Blogs: Paul Pillar

Misusing Intelligence to Sell Conflict with Iran

What U.S. Enmity has Wrought in Iran

The Misuse of Terrorism Lists

Killing More Innocents Than We Admit

Paul Pillar

There are important policy decisions ahead about a continued U.S. military role, if any, in the areas where the ISIS caliphate once stood.  Civilian casualties, and the importance of having an accurate sense of the extent of casualties that our own forces cause, need to be part of any debate about those decisions.  But probably the lessons of the anti-ISIS air war apply at least as much to other states and regions where the United States has assumed the role of aerial gendarme, using either manned or unmanned means, against groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda.  One thinks in particular of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in the absence of any geographically defined Congressional authorization for such use of force, there is no limit to where the United States will bombard from the sky and where, given the intrinsic difficulties in assembling accurate targeting information against such shadowy adversaries, more innocent civilians will die.  This is one of the continuing dark sides of a “war on terror” that has been militarized to the extent that ill-chosen metaphor implies. 

Image: Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) advance towards the city of Al-Qaim, Iraq November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

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Emulate Russian Realism

Paul Pillar

There are important policy decisions ahead about a continued U.S. military role, if any, in the areas where the ISIS caliphate once stood.  Civilian casualties, and the importance of having an accurate sense of the extent of casualties that our own forces cause, need to be part of any debate about those decisions.  But probably the lessons of the anti-ISIS air war apply at least as much to other states and regions where the United States has assumed the role of aerial gendarme, using either manned or unmanned means, against groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda.  One thinks in particular of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in the absence of any geographically defined Congressional authorization for such use of force, there is no limit to where the United States will bombard from the sky and where, given the intrinsic difficulties in assembling accurate targeting information against such shadowy adversaries, more innocent civilians will die.  This is one of the continuing dark sides of a “war on terror” that has been militarized to the extent that ill-chosen metaphor implies. 

Image: Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) advance towards the city of Al-Qaim, Iraq November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

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