Daños colaterales (Continuación)

As the third month of military operations begins, the NATO-led efforts to protect civilians in Libya are subject to a vast array of questions. The most important is whether political leaders are fully cognizant of the inherent limits of military force in achieving humanitarian goals. Whether it is called “kinetic military action” or “war,” all combat is subject to fog and friction in a contest of wills — even when the ultimate purpose is defending innocent bystanders.

One of the paradoxes of using military force to achieve humanitarian goals is that when less than vital national interests are involved, the avoidance of friendly military casualties becomes an imperative.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama’s stated goal of saving innocent lives in Libya plays a lot better than “regime change.” It feels good to many Americans, despite their reluctance to enter another conflict abroad, and there is wide support internationally for stopping mass atrocities.

If the United States is serious about protecting civilians, though, it needs to address the kinds of conundrums that are emerging in Libya: Does civilian protection inevitably require imposing political change? Do we arm rebels who might not protect civilians themselves? What if NATO bombs kill the very civilians they were supposed to protect?

It’s not just that the United States faces these issues in Libya.…  Seguir leyendo »

Reports this month that airstrikes are being used to push Taliban leaders toward the negotiation table suggest that the controversial policy restricting airpower in the Afghan war may be ripe for review. Indeed, new data indicate that a reevaluation cannot come soon enough.

Since airstrikes were limited in June 2009, Afghan civilian deaths have skyrocketed -- a staggering 31 percent increase in 2010 over last year's record-breaking numbers. Sadly, casualties among U.S. troops and others in the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) also have reached all-time highs. Notwithstanding the enormous human cost, a U.N. report released in June shows security in the country continuing to deteriorate.…  Seguir leyendo »

June was a terrible month for the war in Afghanistan. The milestone of the 300th British death was compounded by the most deadly month for the Nato-led mission since the start of the conflict.

The precise compilation of western casualties contrasts with almost criminal neglect in tracking the numbers of Afghan civilians killed since 2001. If Afghanistan is the "good war" then why are we not demanding to be accurately told how many skeletons there are in the Afghan closet?

In 2005 Donald Rumsfeld famously quipped that "death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war". The US defence department maintains documentation on US military personnel only, while the British ministry of defence "does not maintain records that would enable a definitive number of civilian fatalities to be recorded" – although it did confirm last month that payments to relatives of Afghan civilians killed in error by British forces have trebled over the past year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Does the war in Afghanistan keep our streets safe? Both the current and the previous government claim that it does, but the real answer is probably not. Every attack directed at the Taliban and al-Qaida, even precise drone attacks, provides a justification for mobilising more recruits.

But would withdrawal from Afghanistan be any better? That is what critics of the war propose. And again, the answer is probably not. Many Afghans fear that it could mean a return to civil war or a victory for the Taliban – at least in parts of the country – and that, in turn, would mean a base for al-Qaida.…  Seguir leyendo »

The highly classified C.I.A. program to kill militants in the tribal regions of Pakistan with missiles fired from drones is the world’s worst-kept secret.

The United States has long tried to maintain plausible deniability that it is behind drone warfare in Pakistan, a country that pollsters consistently find is one of the most anti-American in the world. For reasons of its own, the Pakistani government has also sought to hide the fact that it secretly agreed to allow the United States to fly some drones out of a base in Pakistan and attack militants on its territory.

But there are good reasons for the United States, which conducted 53 such strikes in 2009 alone, and Pakistan to finally acknowledge the existence of the drone program.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since the two recent NATO-led military strikes that accidentally killed dozens of Afghan civilians, I have been thinking a great deal about the psychic toll that killing takes on soldiers.

In 2007, I was an Army lieutenant leading a group on a house-clearing mission in Baquba, Iraq, when I called in an artillery strike on a house. The strike destroyed the house and killed everyone inside. I thought we had struck enemy fighters, but I was wrong. A father, mother and their children had been huddled inside.

The feelings of disbelief that initially filled me quickly transformed into feelings of rage and self-loathing.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the dramatic details of the rescue of the New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell emerged, there will have been both sympathy and anger among soldiers in Afghanistan.

Sympathy for the families of those killed in the operation — Mr Farrell’s interpreter and fellow journalist, Sultan Munadi, and a British soldier, one of his rescuers — but also anger that lives had been lost at all.

Hostage rescue missions are notoriously difficult. While soldiers fight and die, usually for each other, there will be a few who will ask why they have to do so for a journalist who had put himself in harm’s way.…  Seguir leyendo »

As civilian casualties mount, American and NATO forces in Afghanistan are facing an erosion of their public legitimacy. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are exploiting this distrust, aiming to transform it into a popular rage against the Afghan government and its foreign allies. Unless the insurgents are denied propaganda tools — in particular, the growing number of images of dead women and children — no number of additional troops will bring success to the American-led mission.

The United Nations, which last month extended NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan for another year, says there were 1,445 civilian casualties from the beginning of the year to mid-September, a 40 percent increase over all of 2007.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Eric A. Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago and co-author of "The Limits of International Law." (THE WASHINGTON POST, 01/10/06):

More than 40,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rate at which civilians die has been increasing in recent months. Many thousands of innocent Iraqis have been detained, and some have been abused by American troops. Many others have been tortured or killed by Iraqi police. Basic services have been lacking in large portions of the country for three years. Civil war looms, conjuring memories of the 16-year Lebanese civil war, during which more than 100,000 people were killed out of a population of fewer than 4 million.…  Seguir leyendo »

By David Bemstein, the Washington director of the American Jewish Committee (THE WASHINGTON POST, 10/08/06):

When much of the world initially supported Israel's right to defend itself against the Hezbollah attacks, I wondered how long the international backing would last. Would Israel be given enough time to push Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon and cripple the terrorist organization before the world lost patience?

Alas, the international support lasted a mere two weeks. With the unfortunate but inevitable loss of life, calls for a cease-fire have reached a fevered pitch, threatening to end the operation before Israel's basic military objectives have been met and before an adequate international force can be mobilized and placed on the ground.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Shara Holewinski, the executive director of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), a Washington-based organization founded by Marla Ruzicka (THE WASHNGTON POST, 15/04/06):

A year ago tomorrow, in Baghdad, a young woman from California was killed by a suicide bomb. Marla Ruzicka was working to get aid to Iraqi civilians harmed by U.S. military operations when her car and that of her colleague Faiz Ali Salim was destroyed on the now-infamous airport road.

Marla's legacy lives on in the countless people continuing her work and in the families she tried so hard to assist. Her help to victims of war should also be enshrined in our policies if we as a country are to be, as Marla put it, "just a little bit better."…  Seguir leyendo »

By A.C. Grayling. A. C. Grayling is the author, most recently, of "Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the W.W. II Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan." (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27/03/06):

As we saw in the recent offensive by American and Iraqi forces against insurgents near Samarra, the term "air assault" has taken on a new meaning in military parlance. It now indicates taking troops into action by helicopter, rather than the widespread and often indiscriminately destructive firing of missiles or dropping of bombs from aircraft.

Still, anti-insurgent operations often take place in urban areas, whose residents are as much at risk from ground weapons as they would be from bombers at high altitude.…  Seguir leyendo »

By AC Grayling. AC Grayling's latest book is Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime? (THE GUARDIAN, 27/03/06):

No one knows how many civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The most careful assessment, by the website Iraq Body Count, estimates at least 36,000. The true figure could be three times higher. The uncertainty is explained by General Tommy Franks' now-notorious remark, "We don't do body counts."Three interesting facts nevertheless help shape a sense of the possibilities. One is that the US forces insist that they use precision techniques to minimise "collateral damage".…  Seguir leyendo »