"Now you have narco drug lords who are helping to finance the Taliban, so we’ve got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there."
On December 27th, 1979, the Soviet Union launched its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
The bloody 10 year war resulted in the death of at least 14,453 Soviet military personnel (officially), and 469,685 additional Soviet casualties, either wounded in battle or stricken by disease.
The Afghans suffered far worse at the hand of the Soviets. More than 1 million civilians were killed, while untold millions more were wounded and/or displaced.
Contrast Russia's disastrous campaign with the United States' War in Afghanistan, which began in 2001: Operation Enduring Freedom. To date, after 6 years of hard fighting among the windswept peaks, valleys and poppy fields once home to the murderous, masochistic Taliban, the U.S. has seen only 427 combat deaths. Total losses to Coalition forces (British, Canadian, etc.), amount to just 657.
Furthermore, the U.S. military has suffered fewer than 7,000 wounded during the conflict. While the media are quick to point out that "The number of Afghan civilians killed by US bombs has surpassed the death toll of the 11 September attacks," considering the massive ordinance U.S. and coalition forces have dropped on enemy positions since the start of the war, Afghan civilian deaths after 6 long years so far amount to around 7,300. (While some wildly speculate the number to be as high as 50,000; notice all the "may have" and "assuming" preambles).
The stark contrast between American and Russian military deaths, and Afghan civilian deaths then and now, should tell us two things (at least):
1) The United States military is a far more sophisticated, well trained, and efficient fighting force, and
2) The United States of America is greatly judicious and far more careful in its use of the terrible firepower at its disposal.
This violence, of course, is to say nothing of the death visited on Muslims - by Muslims... many orders of magnitutde greater than any sort of violence inflicted by the United States or Russia, as history has recorded.
No loss of innocent human life is acceptable or tolerable. However, when put into context- specifically, when comparing 6 years of war conducted by the United States at a cost of 7,300 civilian lives, one should pause to reflect the great efforts made by American and Coalition forces to spare innocent life.
By just a glance at Russia's horrific conduct of its Afghan invasion during the 1980's, it is clear that, when compared to our own war in the region, Americans operate under very different Rules of Engagement.
Diane West recently wrote on this topic, noting just some of the lives an American reluctance to shed innocent blood has cost our country in blood and treasure.
Before voters believe Barack Obama, or any other presidential candidate that opens his or her mouth to decry seemingly wanton American "air raids" on innocent civilians, ask yourself: What does war perpetrated by a reckless, autocratic, imperialist regime really look like?
The Belmont Club recently attempted to answer this question, and made a number of excellent points. Here is one of them:
One of the most fascinating questions -- one worthy of a book -- must be why Osama Bin Laden chose to order his suicide airplanes into Manhattan rather than say, Beijing or Moscow. Both these nations have been campaigning against Muslims for centuries. And the answer, I suspect, lies in the "excited commands and shouts of glee form the Chinese on the soundtrack". Or the veritable rain of shells that fell on Grozny in the recent past or the vicious campaign that still rages through Chechnya today. Maybe Bin Laden attacked America because he knew how it would fight. In a mode where even prisoners in Guantanamo Bay could insist upon their Korans being handled with white gloves, while a large section of America's own media would condemn this treatment as too harsh.
Think on this - Barack Obama, DailyKos, Jack Murtha, John Edwards, and others. There is a difference between the conduct of war by a reluctant warrior and the nihilistic aggressor: Cold, merciless punishment meted out by a pitiless war machine.
Additional Thoughts: Strategy Page writes on Why Obama Hustles for Osama:
Senator Obama's claims that American troops in Afghanistan are only killing civilians and launching air strikes on villages came as he was arguing for a pullout from Iraq. As has been the case with past claims of such misconduct, no proof was offered. In fact, videos released earlier in the effort to liberate Afghanistan have shown American efforts to avoid civilian targets (one AC-130 video released early in the war featured the crew noting the presence of a mosque and noting that it was not to be attacked). Moreover, the rate of civilian casualties in the current Iraq and Afghanistan operations are the lowest in history, due to precision weapons, rules of engagements and highly trained troops. But that never gets reported.
This only furthers my own point that the American military takes great care to avoid civilian casualties. But the same cannot, of course be said of other militaries (i.e., Russian)
Ace of Spades HQ also weighed in on this issue in: Law Lesson: The Purpose of Rules of Warfare:
Essentially, international law created a system whereby combatants would be allowed to kill each other, but were required to leave everyone else alone as much as possible. This created another problem, however. In order to leave civilians alone, combatants would have to be able to tell the difference between a civilian and an enemy.
That led, eventually, to things like the cumulative conditions I listed in our talk about unlawful combatants. They are designed so that combatants will be able to distinguish combatants from civilians because combatants carry arms openly, wear a uniform with a fixed distinctive emblem, obey a chain of command (so that they can be ordered to surrender when their commanding officers do), and otherwise obey the laws of war.
In the case of the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviets had little regard for these rules of war. But again, whereas today in Iraq and Afghanistan, American service men and women hesitate to shoot for fear of kiling civilians, the Soviets had no such compunctions.