Can We Save More Civilians?

I was inspired to write this post by a recent article at Breaking Israeli News that is titled: US Army Adopts Unique Israeli Battlefield Tactic Against Islamic State.

Often not talked about, civilian casualties has always been a controversial subject in wars. While many previous wars somewhat separated civilians from soldiers, we have discovered that many of these terrorist cowards are putting their commands, troops and other equipment in the midst of civilian homes.

Civilians have been killed by bombs, troops involved in close quarters fighting and also from the people who are hiding near them.

There are many other effects that are deadly to civilians too:

  • Disease

  • Malnutrition

  • Rape and sexual violence

  • Chemicals

  • More

While there are those that would state that some civilian deaths could save the majority of others, I personally disagree with that thought pattern. It seems to be a justification, and as the Army of good, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect civilians.

We will look at some methods being taken to do that, but first, let’s look at some disturbing figures.

Civilian Death Statistics

When we consider the American Revolution. The War of 1812 and The Civil War, there were nearly 8,000,000 civilians killed.

In World War I, civilian casualties amounted to over 2,200,000 as a direct reflection of war and 4,500,000 from diseases and malnutrition.

World War II had around 29,000,000 from direct war and about 20,000,000 civilians died from disease and malnutrition.

I could go on and on with these statistics, but to be perfectly honest, it makes me sick to my stomach.

And now we see civilians being killed in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc… While we may not have much control over them being killed by their own people, we can make moves to greatly reduce the chances of us killing them, or putting civilians in dangerous places.

Learning From The Israeli Defense Force

The IDF has been using a technique for some time that the United States Army is also adopting. It is known as roof knocking. This is a system to warn civilians before operations start.

The IDF has gone so far as dropping pamphlets and leaflets, sending SMS messages and actually calling civilians to warn them of impending attacks. Yes, the “bad guys” could be warned too, but if it saves a large percentage of civilians, it is the right thing to do.

The Army has found that ISIS leaders have been hiding their arms, commands and other objects that need to be destroyed in the homes of civilians. If the U.S. attacks, these terrorists scream foul as they hold the bodies of innocent civilians.

What the Army is now attempting is a form of roof knocking. They are detonating a bomb or bombs in the air directly above the location that is targeted. This is meant to give a warning to civilians to quickly seek refuge elsewhere.

So has this system worked?

Army officials believe it is working, and they are in direct communication with the IDF to keep using this system.

Safe? Zones

It was a lesson from War in Bosnia. Civilians were taken to safe zones, but the enemies then knew where they were all together. They could take over the “safe zone” and massacre the whole group.

This is another factor the Army and the government needs to consider. We cannot put a large group of people in one area without it being heavily protected from the enemy.

In all actuality, many civilians will have better odds of survival if they are on their own instead of being in large groups with light security.

Recent Statistics

While the civilian death toll is lower than past wars, it was estimated in 2015 that thus far in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, 210,000 civilians have been killed as a direct result of war, with those number substantially higher with civilian death by disease and malnutrition.

The UK

The United Kingdom published their strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. I suggest you read it here.

As long as these civilians are not participating in hostile actions, it IS our responsibility to protect them in all ways possible.

We need to help feed them, clothe them and protect them. We need to send people into war zones to explain warning procedures.

Final Thoughts

War is a terrible thing. Civilians, especially children, should have every opportunity to escape the danger zones. No, we will never completely stop civilian casualties, but we can make added improvements to slow them down.

We need to use our technology not just for the act of killing, but also for saving.

What are your thoughts? This is a difficult subject, so please tell us what more you think the United States military can do to save civilian lives.

You can share your comments, suggestions and questions below. Thank you.


Civilian Casualties on Wikipedia

How renewables can come to the rescue in disaster zones

The Hidden Danger of Safe Zones in Syria

Costs of War

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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