During WWII, we intentionally targeted civilian population centers for bombing raids and Axis enemies hiding behind civilians would never have worked because Allied troops would have opened fire anyway and shrugged off civilian casualties as simply collateral damage and the enemy’s fault anyway.
No one would have considered sacrificing a single American life to allow the enemy to get away with hiding behind civilians.
Today, in the age of the domestic war critic, Western military commanders are starting to balance their own casualties against the harm to the cause they are fighting for that can be inflicted by stories about injury to innocent civilians eagerly disseminated by journalists. The enemy hiding behind civilians works just great and is rewarded with immunity.
NATO commanders are weighing a new way to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan: recognizing soldiers for “courageous restraint” if they avoid using force that could endanger innocent lives.
The concept comes as the coalition continues to struggle with the problem of civilian casualties despite repeated warnings from the top NATO commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, that the war effort hinges on the ability to protect the population and win support away from the Taliban.
Those who back the idea hope it will provide soldiers with another incentive to think twice before calling in an airstrike or firing at an approaching vehicle if civilians could be at risk.
Most military awards in the past have been given for things like soldiers taking out a machine gun nest or saving their buddies in a firefight, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall, the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan.
“We are now considering how we look at awards differently,” he said.