i-b5e81ab549a983f40dfe6a35647a5bf4-Afghan_War-thumb-700x900-62879.gif

Source.
Casualties in time and space. The seasonal rhythms and shifting battlefields of the war emerge in this view of the 8131 Afghan civilians killed or injured over the past 2 years, recorded in a military database called CIVCAS. (No data were available for the first 5 months of 2010 in the Southwest region.)

CREDIT: GEORGE MICHAEL BROWER

I am at a loss for words with today’s news of a missile strike in Libya.

PARIS — American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in the first round of the largest international military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon said.

I am confident that this decision was not made lightly but with careful consideration of the complex array of factors involved in any military decision. I wonder: Does this constitute war? Is there such a thing as a just war?

Take at look at this compelling display of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan 2009-10, a reminder of what only part of what the human cost has been in the Afghan war. Is it worth it?

Some more detail of the data shown in the Science graphic:

Color scheme: large black dot (killed), small black dot (wounded)
Caused by insurgents: yellow (unknown), orange (complex), red (improvised explosive device), violet (indirect fire), purple (direct fire)

The CIVCAS database tracks all of these deaths and injuries. Between January 2009 and December 2010, it logged a total of 2537 civilians killed and 5594 wounded. About 80% of the deaths and injuries are attributed to insurgents. (The CIVCAS data go back to January 2008, but insurgent-caused casualties were not tracked until 2009.)

Throughout the war, critics have accused ISAF of undercounting civilian casualties, particularly those caused by their own soldiers. Just last month, a battle in Kunar province on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan generated conflicting accounts. According to villagers, ISAF killed 65 civilians, including 50 women and children. According to ISAF, only insurgents were killed.

The data provided by UNAMA do show far more casualties than those from ISAF. For 2009 and 2010, its data include 5191 civilian deaths, over 70% of them caused by “antigovernment elements,” 20% by “pro-government forces,” and the rest undetermined. Compared with CIVCAS, they attribute nearly three times the number of civilian deaths caused by military forces, only a small portion of which are Afghan national rather than ISAF forces. One of the most significant discrepancies comes from the 529 civilians that UNAMA claims were killed by “air attacks” in 2009 and 2010. CIVCAS shows only 136 civilians killed by jets and helicopters over that period.

Comments

  1. #1 Ken
    March 19, 2011

    Is it worth it?

    In the short run? Absolutely not.

    In the long run? Wow, that’s a tough, complex question for a Saturday. Get back to me after I’ve had a couple of drinks to sober up some…

  2. #2 Renolds
    March 19, 2011

    I dont think the current situation in Libya is comparable to Afghanistan. In one it is a fairly modern army with tank’s high calibre weapons and vehicles and the other is a gureilla force in civillian clothing that can meld in to the civillian population in an instant. Their primary weapons being AK47s and RPG’s.

  3. #3 sam
    March 19, 2011

    what happend to iraq is happening all over again on Libya. America is going to, kill more civilians. Now it seems like they going to get rid off Libyan prisedent. I reckon what they will do is the same that happend in iraq.

    killing the president as we think. and then later tell their forces to remain in the country to provide security for civilans.

    this is what going to be on news soon. i really know it
    america will never change, they will invade as money as islamic countries.

    they have a big reason behind it and everything is planned. if we raise a voice then we going to be called terorist. if they do then it means that they are doing it for a good reason.

    i hope god mercy on them.
    i would never want anything to happen with any person, who is innocent.
    i hope they understand, if any american.

  4. #4 feralboy12
    March 19, 2011

    I’m sure it’s just a “police action.”

  5. #5 Clam
    March 20, 2011

    Col. Gadaffi is killing his own people. He broadcast a statement that when he took Benghazi he would go through every house and every room and kill the occupants.
    The United Nations resolution, which is backed by the Arab Leaue, specifically excludes occupation, it does allow “any means” to prevent Gadaffi killing civilians. A “no-fly” zone means that, first one takes out the radar and command and control structures of the Libyan Air Force. Then, patrolling aircraft can interdict Gadaffi’s tanks and artillery as they attack Libyan cities.
    Do be prepared for the ridiculous propaganda that will come from that ridiculous man. There are, already, reports from Libya that the authorities have started moving the bodies of civilians that they have killed themselves to the sites of allied air attacks.

  6. #6 Lotharloo
    March 20, 2011

    I say to those who don’t like the attack on Libya, go **** yourselves. I say that as someone who has lived under an oppressive
    regime and has some understanding of what it means to be under a brutal dictatorship. Do hypocrites like you get also very touchingly concerned when the dictators kill, suppress, and brainwash their own people or just when CNN shows it? The rebels, by the fact of being rebels, have already accepted death in case of their defeat. They already know that if Ghaddafi gains control, he would turn on the machinery of mincing through the opposition. It needs far more than courage of one person to rebel. It needs collective courage and also the knowledge that the collective will get slaughtered if they lose.

    There is a certain immoral philosophy of “lettings things run for itself inside random geographical regions” that leaves many dictators unchecked in power. It kills many humans, robs millions more of fulfilling their dreams, shortens many lives through the stress and fear of living under surveillance, and brainwashes millions more. Ironically, almost nobody has any problem with police action that may also leave casualties. People who get all squeamish about use of force on Libya have no trouble stomaching use of force against gangs, no matter how well armed are such gangs. It seems through some magical thinking injustices done within the outgroup by the outgroup seem much more tolerable than all other cases.

  7. #7 Galwayskeptic
    March 20, 2011

    What an unbelievable article! It’s almost as though you’re saying the allies started a war. Newsflash: There’s already a war! It’s being waged by a modern army on a civilian population. Gaddafi promised ‘no mercy’ and ‘no place to hide’ for anyone who opposes him. Anyone who opposes the ousting of such a monster or at the very least, the defence of a barely armed majority who have united against him would want to have their head examined. Presumably, you didn’t just write this article at the spur of the moment? I mean, you researched it and thought about it first, right? And THIS is your conclusion?! Facile, pseudoliberal nonsense.

  8. #8 Pierce R. Butler
    March 20, 2011

    I wonder: Does this constitute war?

    Aw c’mon. Ask yourself what it would be called if Libya launched missiles, dropped bombs, and strafed US military and civilian personnel.

    As certain bird-brained hawks have noted, there is already a war underway within Libya (also Bahrain, Yemen, Syria…). But for the sake of pure humanitarianism, it’s clearly in America’s best interests to jump into the middle of a civil war in the nation with the greatest oil reserves of those attempting internal regime changes. What could possibly go wrong?

  9. #9 Cullen
    March 21, 2011

    What a simple-minded apples-to-oranges comparison, and how very wrong.

    Afghanistan now is an insurgency against an occupying army; whatever intentions brought us into Afghanistan, that is now what we are. Afghanistan in 2001 was largely a proxy war, with very limited troops on the ground from the US or any other allied nation (less than 1000) but using local warlords to topple the Taliban-controlled government. And it’s not like Iraq in 2003 either – that was a ground invasion for the purpose of occupation. Nothing like what we’re doing now.

    Iraq in 1991 is closer; a large, modern military attacking civilians (Kuwait) who would not stop without military intervention from a stronger force.

    We are giving the rebels in Libya a chance to bring a true change to their country, rather than consigning them to death at the hands of the Khaddafi regime which would be guaranteed if we did nothing. We’re not putting boots on the ground, and have the broad support of the international community including many in the Arab world.

    Just because we made huge mistakes in Iraq doesn’t mean all military intervention is suspect. I point to Iraq 1991, the former Yugoslavia in 1993, and even Afghanistan in 2002 (until 2003, when we screwed it all up). Sometimes it takes someone with a bigger stick to make the bad people stop.

  10. #10 Galwayskeptic
    March 21, 2011

    @Pierce R. Butler: There’s a fundamental question to be answered here, one that cannot be obfuscated with talk of oil and imperialism. That question is, do you intervene in a conflict between a barely armed majority opposition against a war criminal and dictator, attacking them with warplanes and heavy artillery? A more speculatively phrased version of the same question is perhaps, do you intervene to save -potentially- thousands of civilian lives, or stand by as they are massacred?

    The latter option to what end? To appease do-nothing, pseudohumanitarians by confirming their worst biases, that the West is callous and oil grubbing, with no interest in the universal rights it espouses and that its societies are supposedly built upon. Such loathing for the society that has privileged you, such ignorance. Why don’t you do us all a favour and move to Libya. Join Gaddafi and repel the colonists! Ha!

  11. #11 altın çilek
    March 21, 2011

    What an unbelievable article! It’s almost as though you’re saying the allies started a war. Newsflash: There’s already a war! It’s being waged by a modern army on a civilian population. Gaddafi promised ‘no mercy’ and ‘no place to hide’ for anyone who opposes him. Anyone who opposes the ousting of such a monster or at the very least, the defence of a barely armed majority who have united against him would want to have their head examined. Presumably, you didn’t just write this article at the spur of the moment? I mean, you researched it and thought about it first, right? And THIS is your conclusion?! Facile, pseudoliberal nonsense

  12. #12 observor
    March 22, 2011

    Loose lips sink ships, but time will tell.

    Based on the few photographs I could glean from the web, I noticed these so-called “civilian rebels” could fire advanced weaponry. The training in some of these weapons could take up to 8 weeks’ full time instruction. Who trained them – before the “rebellion” broke out?

    Civilians always get caught in the middle of such wars. That is not the issue here, as war is most destructive at best. The real issue, the unemotional issue is, who trained and equipped these “civilian rebels”?

    Based on pack leader analysis, did the USA, Britain and France train and equip this organized force, and should therefore now support them when they are losing the war they started? What happened to the UN arms embargo against Libya? These are very interesting questions.

    To my mind, this is Sun Tzu at its best.

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