The PJ Tatler

Is the Pentagon Trying to Lose the 'War' Against ISIS?

Nothing this administration does surprises me any more, but perhaps its worst sin has been corrupting the U.S. military:

U.S. and coalition air forces are aiming for zero civilian casualties in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), frustrating some lawmakers who say the military campaign is progressing too slowly. While officials say they can never be absolutely certain of who’s on the ground, U.S. and allied forces are refraining from airstrikes against ISIS if there’s a risk of even one civilian casualty.

“There’s a target of zero civilian casualties, so if there are civilian casualty concerns, we would continue to monitor a target or a potential target to see if there is a way to mitigate that,” said an Air Force official.In practice, the strategy means that sudden developments on the ground can often force pilots to call off airstrikes. If a car suddenly drives up to an enemy checkpoint, for example, a strike would be delayed until it could be determined that no civilians were present.

Since Arab and Muslim armies are worthless, we are in effect fighting an entire ummah of civilians, but of course we don’t want any civilian casualties. We are also fighting — or pretending to fight — an enemy who revels in civilian casualties. But when you have an American political class made up almost entirely of lawyers, everything looks like a theoretical argument instead of a gun barrel.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel and former A-10 pilot and squadron commander, last week questioned the strategy for avoiding civilian casualties, calling it an “extreme constraint. If we’re trying to avoid one civilian casualty in not hitting a legitimate target, we’re allowing the Islamic State to continue to commit atrocities and murder against the people on the ground,” she said.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, who ran air campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the zero-casualty standard is beyond what is required under the laws of war. “What the law of armed conflict requires is that all ‘reasonable’ measures be taken to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he said. “If ISIL are using human shields, and those very unfortunate individuals get killed, that responsibility and blood lies on the hands of ISIL,” Deptula said, using another acronym for the group.

Others defend the zero-casualty standard, saying it has become the new normal after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where winning over the local population was considered critical to success.

What success?