This Thursday, Americans will sit down for a celebration of food, family… and completely wrong-headed political opinions. Here are a few talking points for taking on your less-informed relatives.
WAR ON TERRORISM
Let's stop worrying so much about hurting civilians. We're supposed to be killing terrorists, damn it!
As the war in Afghanistan nears the decade mark, Americans are understandably impatient about slow progress. And an increasingly popular target is the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) restrictive rules of engagement and limits on airstrikes, meant to prevent civilian casualties. Don't these limits just leave more Taliban alive to attack NATO troops and Afghan civilians?
Actually, fewer civilian casualties lead to fewer attacks. A U.S.-commissioned study by the National Bureau of Economic Research released this year found that when ISAF troops killed at least two civilians it results in an average of six additional violent incidents between ISAF and insurgents occurred over the next six months. And while it's true that the Taliban causes 76 percent of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, opinion surveys show that Afghans believe that international forces are equally responsible. It's not a fair playing field, and that's precisely why the rules need to be so tough.
In any case, the United States isn't going soft. The number of airstrikes in Afghanistan is on the rise, with more than 1,000 in October alone. Perhaps these bombings will finally shock and awe Afghans into submission, though the evidence from across the border in Waziristan, where the United States has escalated its drone-strike campaign, isn't all that promising.