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SWJED
03-27-2006, 10:15 AM
27 March New York Times commentary - Drying Out the Insurgency (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/opinion/27grayling.html) by A. C. Grayling.


...Still, anti-insurgent operations often take place in urban areas, whose residents are as much at risk from ground weapons as they would be from bombers at high altitude. Thus one question that a watchful press should be asking of the American-led forces in Iraq is how carefully, and how successfully, they are applying the "doctrine of distinction" laid down in the laws of war, which requires that combatants be distinguished from noncombatants so that the latter can be protected...

But protecting civilians is hard to do when fighting an insurgency like Iraq's, in which combatants hide behind and take support from the civilian population. The very nature of insurgency seems to offer an irresolvable problem: the horrific example of World War II area bombing unarguably shows that the doctrine of distinction must be observed, yet the insurgents cynically use it as a shield.

Paradoxically, the solution is not to abandon the doctrine of distinction but to apply it with a vengeance. To see how, simply look at the considerable experience Britain acquired in policing a restive empire which, at its height, included a third of the world's population. The British learned the hard way, making some bitter mistakes en route. But the lesson was clear: drain the pond in which the insurgents swim...

British colonial solutions to insurgency tended to involve aspects of both strategies. Once combatants and noncombatants had been separated, the civilians had to be kept quarantined from the fighters so that the contrasting methods of dealing with both seduction of the latter, coercion of the former could proceed effectively. But the aim was always realistic: Britain recognized that an insurgency cannot be defeated, only damped down and eventually ended through a political settlement...