This is NOT a thread to discuss the rights and wrongs of the current conflicts in the Middle East. There are other active threads for that.
Over in another thread, WeirdDave said:
Googling the phrase reveals reference to such efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Indonesian province of Aceh and the current Israel/ Gaza/ Lebanon conflict.
To reiterate, in this thread I’m not interested in whether people think that various parties are acting to minimize civilian casualties, I’m interested in what - if anything - the term means. I’m pretty sure it’s not always used as a mere rhetorical flourish (and I’m not accusing WeirdDave of so using it) - I’m just struggling to pin the term down.
It’s fairly easy to set a range for the term: it must mean more than not wantonly killing/ wounding civilians and it clearly means less than “really” minimizing civilian casualties. A strict view of the latter would mean that a force would expend all its military resources including the lives of all its soldiers in order to achieve its objectives and kill one fewer civilian. Obviously, that’s not what’s meant.
A more practical view of the latter would be that the force would take the same steps to avoid killing foreign civilians as they would take in a middle class area of one of their own cities. Clearly - whatever the rights and wrongs of it - the Israeli military in Lebanon is not putting the same value on civilian casualities as they would were they looking to defeat a bunch of Hizzbollah types arrayed around the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
But where in between these two extremes does “minimize civilian casualties” lie? I don’t think it makes sense to talk of minimizing casualties subject to a military objective. Since a military values when things are achieved and how much they cost in terms of men and materiel, mimimizing civilian casualties subject to a military objective constraint is just the same as not engaging in wanton killing.
Other possibilities:[ul]Not targetting civilians - this is just avoiding wanton killing again.Realising killing civilians is counterproductive because it stirs up the locals - this is just pursuing the military objective with brains. Avoiding civilian casualties is here just a means to a military end.Following “rules of engagement”. This might include the two above and also rules to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention (these overlap). That’s not minimizing anything, except in the vaccuous sense that it’s not maximizing civilian casualties.[/ul]So, I’m finding this term a bit hard to pin down. What does it mean?