IT’S ONE of the essential tenets of the new age of humanitarian war that war is not as bad as it used to be, or at least that it’s not so bad that the costs outweigh the gains.
War, or western war at least, is no longer the grim rider on the pale horse, bringing chaos, death and random destruction.
High-tech precision weapons, precision targeting enabled by lawyers, new ethical norms, population-centric counterinsurgency – all this has made it possible to vaporise the bad guys only, neatly severing the infrastructural linkages that hold rogue states and dictatorships together, so that the whole business is over before anyone even realises it.
Once this is accepted then it becomes natural for powerful countries equipped with this weaponry to think of war as a first choice rather than a last resort, and also to convince their populations that war will not only be cost-free for them, but that its effects on the countries on the receiving end of it will also be minimal and ultimately beneficial.
This is what we have been told ever since the US invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War and throughout the last fourteen years of the ‘war on terror,’ whenever the US and its allies are considering who next to bomb.
One of the ways in which these governments have attempted to ensure popular acceptance is by ignoring or downplaying any evidence that contradicts this new mythology of war.
Last month a joint report Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror’ produced by the medical-political peace organization Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concluded that 1.3 million people have died as a direct or indirect of wars fought in three main theatres of war in Iraq (1 million), Afghanistan (220,000) and Pakistan (80,000).