This are excerpts from a lengthy article that can be accessed from the link below.

War is the worst method of dispute resolution. In war, combatants and civilians are killed and injured, physical and social infrastructure is destroyed, and individuals and societies are traumatized, resulting in harms that can continue long after wars are declared to be over.

People often use the term “collateral damage” referring to death and injury of civilians and destruction of their property. But a more accurate definition would include the post-traumatic stress of individuals, including combatants and their families, as well as social dysfunction. Even “just wars,” such as the war against the Nazis, involved collateral damage and moral lapses, like the bombing of German cities and internment of US citizens of Japanese descent.
War has been a regular part of human history since at least 11,000 BCE, according to San Jose State Professor Jonathan P. Roth, author of the “Great Course,” War and World History. He writes, “Warfare is an integral part of virtually every human culture and society.” Indeed, he shows that war has been thoroughly intertwined throughout human history in politics, economics, technology, culture, religion, and ideology.

I have been reading a lot about history, which shows the decisive effects of war. For example, imagine what would have happened if the losers of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, or World War II had won. We would live in a very different world today.

I started planning to write this post when the US withdrew all combat troops from Afghanistan this summer. At that time, Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock published The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, which piqued my interest. The book is based primarily on a government inspector general study conducted between 2014 and 2018 as well as several oral history projects. The Washington Post published this summary.

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Truth and integrity are collateral damage in this war. As in other wars, “truth is the first casualty.” In Matterhorn, colonels and majors constantly pressed to get casualty figures and “kill ratios” so that they can make impressive reports of progress to their superiors to justify promotion and new commands. This pressure led grunts in the field to inflate the numbers of enemy killed, which deepened their cynicism.

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Minimizing Collateral Damage
The three wars described in this post were not just dumb – they were tragic and expensive. The initiation or continuation of the wars were sold to the public based on false and/or misleading claims. The US attacked countries where we didn’t understand their interests, culture, or language. We assumed that we could force weaker countries to comply with our demands by using massive military might, only to be humbled by losing prolonged wars.

Although the US had some legitimate interests in these situations, we passed up opportunities for peaceful resolutions. Our counterproductive decisions to prolong the wars were largely due to political and military leaders prioritizing their career and political interests over the country’s interests.

There are many analogs between war and litigation. One is the similarity between collateral damage in war and intangible costs of litigation. Both are frequently unrecognized and undervalued.
As shown in the three books described in this post, collateral damage is much more than death and injury of civilians and unintentional destruction of their property as well as that of our own troops. Veterans and their families suffer long-lasting physical and psychological injuries.


If we had seriously pursued negotiations, it’s impossible to know all the consequences, even in hindsight. But it’s plausible that the US would have less conflict internally and internationally, and we would have greater influence in the world.