I was going to write a post about the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” footage, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. As usual, someone else wrote exactly what I wanted to say. In this case, it’s James Fallows:
There will be lot of those “real questions” to consider, from rules of engagement to the apparent cover up of the footage. But the threshold point I meant to start with is this: The very high likelihood of such “tragedies” occurring is a very strong reason not to get into wars of this sort.
By “of this sort” I mean: twilight-zone urban warfare, not to mention “discretionary” or “preventive” wars, and situations in which a heavily armed-and-amored occupying force of foreigners tries uneasily to mix with a population overwhelmingly of a different race and religion and language. For their own survival, the occupiers need to be hyper-suspicious and ever alert — even though today’s prevalent Counter Insurgency doctrine (“COIN”) warns of the self-defeating consequences of behaving this way. (Indeed, a mounting debate about the COIN approach in Afghanistan is whether the effort not to seem distant from the local population is exposing US soldiers to too much risk.) It is a situation with enormous potential for miscalculation, misunderstanding, and tragedy. And therefore one to avoid if you have any choice at all.
War is an invitation to commit atrocities, by accident or with intent. This is apparent if you study any war. Historian Steve Rabson estimates that during the three month battle of Okinawa, US soldiers committed rape more than 10,000 times. Japanese soldiers raped the women of the island as well.
The time to prevent the sorts of horrible events (whether you consider them justified by the circumstances or not or not) depicted in the video is when politicians are working to convince us that war is necessary.