For those that did not know, I was in Cape Town for the World Bank’s Fragile State Innovation Fair and thus not able to post on Conflict Health. More on the conference later, but for now, here is some articles I enjoyed while in Cape Town.
The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, medical experts say, are still emerging. One legacy is new ways to control bleeding before soldiers lapse into comas or their vital organs shut down. Thanks to new clotting agents, blood products and advanced medical procedures performed closer to the battlefield, wounded American soldiers are now surviving at a greater rate than in any previous war fought by the U.S.
It’s the latest in a series of deadly “escalation of force” incidents that have caused civilian outrage. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has issued guidance that makes it clear to troops on the ground that they need to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, even if it means more risks in the short term.
But I don’t know how you can wage a war that does not involve civilian casualties, which is one of the reasons war is a wretched thing that should be avoided when the national interest is not implicated, and I don’t know how you can neglect the reduced proportion of U.S.-caused deaths when evaluating the success of a strategy that seeks to get that civilian-casualty-causation figure down. No one I have ever encountered who has waged, studied or advocated for counterinsurgency has made the case that counterinsurgency is a kinder or gentler method of warfare, or that it’s no more than development work with an M4. They tend instead to use phrases like the “brotherhood of the close fight” to underscore just how nasty and brutal it actually is.
In a follow-on article for the same publication entitled, “More Henderson, Less Bonds,” the officer argues more forcefully for a Navy that can have a wider, more persistent presence across the globe, even at the expense of firepower. Hendrix compares today’s 9,000-ton destroyers and 100,000-ton aircraft carriers to American baseball player Barry Bonds, a homerun-hitter who commanded a multi-million-dollar salary. Smaller, more numerous ships he likens to Ricky Henderson, a less famous baseball player who quietly and reliably scored runs through less dramatic hits that earned him a high on-base percentage.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.