August 07, 2006

Targeting civilians or combatants?

Israel targets only suspected terrorists. It makes regrettable mistakes, but it doesn't purposefully target civilians. Hizbollah, on the other hand, targets civilians. That makes them terrorists.

Heard it before? Probably more than a hundred times in the past week, if you're a news junkie. So, how is it possible that Hizbollah has killed 45 Israeli soldiers, and only 36 Israeli civilians, whereas Israel has killed perhaps 250 Hizbullah fighters, but at least 480 Lebanese civilians? This was before the attack on the kibbutz that killed 12 Israeli soldiers, and brought the Hizbollah "error rate" at 39/(57+39), or 40% (there were also 3 civilian deaths that day). The IDF's error rate is 480/(250+480), or 66%. In other words, Israel kills about two civilians for each enemy combatant, Hizbollah kills almost two IDF soldiers for each civilian it kills. Who's targeting civilians?

I know that the problem lies in the armoury. The IDF has so much more firepower, it could kill many more civilians if it didn't try to avoid it. But the end result remains the same: Hizbollah does less collateral damage than the IDF. This is a crucial problem in asymmetric warfare.

Some argue that the Lebanese people are to blame for not having curtailed Hizbollah. Some of those people are in the Israeli government (not to mention its military). By the same token, all Israelis would be fair targets because they support the IDF. Actually, since most Israelis have served in the IDF, and most of the support it, it would be more true.

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Blogger sooray said...

Good points all. I say some of the same things on my newest entry, albeit with a bit of a different twist:

And I also agree w/ your comment on my blog about Friedman. Occasionally he's right on, but mostly he's quite superficial and simplistic.

9:35 PM  

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