Body Counts Are Terrible Way to Assess Counter-Terror Ops

President Donald Trump's new executive order rescinding a provision of an Obama-era executive order that required public reporting of civilian and combatant deaths in U.S. counterterrorism strikes “outside areas of active hostilities” has garnered concern from transparency advocates. They express fears that President Trump's action will deprive the public of information it needs to judge the appropriateness of the United States' use of force in an era of persistent conflict against global terror threats. I agree that it is vitally important in democracy to keep the public informed, but giving the public raw numbers of deaths – “body counts” in essence – in isolation from other key factors essential to determining the propriety of the use of force will likely cause more confusion that clarity.

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