Monday, March 16, 2015

False Compassion

In an effort to avoid killing civilians inadvertently when attacking ISIL targets, our air crews are on a short leash that requires high ranking approval to launch attacks. That kind of control kills more people in the long run.

According to one pilot quoted:

The level of centralized execution, bureaucracy and politics is appalling. Pilots have no decision making authority in the cockpit. Unless a general can look at a video from an ISR sensor, we cannot get authority to engage. I've spent hours watching a screen in my cockpit as ISIS commits atrocities, but I cannot do anything. The fear of making a mistake is now the hallmark of American military leadership.

So fewer civilians die from our bombs if we make an honest mistake or if jihadis "hug" civilians so closely that it is impossible to only kill the jihadis.

But that level of control over highly trained professionals on the scene discourages the kind of initiative that can save lives by winning a war faster. (No, we did not exploit that victory, but it drew German attention and resources plus did mean on that sector we would not need to assault the Rhine River line.)

How many civilians have died because the war is dragging on so long? How many civilians have died because jihadis we did not kill because we feared being blamed for deaths went on to kill another day?

Yet don't think we will be cut any slack for how careful we are:

A leading Syrian opposition human rights group on Wednesday charged that the U.S.-led coalition has been responsible for the deaths of more than 100 civilians since it began bombing Islamic State targets in September and demanded that the U.S. Central Command carry out “a serious investigation” and stop issuing denials.

And more than half the total are from one bombing mission on an ISIL prison.

In a half year of bombing, our bombs have killed--they say--100 innocents. Which doesn't mean we are legally responsible if the enemy hides among civilians, remember.

This is a very careful campaign we are waging. Probably too careful. Will it lead to victory?

And so we see how the presidential doctrine of "don't do stupid stuff" is converted to military doctrine.