Military Ethics Flareup: Ground Troops Claim Superiority to Aerial Munitions

One of the greatest myths of American military history is that the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan were superior to sending ground troops.

In reality it was Soviet ground troops advancing on Japan that should be credited with an end to combat, given months of unrestricted aerial munitions by America (Tokyo 50% destroyed by non-stop napalm) had not delivered a surrender.

Technically the nuclear bombs gave the Japanese a diplomatic out — a public distraction — and thus did serve a purpose. The Japanese could use them to claim they cared about civilian deaths and claim they cared about American technology, when in fact they cared most about Soviet military encroachment and occupation.

It seems to me this is important backstory, let alone the failed bombing campaigns of Vietnam and North Korea, for Americans reading about a new dispute coming out of Syria.

If the al-Qurayshi home had been targeted in a similar aerial strike, the number of “acceptable” casualties would have been decided by a drone pilot and military lawyer, who would have made a judgment call as to when the number of civilians in the compound was low enough to justify a “proportional” strike.

Instead, the ground team was able to reduce the odds of collateral harm even further by clearing the area of some civilians in real time­ — first calling on them to evacuate and then assisting many in leaving their homes. Had al-Qurayshi not detonated his own explosive device, it is possible no civilians would have died.

While global data is scarce on the overall historical ratio of civilian casualties resulting from commando raids as compared to drone strikes, it stands to reason that in raids, armed actors are likelier to follow rules of engagement more associated with law enforcement or SWAT teams rather than urban warfare, and in doing so would take greater pains to protect innocent bystanders.

Indeed, US President Joe Biden has explained that he used ground troops rather than aerial munitions in the al-Qurayshi raid specifically for this purpose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.