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Accountability for Killing: Moral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America's Post-9/11 Wars

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Accountability for Killing: Moral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America's Post-9/11 Wars Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In May 2009, American B-1B bombers dropped 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs in the village of Garani, Afghanistan following a Taliban attack. The dead included anywhere from twenty five to over one hundred civilians. The U.S. military went into damage control mode, making numerous apologies to the Afghan government and the townspeople. Afterward, the military announced that it would modify its aerial support tactics. This episode was hardly an anomaly. As anyone who has followed the Afghanistan war knows, these types of incidents occur with depressing regularity. Indeed, as Neta Crawford shows in Accountability for Killing, they are intrinsic to the American way of warfare today. While the military has prioritized reducing civilian casualties, it has not come close to eliminating them despite significant progress in recent years, for a very simple reason: American reliance on airpower and, increasingly, drone technology, which is intended to reduce American casualties. Yet the long distance from targets, the power of the explosives, and the frequency of attacks necessarily produces civilian casualties over the course of a long war.

Working from these basic facts, Crawford offers a sophisticated and intellectually powerful analysis of culpability and moral responsibility in war. The dominant paradigm of legal and moral responsibility in war today stresses both intention and individual accountability. Deliberate killing of civilians is outlawed and international law blames individual soldiers and commanders for such killing. But also under international law, civilian killing may be forgiven if it was unintended and incidental to a militarily necessary operation. Given the nature of contemporary war, though, Crawford contends that this argument is no longer satisfactory. As she demonstrates, 'unintended' deaths of civilians are too often dismissed as unavoidable, inevitable, and accidental. Yet essentially, the very law that protects noncombatants from deliberate killing allows unintended killing. An individual soldier may be sentenced life in prison or death for deliberately killing even a small number of civilians, but the large scale killing of dozens or even hundreds of civilians may be forgiven if it was unintentional-'incidental' to a military operation. She focuses on the causes of these many episodes of foreseeable collateral damage and the moral responsibility for them. Why was there so much unintended killing of civilians in the U.S. wars zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan? Is 'collateral damage' simply an unavoidable consequence of all wars? Why, when the U.S. military tries so hard to limit collateral damage, does so much of it seem to occur? Trenchant, original, and ranging across security studies, international law, ethics, and international relations, Accountability for Killing will reshape our understanding of the ethics of contemporary war.

Synopsis:

The unintended deaths of civilians in war are too often dismissed as unavoidable, inevitable, and accidental. And despite the best efforts of the U.S. to avoid them, civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have been a regular feature of the United States' wars after 9/11. In Accountability for Killing, Neta C. Crawford focuses on the causes of these many episodes of foreseeable collateral damage and the moral responsibility for them. The dominant paradigm of legal and moral responsibility in war today stresses both intention and individual accountability. Deliberate killing of civilians is outlawed and international law blames individual soldiers and commanders for such killing. An individual soldier may be sentenced life in prison or death for deliberately killing even a small number of civilians, but the large scale killing of dozens or even hundreds of civilians may be forgiven if it was unintentional--"incidental"--to a military operation. The very law that protects noncombatants from deliberate killing may allow many episodes of unintended killing. Under international law, civilian killing may be forgiven if it was unintended and incidental to a militarily necessary operation.

Given the nature of contemporary war, where military organizations-training, and the choice of weapons, doctrine, and tactics-create the conditions for systemic collateral damage, Crawford contends that placing moral responsibility for systemic collateral damage on individuals is misplaced. She develops a new theory of organizational moral agency and responsibility, and shows how the US military exercised moral agency and moral responsibility to reduce the incidence of collateral damage in America's most recent wars. Indeed, when the U.S. military and its allies saw that the perception of collateral damage killing was causing it to lose support in the war zones, it moved to a "population centric" doctrine, putting civilian protection at the heart of its strategy.

Trenchant, original, and ranging across security studies, international law, ethics, and international relations, Accountability for Killing will reshape our understanding of the ethics of contemporary war.

About the Author

Neta C. Crawford is Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, Boston University, and author of Argument and Change in World Politics (Cambridge, 2002; winner of the 2003 Robert Jervis and Paul Schroeder Best Book Award, International History and Politics section of the APSA)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction

1. Grammar and Vocubulary

2. How They Die

3. Norms in Tension

4. When Soldiers Snap

5. Command Responsibility

6. Organizational Responsibility

7. Political Responsibility

8. Public Responsibility

9. Conclusion

Product Details

ISBN:
9780199981724
Author:
Crawford, Neta C.
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Author:
Crawford, Neta
Subject:
Politics-United States Foreign Policy
Subject:
International Security
Subject:
Politics | International Studies | Human Rights
Publication Date:
20131131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
512
Dimensions:
6.6 x 9.4 x 1.8 in 1.9 lb

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy

Accountability for Killing: Moral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America's Post-9/11 Wars New Hardcover
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Product details 512 pages Oxford University Press, USA - English 9780199981724 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The unintended deaths of civilians in war are too often dismissed as unavoidable, inevitable, and accidental. And despite the best efforts of the U.S. to avoid them, civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have been a regular feature of the United States' wars after 9/11. In Accountability for Killing, Neta C. Crawford focuses on the causes of these many episodes of foreseeable collateral damage and the moral responsibility for them. The dominant paradigm of legal and moral responsibility in war today stresses both intention and individual accountability. Deliberate killing of civilians is outlawed and international law blames individual soldiers and commanders for such killing. An individual soldier may be sentenced life in prison or death for deliberately killing even a small number of civilians, but the large scale killing of dozens or even hundreds of civilians may be forgiven if it was unintentional--"incidental"--to a military operation. The very law that protects noncombatants from deliberate killing may allow many episodes of unintended killing. Under international law, civilian killing may be forgiven if it was unintended and incidental to a militarily necessary operation.

Given the nature of contemporary war, where military organizations-training, and the choice of weapons, doctrine, and tactics-create the conditions for systemic collateral damage, Crawford contends that placing moral responsibility for systemic collateral damage on individuals is misplaced. She develops a new theory of organizational moral agency and responsibility, and shows how the US military exercised moral agency and moral responsibility to reduce the incidence of collateral damage in America's most recent wars. Indeed, when the U.S. military and its allies saw that the perception of collateral damage killing was causing it to lose support in the war zones, it moved to a "population centric" doctrine, putting civilian protection at the heart of its strategy.

Trenchant, original, and ranging across security studies, international law, ethics, and international relations, Accountability for Killing will reshape our understanding of the ethics of contemporary war.

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