The US military made news recently when it adopted the Israeli tactic of ‘roof knocking’ – detonating a small explosion above a building that is about to be bombed in order to give civilians that may be present a warning to evacuate – in its operations against the Islamic State.
Israel used the roof-knock technique to reduce civilian casualties in several recent wars, beginning with Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-9.
One of the tactics that the radical Islamist enemies of the West have adopted as part of the paradigm of asymmetric warfare that they are waging is to use their own civilian populations as human shields. Hamas launches its rockets from school courtyards, and Hezbollah has constructed a massive, dispersed rocket-launching facility embedded in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. If Israel has to neutralize this, it’s likely that many Lebanese will be killed.
The human shield tactic is effective because Western military and political leaders are highly sensitive to the charge of unnecessarily hurting civilians in warfare.