Tuesday, October 18, 2016

research writing - collateral damage, by vik ball

The Department of Defense defines collateral damage as “Unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time”. This term is frequently used when describing the incidental killing or wounding of non-combatant persons, or damage to non-combatant property during an attack on another military target. It is argued that its use dehumanizes the dead, and is used to reduce the perception of fault of military leadership in failing to protect non-combatants. The first known use of this term appeared in a 1961 article entitled "DISPERSAL, DETERRENCE, AND DAMAGE".

Although it was not widely used during the Vietnam War, a statement by an unnamed U.S. military official discussing actions taken against the Viet Cong in Ben Tre city perfectly describes the “feeling” such vernacular produces: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it".That statement practically summarizes U.S. strategy at the time. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 864,000 tons of bombs were dropped during Operation Rolling Thunder (1965 - 1968) alone, compared with 503,000 tons dropped during the entire Pacific Theater of World War II.

U.S. F4 Phantom dropping bombs over a Viet Cong controlled area in South Vietnam, 1965

Understanding the term “collateral damage” is important because it allows us great insight into those that use it (primarily being the United Stated Military) and why. It is through statements and phrases like the one aforementioned that the world populous grows wary of the US military machine. Should an organization so brusque in it’s lack of responsibility really be in charge of policing the world? We can only hope that their strategies change, or in the very least, their vernacular changes in order to better reflect their true intentions, i.e. neutralization of the target, survival of non-combatant persons not being a primary objective.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/06/middleeast/us-collateral-damage-history/

7 comments:

  1. Reading about collateral damage and the use of the word lead me to the question – does it make it easier for soldiers who have killed people in the war to be able to accept their actions?

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  2. There is an interesting relationship between being concise in our wording and using the "wrong" word just to be politically correct. I feel that, in any documentation that is presented to the general public, we should always cater to the sensitivity required when talking to citizens. However, on official documentation, I hardly see the dilemma.

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  3. Although it has been centuries now that was has been brought to the mainland of the US it important to remember that this is still a very real topic considering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the militias are integrated through the cities that collateral damage happens more and more

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  5. Are any new strategies being put in place, to minimize collateral damage?

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  6. This is a sensitive subject when it comes to our military. It seams like there is a lot of grey area in this subject because its hard to hold people accountable. You obviously don't want to kill people for no reason but, you also don't want to second guess yourself or you could die.

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  7. In addition to Gabrielle's profound question: what if after the Vietnam war collateral damage became a standard in American soldier conditioning? We all know there is an extent of habituation in our military, but how far does it go? Is it successful?

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