What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A brief comment about the Kunduz air strike

I am less interested in seeing whether McChrystal's rules were breached with the air strike in Omar Khel (the answer is: of course). I am more interested in discussing how much this air strike was a breach of common sense and at the same time not necessarily a breach of "humanity" (but before you could misinterpret me, let me remind you that the word humanity can be used without a positive normative content, and humans can be described the way they actually are, not just according to what they should be like).
- So German KSK SFs cannot shoot a known Taliban commander, responsible for a veritable carnage in New Baghlan back in 2007, when they have a clear shot at him, but it is alright for German troops to call in an F-15 to bomb stolen fuel tankers with lots of people around? This doesn't make sense.
- As to whether this was a breach of humanity... again, let me reiterate, not in the normative sense... For some reason I felt compelled to reread the Wikipedia article about Milgram's experiment. Making life and death decisions watching little grey ants running over a rather low-quality image beamed from a moving UAV, while intentionally looking for insurgents... all things moving may end up looking like insurgents then. So one might push the button, or give an order to push the button, too easily, is what occurred to me. Tell me this isn't so. But in fact partly this is exactly why McChrystal's orders are out. This is something McChrystal will know very well.
In other news, I am now officially one of the "smart Afghanistan watchers."
Update (September 6): it turns out there wasn't even a UAV in the air in preparation for the air strike. They called in the F-15, and it was the Eagle that transmitted some real-time images to a German commander, at the German TOC (I guess you can imagine how much faster that bird flies compared to a UAV). They made the decision to strike on the basis of this sort of intelligence. And on the basis of an informer calling on the phone.

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