Its a question I often wonder about. Vietnam was an aberation, a brief open window look at what war is really like, and the military and government, realising that was not a good thing, clamped down hard afterwards. All other military incursions since have tightly restricted media access and information flow. Control of information is power and its being heavy handidly exercised daily.
Supposedly this country is at war, and has been soon after the bleating reader of My Pet Goat decided to use that little 9/11 thing to show that he had bigger balls than his legitimate war hero daddy.
But its an almost invisble war- with minimal affect on general society if you didn't lose anyone in the attacks or or have or had a loved one serving overseas. And there's a certain disconnect which makes it hard to take claims of just how serious the government is about fighting the war, particularly in Afghanistan.
War is bad, war is horrendous, war causes untold tragedy and human suffering- there's no arguing that. But if a government makes the committment to fight- and sends its citizen soldiers off to do its bidding, what obligation does it have to do all it can to provide them with adequate support and make their survival first priority?
Its a sad truth that collateral damage- accidental civilian casualties is a by product of, and a fact of, war. I'm not referring to deliberate massacres of the local population, rather the unfortunate circumstance of their being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Afghanistan is a guerrilla style war , one where its hard to not only tell the bad guys fromthe less bad, but where local combatants wear no uniform and melt into the civilian population without a trace. Its also a war which has come to rely heavily on high tech rather than up close and personal reports on the ground for intelligence and operational decisions. And one where the presence of a few civilans in an area is enough to call off operations designed to attack, and preferably eliminate, the enemy who is doing its best to kill the American and other forces . This of course gives the Taliban and its allies a chance to fight another day.
Its nice that the US (and British) miltary are so conscientious about not harming the locals. And yes- winning their hearts and minds is difficult if a wedding party is attacked because a drone in the sky misread it as a terrorist gathering. And its nice that our side is considerably more conscientious about not harming the local population than either the Taliban or their Afghan allies. But Afganistan is a strange place- one where power is respected considerably more than compassion.
If our government doesn't want this to turn into the 100 Years War- and we're 10% there - it has to decide just where to draw the line. If we're serious about the situation, then something has to change.