Moral Question re Civilian Casualties Revisited:

Having suffered grievous losses in recent battles, IDF soldiers wonder why they are being sacrificed in ground combat, when bombings could have cleared the villages of Party of God hideouts, which also happen to be civilian homes: "What really bothered us is that in all of the villages we passed through the houses are standing and are untouched. The IDF's morality during war is exacting a very high price. We can flatten the territory, without ground forces, but from the air."

Thinking about my prior post on this issue, and again putting practical, as opposed to purely moral, concerns aside, it strikes me that military commanders should think of themselves as agents for their soldiers. Instead of looking at things from a collectivist perspective (how many soldiers should be sacrificed for how many civilians?),the question, perhaps, is, "what risk of losing your own life would an average soldier take in return for what reduced risk of killing civilians." The answer would depend, in part, on how complicit the civilian population is aiding and supporting the government--perhaps a different answer in occupied Belgium than in Dusseldorf in WWII. No easy answers, but I think at minimum it's safe to say that most soldiers in a civilized country would be willing to take something more than a non-zero risk to avoid a very high chance killing purely innocent civilians, but would not be willing to take a very high risk (or perhaps any risk at all) to avoid a small chance of avoiding harm to those who, e.g., purposely serve as human shields.

Again, this question is arising specifically in the context of the Lebanon situation, but it has implications for any modern war for any civilized nation, so please avoid using your comments to vent on other issues concerning Israel/Party of God/Lebanon.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Moral Question re Civilian Casualties Revisited:
  2. Moral Question re Civilian Casualties: