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Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh, by the way, Cast Lead was as moral as war can be

Evelyn Gordon writes:

The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.

Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower?
Indeed, by the count that my team and I came up with of Gaza war casualties, nearly one half of the dead were either terrorists or members of the Hamas police which is effectively a paramilitary force, or (often) both. (The IDF claims closer to two-thirds killed were militants. The discrepancy is mostly in counting how many were killed in the war altogether.)

By way of contrast, the latest numbers from Iraq indicate a 2-1 civilian to militant casualty ratio - at least double Israel's rate.

So, yes, many civilians were killed - but compared to pretty much any modern war you can name, the ratio of civilian to fighter deaths was very, very low. Not only that, but a clear part of Hamas' strategy was to maximize their own civilian casualties, which makes Israel's achievement even more remarkable.

(h/t T34zakat)