Conscious of that, and of the toll in civilian deaths and accidents attributable to U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere this century, the Pentagon final week announced sweeping new policies and procedures designed to comprise civilian casualties in future navy actions and, crucially, promote transparency the place there was too little prior to now.
The enterprise to plot the brand new measures, at the very least 9 months in the making, is by itself a long-delayed acknowledgment that this nation has failed in latest conflicts to resist the size of what’s antiseptically referred to as collateral harm. The ensuing directive issued by Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin is, at the very least on paper, impressively detailed and far-reaching. It seeks to shake up the navy’s decision-making mechanism and tradition itself by embedding officers chargeable for limiting civilian casualties inside command constructions. Of some 150 personnel who can be earmarked for the initiative, 30 can be detailed to a brand new Pentagon workplace focusing solely on coaching and evaluation aimed toward defending civilians in each air and drone strikes in opposition to terrorist targets in addition to large-scale navy operations in a hypothetical warfare in opposition to a strong adversary.
These steps would add coverage heft and bureaucratic muscle to the nation’s long-standing said dedication to sparing the lives of noncombatants to the extent attainable. They might advance the overarching aim of aligning the nation’s conduct with its values in a context of state-sponsored violence, the place the aim is exceptionally tough to realize.
The take a look at will probably be within the implementation. In that regard, Mr. Austin’s rollout, however its reams of element describing new greatest practices and reporting mechanisms, leaves some essential questions unanswered.
For instance, it stays unclear how Pentagon officers and navy commanders can be held to account for previous or future violations of coverage that lead to civilian deaths that might have been prevented. Equally, whereas the plan outlines condolence funds and different means by which the navy can reply to unwarranted or unintentional civilian casualties, it doesn’t tackle the truth that the Pentagon has balked at responding successfully within the aftermath of latest assaults that killed civilians. A outstanding latest instance was the botched drone strike that left 10 Afghan civilians useless, together with seven youngsters, final August amid the U.S. navy’s withdrawal from Kabul. Regardless of detailed reporting concerning the unjustified casualties, not a dime has been paid by the U.S. authorities to survivors or family members.
If previous is prologue, the Pentagon has its work reduce out. Now, at the very least, it will likely be working from a stronger playbook.