An Algorithm For War, Ctd

Sep 7 2010 @ 1:17pm

A former military analyst writes:

Rosenbaum's analysis was interesting but his framing is fatally misconceived.  He talks about "murdering civilians," which is always a war crime – no need to hand-wring about drones there.  I used to present target packages complete with information that helped commanders judge how many civilians we were likely to kill if we blew up the house.  We used our own 'algorithms' to decide what level of (estimated/projected) collateral damage was acceptable given military objectives.  Because, you see, all the way since forever war has involved a certain predictable amount of civilian casualty.  That's a major reason why war is so awful. 

The argument can be made that the relative painlessness for one's own side has tricked us into underrating the damage we do, and that part of the discussion is both interesting and persuasive.  The stuff about murdering civilians just gives me a strong feeling like he hasn't thought very hard about the topic.