So I don't know what to say about this, by "defense analyst" (read as: "graduate student") Lara M. Dadkhah for the Times.
So in a modern refashioning of the obvious — that war is harmful to civilian populations — the United States military has begun basing doctrine on the premise that dead civilians are harmful to the conduct of war. The trouble is, no past war has ever supplied compelling proof of that claim.
While the number of American forces in Afghanistan has more than doubled since 2008, to nearly 70,000 today, the critical air support they get has not kept pace. According to my analysis of data compiled by the United States military, close air support sorties, which in Afghanistan are almost always unplanned and in aid of troops on the ground who are under intense fire, increased by just 27 percent during that same period. (While I am employed by a defense consulting company, my research and opinions on air support are my own.)
Some would argue that more combat troops will always mean more combat troop deaths. That holds true, however, only if you believe that our soldiers should fight fair. Logic dictates that no well-ordered army would give up its advantages and expect to win, and the United States military, which does not have the manpower in Afghanistan to fight the insurgents one-on-one, is no exception.
Of course, all this is not to say that the Untied States and NATO should be oblivious to civilian deaths, or wage “total” war in Afghanistan. Clearly, however, the pendulum has swung too far in favor of avoiding the death of innocents at all cost. General McChrystal’s directive was well intentioned, but the lofty ideal at its heart is a lie, and an immoral one at that, because it pretends that war can be fair or humane.
Wars are always ugly, and always monstrous, and best avoided. Once begun, however, the goal of even a “long war” should be victory in as short a time as possible, using every advantage you have.
Alors, I want to actually concede a certain point to Ms. Dadkhah. An overemphasis on sparing civilian lives when combatting an insurgency is foolish both tactically and strategically. Mais, IOZ, pkoi ? Because the insurgency and the civilian population are largely congruent. That is to say, it is hard to tell who is a rebel and who a rebel sympathizer, who a civilian and who a combattant in mere civilian drag. And while we mock, deride, and castigate Idiot America for its incessant destruction of wedding celebrations, the truth is that yes, yes, yes, "insurgents" are almost certainly using these and other fundamentally civilian activities, structures, and communities to hide themselves--not only because they perceive America as less like to strike civilians, but also because even in the event that America does strike civilians, it only serves to further the moral and propagandistic ends of the resistance.
But here is the thing. The reason that the boundary between civilian and insurgent is so goddamn fucking porous is because America is a goddamn fucking foreign fucking invading fucking occupying fucking goddamn power. The problem isn't that we have bad tactics or bad strategy. The problem is that we're the bad guys.