian death is a fact of warfare, but then maybe that's a good reason to examine your motives more carefully before going to war. Particularly if the war is supposed to help those very civilians you end up killing.

As for Israel, I really don't understand anything that's going on over there. All I know is that it has to suck to live in constant fear for your life.

Chris Howard said...

Hezbollah intentially puts its camps and stores ammunition in living suburbs.

True, that's certainly a big problem. But I don't concede that the only thing to do is to say well, thats the way it goes and bomb the suburbs anyway. Hezbollah doesn't care if Israel kills innocent people, except in as much as it fosters further hatred of Israel. That's why it's easier to be the bad guy.

I'm no military tactician, so I don't know what the best alternative is, I'm just sure there's some better alternative than every man for himself. Besides, as I alluded to above, I think it's counter-productive in the long run to do a lot of so-called collateral damage. It hasn't proven to be very effective militarily, and it certainly does foster a lot of anger in the amongst the people, which can only serve to keep this cycle going.

Storm said...

“I mixed them on purpose”.
Let me make this clear, your analogy is flawed. All societies “compartmentalize” uses of force otherwise we would issue prison sentences for traffic tickets. Your concept is without merit. Police do not respond with lawful deadly force unless likely deadly force is imminent. In war, the question of whether to use deadly force is largely already answered. You even said “Lebanon has to stamp out Hezbollah” what do you think that is going to entail? It is going to mean killing the members of Hezbollah and those harboring and helping agents of Hezbollah. Are you saying the Lebanese police should just stop by the Hezbollah headquarters and give the folks inside a parking ticket? Or a citation for the unlawful firing of rockets inside city limits?

“Perhaps, but we've come to accept them rather casually” Actually with the exception of Wesley Clark’s widely criticized 10,000 foot air drops in Bosnia most developed nations tirelessly try to develop more on more sophisticated weapons to limit casualties both friendly and civilian. Consider the number of civilians that dies in WWII for a minute. It is the terrorists that target trains, subways, office building and behead aid workers.

“It's not a more appropriate question”
It was but after studying the question further, I have decided the Lebanese army actually can not “stamp out Hezbollah”. Unfortunately for the Lebanese people it seems the Lebanese government has too much pride and possibly too many ties to Iran and Syria to ask for help.

Storm said...

"I'm no military tactician"

This is the most correct thing you have said yet.

"it's counter-productive in the long run to do a lot of so-called collateral damage. It hasn't proven to be very effective militarily"

Actually it has but the application of force had to be overwhelming such as in the case of Japan, Germany, Italy, the taking of the South in the Civil War. I am sure if you picked up a book you could find some other examples.