War had an amount of civility to it in the past. Up to and including WWI, combatants would allow their opponents to recover their dead and dying from a battlefield under a flag of truce. There was even a modicum of civility in the ETO during WWII.
But in the past it was always a two way road. You cannot afford to be civil to an enemy that is purely ruthless. And an insurgency is always ruthless. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the insurgents are nothing short of barbarian because that barbarism is an absolute necessity to maintaining the insurgency. And for us, the counter-insurgent, we must echo that ruthlessness in the actual fighting, while still capturing the will of the population.
No matter how many terrorists we kill in these insurgencies, the truth is that victory lies in convincing the populace that we can and will win the fight and keep them secure in the future. And that means bombing a funeral and killing 100 Taliban when we have the chance. If we don’t have the belly for it, the populace will see that, and will have a hard time believing that we will win.
In a high intensity conflict against an honorable opponent, bombing that funeral would be dead wrong. As a counter-insurgent, not bombing that funeral just bought us another 2 years of fighting because we have to convince the people that we are tough enough.
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