So far, so good

Baghdad has now suffered its first dose of “shock and awe.” According to the LA Times, Iraqi officials are reporting one civilian dead and fourteen civilians wounded from Thursday night’s bombings. Presumably they’re not understating the actual losses.

If so, then my earlier belief that the “shock and awe” idea meant “terror-bombing” was wrong. Without minimizing the suffering of those who were hit, and the fear felt by everyone else in Baghdad, it’s still fair to say that those sound like an evening’s traffic-accident casualties, not like what happened to Guernica or Dresden.

Maybe our “smart weapons” are actually getting smarter. If a big bombing raid can now be carried on with that low a ratio of civilian damage, then the argument that ground warfare is ethically preferable because it does less collateral damage may be obsolete.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: