Mosul is falling to Iraqi insurgents


#521

Damn right. That would be hard-core in any situation, but a white woman embedded with a hard-core Shiite unit fighting a fundamentalist Sunni enemy behind the lines… wow. Badass.


#522

The dust is starting to settle both literally and figuratively and it’s not good. Today’s Washington Post article starts with the statement that Mosul has been turned back into a desert. The images are incredible and horrifying. Apparently ISIS followed the slow-retreat strategy of occupying every building while the Iraqis moved through. And every time they were stopped, the Iraqis called in a US airstrike.

Satellite pictures from the Times are larger and must be seen:


#523

Wow, thanks for linking that. That is shocking to see.


#524

Every large battle in every city this century sees it look like that at the end. I think I saw something recently about how Mosul is forcing us to think how we can keep down collateral damage in an urban environment due to the political implications.


#525

Airstrikes and explosives are the easiest ways to clear a building without the risk of horrific casualties. Maybe a modern army can look to deploy hunter killer drones that could serve a similar purpose.


#526

In the long battle for Mosul, where Iraqi forces fought for months to take it back from ISIS, apparently Frontline was there. And they’re showing that on tonight’s episode of Frontline.


#527

And apparently US-supported Syrian troops threw IS out of their capital of Raqqa yesterday.


#528

Dunno where to stick this but it bears reading.

Riffs off of:


#529

So at worst 20% of the airstrikes have killed civilians, and this is seen as a problem? What did people expect? We saved the lives of thousands of Iraqi troops and helped free millions of people from slavery, but we’re supposed to wring our hands now because we’re not perfect?

I do wish that we got more honesty from the military, but it’s hard to blame them when the public isn’t mature enough to handle it.


#530

BREAKING: War is messy

To evaluate things, folks need to consider what ISIS was doing.


#531

Agreed. The only bad thing is the glossing over of how messy war really is, because then hopefully people wouldn’t be so eager for it. However, it can certainly be necessary at times despite that fact.


#532

I listen to the NY Times author interviewed on the PBS Newshour, and she was real passionate about how do we get justice for Iraqi, who don’t speak English like Basim does, with Yale professors as friends, and I’m shaking my head.

Lady you really ought to embed yourself with Syrian, Russian, Saudi Arabian air force and see how they go about conducting airstrikes. Or better yet go back to the 20th century see how it was done by all armies.


#533

Of course it’s a problem. It may not invalidate the war’s purpose, but it’s still a problem.

From the article:

We found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.

Best case, our government is sorely mistaken about the rate of civilian deaths; worst case, it’s outright lying. Either way, I don’t see this as something to be blase about or handwave away.


#534

Since every time it happens it makes more enemies, it’s going to be a problem.

If you drop a bomb that kills 4 bad guys and one innocent child… well, you probably just turned that kid’s family and friends into new bad guys. So you very likely came out behind on that equation by creating more people who hate you than existed before the bomb dropped.


#535

Also, you killed an innocent child. I understand that’s not the whole equation but neither is it zero.


#536

Absolutely. It only makes it harder for people to accept that some of those civilian casualties were necessary if you won’t admit they happened in the first place.


#537

It’s also possible that the reporters making that claim are incorrect.


#538

That is of course possible. But really, given the history of the past few decades, and what we’re seeing today of how our own military works or doesn’t work, my money is more on the idea that these casualty numbers are closer to those reported by the press than those reported by the Pentagon.

Then again, a lot of this is definition. Too often the press (not all of it, by any means) seems to have no understanding of how war actually works. By the same token, the military seems to be willfully obtuse in understanding the need to both report accurately and to avoid collateral damage in the first place. The idea that “you have to break eggs to make an omelet” is more or less accurate, except we never seem to get the omelet, do we? Just some nasty powdered eggs.


#539

It’s because we never decided to make the omelet in the first place.

War works when there is an objective that can be accomplished.


#540

In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies. Winston Churchill

There are two wars going on the real war and the propaganda war. If you start making ridiculous claims then you lose credibility. On the other hand, I see no reason the Pentagon shouldn’t put the best possible spin on things.

If four military-age men are seen going into a building which is destroyed, I see no reason not report that as 4 ISIS fighters killed. Now if subsequent information reveals only one was a fighter than they should correct it. But it is not the military job do that during war time. After the war is done, understanding the truth is important.

AFAIK, the latest thinking in COIN is that it is important to minimize civilian casualties in order to keep from making future enemies. But if you are a platoon leader and you are under fire now, worrying about what might happen in a few years requires a level of discipline that very few armies posses.

The alternatives to airstrike are generally far worse.

  1. Do nothing and let ISIS continue terrorizing the population.
  2. Get direct fire support from a tank or heavy weapon
  3. Call in artillery support
  4. Or assault the house

The protocol involved in a calling in a coalition airstrike, reduces civilian casualties compared the alternatives, with the possible exception of a direct assault which of course expose your own troops to danger.