Why Should We Study Fatality Ratio?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 6D P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Yagil LEVY, Open University of Israel, Israel
As Martin Shaw asserted, the new Western way of war in the post-Vietnam is typified by the transfer of risk from soldiers to enemy civilians to reduce own casualties, and by implication, the political costs stemming from the growing social sensitivity to casualties domestically. Risk-transfer is accomplished by using excessive lethality with relatively limited discrimination between combatants and noncombatants, while exercising greater caution to avoid civilian casualties probably increases own soldiers’ risk.
This paper addresses a methodological challenge: How to measure variations in risk-transfer. Scholars identified variations in risk-transfer practices in the same arena but have not measured their reflections in fatality numbers. Others measured fatality ratio to analyze risk-transfer, but only between soldiers and enemy civilians. They thus ignored the possibility that even within the same arena, variations or stability in the ratio between own soldiers to enemy civilians do not necessarily indicate variations in the scale of risk-transfer. Another variables, such as the nature of the mission or changes in the enemy’s capabilities, may play their part as well. Therefore, more ratios should be considered.
Focused on Israel-Gaza wars (2006-2014), three arguments are presented. First, the combination of four categories of fatality ratio should be factored in to measure variations in risk-transfer, as follows: between own combatants and enemy civilians; between own combatants and enemy combatants; between enemy combatants and enemy civilians; between own civilians and enemy civilians. Second, affinity between numbers and practices should be identified to test the extent to which the fatality ratio is mirrored by practice on the ground while variations in practices are reflected in variation in the fatality ratio. Third, different figures provided by different agencies should be weighted to evaluate how figures reflect different perspectives about how to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants, as the international law prescribes