The 11-year-old U.S. drone warfare program against terrorists near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border drew renewed criticism recently after the White House announced that two hostages of al Qaeda, one an American, had died in a January strike.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2,500 and 3,950 people have been killed by drone-launched missiles since 2004, including between 420 and 960 civilians.
Are the unintended deaths of innocents something we should expect as a price of fighting terrorists in this way, or should we choose other methods such as sending in ground troops?
It appears that political correctness has extended itself to the realm of asymmetric warfare.
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Many people who are naïve about what it takes to win a war are crying crocodile tears for the unfortunates, whom the jihadists/terrorists place in harm’s way to achieve lesser danger to themselves and for propaganda value when the innocents become the victims of “collateral damage.”
Even if there were a piloted plane directly over a jihadist hideout there would be no way to ensure that civilians would not be harmed.
So let’s put the blame on the perpetrators. The game they are playing is exactly the same as Hamas in Gaza: sacrifice your own people for the benefit of propaganda and sympathy.
There is only one way to win a war, and the best example is World War II. We set a goal of unconditional surrender by the Axis. Whether by bombing German cities or using the atomic bomb on Japan, we greatly shortened the war and in the process saved millions of lives.
As horrible as collateral damage was to civilians, it was brought upon them by the political and military goals of their leaders.
— Joseph Klein, Fort Worth
Some civilian deaths in war zones are, sorry to say, inevitable, be it by drones, manned aircraft or ground troops. This is a fact of war often referred to as “collateral damage.”
We try to avoid this as much as possible but sometimes this is not possible. Nonresidents should endeavor to stay out of these regions even though they may be going there for humanitarian regions.
We tend to forget and actually may not know the total number of civilian deaths in World Wars I and II caused by “carpet bombing.”
The present-day terrorists try to place their own innocent civilians in harm’s way to try to discourage us from attacks. We have to continue to carry the attacks to these terrorists and try to rely on “precision strike weapons” to minimize the deaths of innocent civilians as much as possible.
— Walter H. Delashmit, Justin
War is hell! But we must defend ourselves and prevent those who want to destroy us from doing so.
The unintended deaths of innocents is the price. It always has been during wars. However, strategy such as not announcing our plans to the enemy would perhaps diminish the collateral consequences.
Yes, war is hell! But the alternative would be to live under an unacceptable rule.
— Eva Snapka, Arlington
My 226 combat missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail were against hardened military targets that shot back with great ferocity.
We knew that the North Vietnamese Army used civilians to augment their movement of goods down the trail. It takes awhile to get past that knowledge.
The utter disregard the enemy had for any civilians in their way sped the process of dehumanization.
Two pilots in my squadron were brutally executed upon capture and the Viet Cong ran through our hospital throwing grenades on the bed patients. Their brutality spawned an indifference in us.
My eyes peered through a gunsight. Drone drivers look through a lens. The enemy surrounds themselves with noncombatants. War is hell.
— Burt E. Ballentine, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Keller
All Points each Monday features reader responses to a question posed by the Editorial Board. With each week’s responses comes the next week’s question. All Points responses are not counted toward the monthly limit of one letter to the editor from each writer. Readers are welcome to send their own ideas for All Points topics to Editorial Director Mike Norman, firstname.lastname@example.org.