Civilian Casualties in Lebanon:

During the Lebanon War last Summer, and ever since, just about every media source has reported that "most" (sometimes "the vast majority") of the 1,200 people killed in Lebanon during the Hezbollah-Israel war were civilians. At the time, I pointed out that reporters actually had no way of knowing this, and that their sources--Hezbollah and the Lebanese government--had the incentive to inflate civilian casualties and (especially with regard to Hezbollah) downplay terrorist casualties.

My GMU colleague Peter Berkowitz notes in a completely different context (i.e., not discussing the media at all) that Israeli military analysts believe that 750 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the war. That figure is consistent with analyses I've read in various Israeli media outlets, in all cases just discussing the successes and failures of the war, not indulging in media criticism.

If Israeli military and intelligence estimates are correct, a slew of corrections is in order. Moreover, it's an extraordinary achievement by the Israeli military: if indeed Israel managed to battle a non-uniformed force hiding in civilian urban areas for a month, with an extremely supportive civilian population, with this low a military-civilian casualty ration, I believe this would be unprecedented in modern warfare. Quite a difference from the (as yet unretracted?) claims of the Juan Coles of the world that Israel was intentionally terrorizing the civilian population the better to permanently depopulate southern Lebanon, not to mention the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch claims of massive war crimes by Israel.

I'm not going to open comments because they will inevitably turn, at best, into a rehashing of last Summer's debate over the war, but if readers email me links that seem to rebut the 750 figure, I'll be glad to link to them.

UPDATE: Michael Totten posted an interview yesterday with an active duty Israeli soldier who seems reasonably well-informed. That soldier gives the figure of 700-800 Hezbollah killed. The soldier also gives a lot of information of the sort the Israeli government should have gotten out, but didn't, such as Hezbollah firing missing from mosques.

Note that I have no way to vouch for the Israeli statistics, but they do seem to be the product of Israeli post-war analysis, not a propaganda campaign (the time to do that would have been last Summer, but Israelis seem almost incapable of managing p.r.) Regardless, these figures are certainly not less plausible than the figures the media obtained last Summer from "Lebanese sources," which they repeated uncritically.