Pakistan: The cost of "success"

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tiassa, Jan 6, 2010.

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140 civilian casualties per enemy killed is ______.

Poll closed Feb 28, 2010.
  1. at least a [i]bit[/i] excessive

    44.4%
  2. right on target

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. not enough

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. irrelevant

    11.1%
  5. Other

    44.4%
  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Messages:
    36,966
    The English-language Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn reports that, according to the government of Pakistan, U.S. drones killed 708 people in forty-four Predator strikes through 2009:

    For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.

    The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 was hardly 11 per cent. On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day. Most of the attacks were carried out on the basis of human intelligence, reportedly provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen, who are spying for the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

    Among those alleged terrorists actually killed by Predator strikes was one Baitullah Mehsud, of the Tehrik-e-Taliban. Dawn notes that the August 5 drone attack was the second of five successful Predator strikes in Pakistan in 2009. Yet, how should we measure success? In October, 2009, Jane Meyer, writing for The New Yorker, considered the risks of American drone tactics:

    Predator drones, with their superior surveillance abilities, have a better track record for accuracy than fighter jets, according to intelligence officials. Also, the drone’s smaller Hellfire missiles are said to cause far less collateral damage. Still, the recent campaign to kill Baitullah Mehsud offers a sobering case study of the hazards of robotic warfare. It appears to have taken sixteen missile strikes, and fourteen months, before the C.I.A. succeeded in killing him. During this hunt, between two hundred and seven and three hundred and twenty-one additional people were killed, depending on which news accounts you rely upon.

    (Boldface accent added)

    Some might suggest success at any cost, but is there really no upper boundary? If anyone felt obliged to explain the logic, what would they say? Who could look into the eyes of grieving family and neighbors and say, "Sure, we had to kill 140 innocent people, including those you know; but it was worth it because we also got the one we were after."

    Can we reasonably describe such lopsided collateral damage as an accidental by-product of a military operation? Should we even bother to pretend that those who ordered the strikes were unaware of the danger to civilians? Or did they order these strikes knowing full well that they were going to kill scores of civilians in order to get one, or maybe two, of our enemies?

    Or is it anti-American and hateful to ask such questions?

    Kill 'em all, and let God sort out the mess?

    Yeah, the question is vexed: Old man, what the hell you gonna kill next?
    Old timer, who you gonna kill next?
    Hey, bartender, over here! Two more shots, and two more beers.
    Sir, turn up the TV sound; the war has started on the ground.
    Just love those laser guided bombs; they're really great for righting wrongs.
    You hit the target, and win the game from bars 3,000 miles away.
    We play the game with the bravery of being out of range.
    We zap and maim with the bravery of being out of range.
    We strafe the train with the bravery of being out of range.
    We gain terrain with the bravery of being out of range.


    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Roger Waters
    ____________________

    Notes:

    "Over 700 killed in 44 drone strikes in 2009". Dawn. January 2, 2010. Dawn.com. January 6, 2010. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect...-700-killed-in-44-drone-strikes-in-2009-am-01

    Meyer, Jane. "The Predator War". The New Yorker. October 26, 2009. NewYorker.com. January 6, 2010. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_mayer
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
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  3. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    this alone probably accounts for a lot of civilian deaths.
    another factor would be that the "enemy" knows of such a strike and masses civilians in the area.
    still another factor would be the placement of targets amongst civilians.

    the US military does not target civilians.
    even in hiroshima where 10s of thousands of civilians lost their lives in a split second they weren't directly targeted, but the military knew for a fact that they were going to die.
    depends on which side you ask.
    seeing as the US military isn't exactly welcomed with open arms the murder of civilians isn't helping their case, so the notion that the US military is deliberately targeting civilians is absurd.
     
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  5. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

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    23,053
    Were those 140 people really innocent? How do we know? How do you know? How does anyone know?

    The "underwear bomber" was innocent before he strapped the explosives to his balls, wasn't he? So if the US or Yemeni forces bombed one of the al Queda facilities and killed the "underwear bomber" could they or anyone make claims of his being innocent?

    Ya' know, it's funny ...yeah, hilarious, ..that "those people" yell and scream and whine and cry about any attack that the US makes. Yet, there's bombs going off in Pakistan all the time and we don't hear much from them about THOSE innocent people, do we? What's the deal? Terrorists kill people, it's no big deal ....the US Army accidentally kills people, it's a major world-shattering issue?

    Baron Max
     
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  7. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    One would have to be more certain of the actual number (how do we know the actual cost? How can we ever know?), but the rate proposed by Tiassa at least is utterly unacceptable.

    I don't agree with the way the war is being conducted - frankly the entire prospect is condescending and absurd. I'm not sure a war is even justified; then again, creeping Islamicization/Talibanization isn't just either. How many deaths would that entail? Again, we can only guess. How many civilians has al-Qaeda / the Taliban / the whatever-since-the-name-is-completely-meaningless-against-the-ideology killed (and almost certainly more deliberately) in the conflict thus far?

    A lovely existence to be caught in between.
     
  8. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    22,087
    I regret to say that this is also a valid point. We aren't privy to any of that, of course: if we were, we might risk becoming informed, and no one wants that.
     
  9. Buffalo Roam Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    16,931


    And those numbers are provable? yes really? and how many civilians have the Islamic Terrorist Murdered for every Coalition soldier they manage to kill?

    Yes, what is the total or the suicide bombings in the Mosques? no coalition soldier in sight? the market were the women and children are out getting the evening meal?, How about the Muslim Faithful on pilgrimage to their Holy Sites? yes, Tissia why are you not complaining, and shedding your tears and sweat over the innocent Muslims murdered by Islamic Terrorism with not one Crusader in sight?

    Or how about one other simple question, who is to blame when it is a deliberate policy to hide among your family relative and friends, and carry out a religious war of terror against the rest of the world.

    And this is a admitted strategic and tactical policy of the Muslim Terrorist.
     
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Messages:
    36,966
    This and that

    They're terrorists? Just maybe that's important to the equation?

    We're supposed to be the good guys.

    Then again, I suppose there is precedent. The Vietnam disgrace was one of those in which the "good guys" willfully slaughtered entire villages.

    Put a man in an American uniform and he no longer bears any moral culpability for his actions. Is that right, Mr. Roam? Was that your experience in uniform?

    If people are so wrong to call American soldiers "baby-killers" and "mass murderers", why do you help justify such rhetoric?

    • • •​

    I must disagree on principle. Presumption of guilt is one of the many reasons my generation was taught our forefathers staged a revolution against the British Crown. Then again, we've been pissing away that victory from the outset.

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    Guilty! There's no way to be sure these drone-strike victims were innocent.

    Besides, "We don't know who's really innocent", is a blatant cop-out. The more appropriate argument should be either, "We don't care who's really innocent", or, "We don't want to put the effort into figuring out who's guilty or innocent".

    We made agreements, as a nation, based on humanitarian principle, that we would not conduct ourselves in this manner. The inconvenience of nobility is a fine reason to abandon our noble aspirations, but we shouldn't waste any effort attempting to maintain that pretense of goodness if we really prefer to act like the tyrants and terrorists.
    ____________________

    Notes:

    Robinson, Wil. "Democrats prefer killing Afghans to admitting Republicans had a good idea". International Political Will. July 13, 2009. InternationalPoliticalWill.com. January 6, 2010. http://www.internationalpoliticalwi...ans-to-admitting-republicans-had-a-good-idea/
     
  11. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    22,087
    You'll forgive me if I disagree on fact. Presumption of guilt is a localized phenomenon, rather than unifying to British law.

    Partially true: but as you ask - what is a fair ratio of innocents to responsibles? And by what criteria do we judge them? I hate to say this, but the pictures were a subset of all possible victims of the strike, whoever they are. Not sure where Robinson got them from but his object was clear. (And I hardly expect that the Democrats cancelled a Republican program to reduce casualties, but it might be so.) Your statement on innocence is similarly unrooted: some victims of the strikes were absolutely civilians, and some absolutely were not 'civilians' except in the trite version of the word.

    Possibly. But in the same token, German civilians by the ton were sacrificed with quite a bit less introspection during the Second World War, for the greater good of the destruction of the Nazis. What is the appropriate balance?
     
  12. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

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    I see Tiassa left no poll choice for "wrong" or "exaggerated". It is in the interest of the enemy, which includes some elements in the Pakistan government, to inflate the numbers of innocent casualties. The predator drone attacks are one of the most successful strategies against militants yet attempted. Here is another source:

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    Civilian casualties are low

    Despite the sharp increase in both the frequency and total number of casualties resulting from Predator strikes since mid-2008, civilian casualties have remained very low. Naturally, it is difficult to determine the exact number of civilians killed in Predator strikes for many reasons - including intentional exaggeration by Taliban spokesmen, and vague accounts by Pakistani media sources which frequently report that a certain number of "people" were killed in a strike, but rarely offer a follow-up report identifying which victims were civilians and which were militants. However, it is possible to get a rough estimate of civilian casualties by adding up the number of civilians reported killed from the media accounts of each attack. According to this method, a total of 94 civilians were reported killed as a result of all strikes between 2006 and September 29, 2009. [see chart 4, "Casualties from Predator strikes inside Pakistan: Civilian vs. Taliban/Al Qaeda"]

    Considering that drone strikes have resulted in 979 total casualties during that same time period, our numbers show that only 9.6% of the casualties reported have been identified as civilians. While our number is undoubtedly a low estimate, this extremely small percentage suggests that the accuracy and precision of these strikes have improved along with the increased pace of these strikes over the past few years.



    Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/10/analysis_us_airstrik.php#ixzz0brGRCUSH



    Why Would the Pentagon Worry About Improved Success of Predator Airstrikes in Pakistan?
     
  13. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    23,053
    Geez, maybe you're right, Tiassa. Maybe we should capture all the people in Afghanistan, house them in prisons, then have long, expensive trials, providing each suspect with expensive attorneys, in order to discover whether they're guilty or innocent. Hmm, you may have something there. Let me think on it, okay?

    I wonder, ....if we'd done anything similar to that in World War II, would we still be fighting the Nazis and the Japanese?

    Baron Max
     
  14. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    22,087
    Is Dawn noted for their partisanship? A genuine question: I have no idea myself.
     
  15. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Messages:
    36,966
    This and that

    Which is part of the reason it stoked the revolutionary fires. Many colonists considered themselves British to the bitter end. Unfortunately for them, those who tired of being regarded as inferior by the Crown won out.

    It is my opinion that it is our obligation to either answer the question or be more cautious in our target selection and mission performance.

    I might make a point aside by denouncing your anti-American hatred, but in truth it's a fair question. The Dresden firestorm, as an example, was an atrocity. I consider the atomic attacks against Japan atrocities. But I'm unsure about what part of that war wasn't an atrocity. Of course, that's why the allies proclaimed, "Never again!" I only wish we could have delivered on that.

    I don't know if Dawn itself is a question in this case as much as the government of Pakistan. At worst, Dawn has done what American media does every day, which is repeat the government's line without question.

    • • •​

    Quit whining. There is an option for "other".

    A few important points here:

    (1) The survey period of your source is shorter.

    (2) Regardless of what you think of the Pakistani number, the LWJ methodology is crude.

    (3) If you're complaining about the reliability of the numbers, why resort to pro-American, pro-war propaganda?​

    I mean, I'm fine if people want to question the numbers, but you're not helping your case by citing Bill Roggio and his Long War Journal. The jingoist line has a vested interest in minimizing civilian casualties.
     
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    The government of Pakistan has very low credibility when it comes to stuff like this.

    They are actively participating in the drone strikes with one hand, while publicly denouncing them with the other. And the stridency of their objections appears to increase in direct proportion to the depth of their complicity in the matter. We're talking about a government that will gladly jeopardize vast numbers of civilian lives all around the world because it would rather threaten India with terror and mass destruction than police its own back yard.

    Even if the civilian casualty numbers are roughly correct, do we really believe that all of the targets have been publicly accounted for? Including the ones with ties to Pakistani intelligence? Really?

    Depends on who the one was. If it's someone who was responsible for the deaths of more than 140 innocent people, or was likely to be so, then it seems to be an easy call. What's with the pandering to emotion here?

    No. It's the expected by-product of a military operation. The policy justification is to be found in the proportionality between the collateral costs and the expected benefits of eliminating the targets. You surely know this, so what's with the straw man?

    What are you, 12 years old? There are no good guys. There are winners and there are losers. Which would you rather be?
     
  17. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    53,966
    The truth is probably somewhere in between.

    It was March 25, and for months the drones had been a terrifying presence. Remotely piloted, propeller-driven airplanes, they could easily be heard as they circled overhead for hours. To the naked eye, they were small dots in the sky. But their missiles had a range of several miles. We knew we could be immolated without warning.

    Our guards believed the drones were targeting me. United States officials wanted to kill me, they said, because my death would eliminate the enormous leverage and credibility they believed a single American prisoner gave the Haqqanis, the Taliban faction that was holding us. Whenever a drone appeared, I was ordered to stay inside. The guards believed that its surveillance cameras could recognize my face from thousands of feet above.




    The drones are even leading the Taliban themselves to kill innocent people:

    The Taliban assailed the drone attacks, and my captors expressed more hatred for President Obama than for President Bush. They bitterly criticized the Obama administration for increasing the missile attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

    A stalemate between the United States and the Taliban seemed to unfold before me. The drones killed many senior commanders and hindered their operations. Yet the Taliban were able to garner recruits in their aftermath by exaggerating the number of civilian casualties.

    The strikes also created a paranoia among the Taliban. They believed that a network of local informants guided the missiles. Innocent civilians were rounded up, accused of working as American spies and then executed.

    Several days after the drone strike near our house in Makeen, we heard that foreign militants had arrested a local man. He confessed to being a spy after they disemboweled him and chopped off his leg. Then they decapitated him and hung his body in the local bazaar as a warning.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/world/asia/21hostage.html?pagewanted=1
     
  18. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    36,966
    Neuroses in motion

    I hadn't realized it took the drones to move them to such paranoia. Thank you for educating me on this point.

    • • •​

    Most of that, excepting the bit explicitly about India, can be said of the United States government, as well.

    So let me get this straight: However many innocent people the enemy kills sets our quota for how many innocent people we get to kill?

    No, really, is that seriously your argument?

    I mean, holy fuck.

    Expected? Accidental? This is acutally a point of contention, and in that argument I agree with you that it is expected.

    As to policy justification, I don't see how your sense of proportionality is trustworthy.

    Words, not deeds, then?

    Oh, and I needed to ask: Pandering to emotion, straw men, twelve years old ... what's with the stupid bullshit?
     
  19. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    53,966
    What's it worth to you to prevent Jihadis taking over Pakistan and gaining nukes for their terrorism? How many people would you be willing to kill to prevent the deaths of, say, one million Americans?
     
  20. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,391
    And if I were here emoting about the injustice of American civilians being subjected to warfare, that equivocation would have had some sting. But I've spent the past 8 years getting used to the idea that nobody has much sympathy for that fact. Which leaves the solace of power.

    Meanwhile, how many Pakistani civilians has Pakistan killed lately in the process of going after these same enemies? One thousand? Ten thousand? To say nothing of the displaced. Perhaps that has something to do with their eagerness to trumpet drone strike casualties.

    And to the question of proportionality: how many Pakistani civilians have the Taliban killed in the past year? How many would they have killed if they were not subject to drone strikes? Could it be that there are actually more Pakistani civilians alive today than there would be if the strikes hadn't been carried out? In the long run, how many fewer (or more) civilians worldwide will be killed/abused/oppressed/whatever because of the prosecution of this war?

    The latter are rather difficult questions to assess, of course, but surely you can agree that they're crucial to the question of whether these actions are justified?

    There's no "quota." If the expected costs of an action are outweighed by the expected benefits, then that action is proportional. Otherwise it is not, and so presumably constitutes a war crime. This holds at the micro level (individual strikes) and the macro level (war policy itself). We see what the costs are, at least in civilian casualties, but what are the benefits?

    Are you even going to try to address that, or just make emotional appeals about the families of victims, and dismiss just war theory with trite misrepresentations like the above?

    If it's the latter: you would certainly have a point that all war, just or not, is brutal, ugly, wrong, immoral, etc., and that things like the "laws" of war can scarcely be called "humanitarian" or "progressive" in any absolute sense. I'd just ask that you do so openly, and without assigning derrogatory strawmen to the likes of myself or otherwise misrepresenting the positions you oppose.

    I haven't advanced an "argument" so much as point out the definition of proportionality in just war theory, as laid out in international law and, in particular, the Rome Statute.

    The paraphrase in question is yours and, as mentioned, a rather trite and combative piece of rhetoric.

    Amongst whom? Nobody that's serious about just war theory, or even plain old reality. Which leaves plenty of posters here, I realize. But are they worth addressing?

    Good thing I haven't advanced any judgements of proportionality, then.

    We here really have no way of knowing. The targets might be Osama Bin Ladens who would go on to cause thousands of deaths, and they might be nobodies that were a complete waste. This is all covert ops stuff, and the relevant information for assessing proportionality will probably not be available publicly for many years, if ever. Which make your demands that "we" answer these questions problematic.

    So we're left with emotional appeals, speculation and the basic question of how much one trusts the government. Not much meat there for a serious debate, really. Hence my complaint: you're smart enough to know this, and yet here you are dodging the main questions with cheap rhetoric. This sort of crap is beneath you.

    But as far as that goes, I support you in your efforts at disabusing charlatans of the notion that the casualty rate in the drone strikes is some kind of "accident." That is possibly the only issue here subject to substantive discourse, so by all means have at it, if you think it's worthwhile.

    Isn't that what I just asked you?

    You're too smart and honest for the S.A.M.-level rhetoric you've employed here, in particular the cheap equivocations. Are you feeling some sort of need to fill the rhetorical gap left by her banning?
     
  21. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

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    tiassa, look at barrons post and then ask "how exactly does the "enermy" keep getting so many recruits?" I mean when the US bombs a weding the groom\father of the bride\father of the groom\ brothers of the couple\ whoever happens to survive should be grateful that the US took out a "dangerious terroriest" right? Thats what "you" (general not you specifically) would do if it happened at your house right?
     
  22. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Messages:
    36,966
    Disgust beyond measure

    I would ask you to imagine whatever nightmare scenario you need to accommodate the question, but if the roles were reversed, how would you treat that consideration?

    It's not that what a country does within its borders is necessarily its own business, but I just fail to see how the errors or cruelty of the Pakistani (or Afghani, or Iraqi) government in any way mitigates any errors or cruelty of the invading American military.

    Well, where does history start on this one? Pakistan had enough troubles of its own even before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and sent the Taliban and its allies scurrying across the border.

    I don't know about crucial, but they are certainly interesting theoretical propositions.

    We're going to pause right here for a moment.

    The proposition to which you responded:

    Who could look into the eyes of grieving family and neighbors and say, "Sure, we had to kill 140 innocent people, including those you know; but it was worth it because we also got the one we were after."​

    Your response:

    "Depends on who the one was. If it's someone who was responsible for the deaths of more than 140 innocent people, or was likely to be so, then it seems to be an easy call. What's with the pandering to emotion here?"​

    It seems to me that your response is that if the number of deaths caused by a terrorist is more than 140, "then it seems an easy call" to kill 140 innocent people in order to get that one enemy.

    What about the proposition or your response is unclear in that sense?

    To me, there is a clear implication of an eye for an eye, of 140 for 140. Thus my counterproposal. Now, quite obviously, that's not what you meant, but I resent that you should changethe subject (e.g., just war) and ask me if I'm "even going to try to address that".

    Seems just a bit dishonest to me.

    So why don't you do me a favor and stuff the self-righteous bullshit back where it came from?

    As to just war doctrine? That's a pretty big discussion. Open a thread on it.

    Another discussion, and in truth, the question of whether that person is worth addressing is still up in the air.

    Oh, quit lying.

    Tiassa: Can we reasonably describe such lopsided collateral damage as an accidental by-product of a military operation?

    Quadraphonics: No. It's the expected by-product of a military operation. The policy justification is to be found in the proportionality between the collateral costs and the expected benefits of eliminating the targets. You surely know this, so what's with the straw man?

    Tiassa: Expected? Accidental? This is acutally a point of contention, and in that argument I agree with you that it is expected.

    As to policy justification, I don't see how your sense of proportionality is trustworthy.

    Quadraphonics: Good thing I haven't advanced any judgements of proportionality, then.

    You've already explicitly stated that a 140:1 ratio is an easy call if the one is bad enough.

    Well, we do have names from a couple "successful" assassinations:

    • Usama al-Kin (al Qaeda)
    • Sheikh Ahmed Salim (al Qaeda)
    • Baitullah Mehsud (Tehrik-e-Taliban)​

    And they do have plenty of blood attributed to their hands. So how many civilians is it fair to kill in order to get them? In Mehsud's case, it's between 207 and 321.

    Well, here's the thing. It's easy enough to make excuses as you have. It's easy enough to justify an eye for an eye in the abstract. That's because it's just numbers.

    But those numbers represent people. And if recognizing that fact is somehow crap, Quad, I don't know what to tell you because very little of what I might say about such monstrous and hateful notions falls within the rules.

    So can the self-righteous ham. Try some human decency, if it's not too emotional for you.

    So, no answer, eh? Just going to lie and run away? Something about whether or not people are worth addressing goes here.

    Just trying to be more concise.

    Let me know when you feel like being honest.
     
  23. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    The truth is, if we really want to conquer Afghanistan, it's going to take a massive increase in the number of deaths. We will have to wage an unrelenting war with massive numbers of civilian casualties and continue to pound the fuck out of the opponent until they beg for mercy and have zero resistance. History shows over and over that this is what it takes to win a war. The enemy much be crushed and utterly defeated. That's what it would take to conquore the USA and we should not expect anything less from any other nation. I'd say 5-7 years of unrelenting merciless killing.

    Which is why we shouldn't have invaded Afghanistan and longer than to kill Bin Laden. We could have dropped 10 MOABs on his original hide out and be out in a day. Done and Done.
     

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