Mark Dodd; 1/5/10
The UN should accept that conflicts today are not about gaining territory but protecting civilians. Angered by the rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, the blunt-speaking US general in charge of the war, warned his commanders the conflict would not be won by the number of enemy combatants killed but by the number of Afghan civilians shielded from violence. Militaries, including Australia’s, disguise the killing of civilians with weasel word descriptions such as the odious “collateral damage”. Modern armies are increasingly aware that high civilian death tolls lose wars. In June last year, McChrystal said the problem was getting so serious that rules of engagement might have to be changed, including limits on the use of air strikes, too often a first response by jittery NATO troops under insurgent attack.