: United States Air Force Research Institute
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Discussions concerning civilian casualties in warfare continue to elicit very emotional responses among the public at large. Dr. Sarah Sewall, in Chasing Success: Air Force Efforts to Reduce Civilian Harm, depicts the US Air Force's efforts over the past twenty-plus years being at the vanguard of minimizing civilian harm in conflict while still effectively pursuing military objectives. When the Air Force Research Institute turned to Dr. Sewall to write this work, we understood that warfare is a messy business. At its core, when other elements of national power have failed to persuade and deter, warfare is about forcing one's will upon an adversary, including applying controlled violence. History is rife with examples of civilizations falling after their armies in the field are defeated and their cities are sacked, looted, and burned. The nature of modern warfare extracted an increasingly high toll on civilians as weapons became more deadly. As early as our own Civil War, the American military has become increasingly aware of civilian casualties-as has the international community, following the close of World War II. Nazi Germany's attacks on London utilizing terror weapons, such as the V-1 and V-2, and the Allied bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima demonstrated the totality of warfare in the modern era. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 attempted to define the basic rights of not just wartime prisoners but also to establish protection for civilians in and around a war zone. Warfare has become increasingly more complex. Some organizations, like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are following the old historical examples in which they convert, enslave, or murder the civilian residents in conquered territories. In other conflicts, with the rise of insurgencies across the globe, standing militaries no longer meet on a battlefield where identifiable fronts and protected zones exist. In Iraq and Afghanistan, adversaries hiding within civilian populations have become the norm rather than the exception. Precision-guided munitions (PGM) have enabled more accurate delivery of kinetic effects, improving airpower's effectiveness while reducing risk to friendly forces. PGMs have also enabled airpower to reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties through more precise targeting. Yet PGMs, and the humans who deliver them, are not infallible, nor is the targeting information obtained during wartime perfect. Thus, unintended effects can be reduced but never completely eliminated. An open dialogue on such controversial issues as civilian vi casualties depicts the true strength of our Air Force and demonstrates the best attributes of a military operating inside a democratic society. It is in this spirit of open dialogue that we present Dr. Sewall's work on a very timely and emotionally charged subject.