Sky has been from the beginning a critic of our habit of trying to defeat insurgents from the air, with attendant "collateral damage."
During the troop buildup in 2007 known as the surge, she said that attacks on insurgents that also resulted in civilian casualties were tantamount to “mass murder.”
“When you drop a bomb from the air and it lands on a village and kills all those people and you turn around and say, ‘Oh we didn’t mean to kill the civilians,’ well, who did you think was living in the village?” she said.
When the Americans realized that killing Iraqis would never solve anything and switched to their counter-insurgency strategy, they began to pay a lot more attention to people like Sky. Odierno:
Emma was able to give me a completely different perspective: it was from an Iraqi viewpoint. We didn’t have a lot of experience in doing these things, so someone with her background and knowledge was able to assist us as to how we could best help civilians.
It's quite a story, and one comes away from it feeling better about a species that includes people like Emma Sky.
That doesn't mean the generals are right about everything. I think at the moment they are far too optimistic about Afghanistan, although I certainly understand why; who wants to send soldiers to die in a war he thinks he can't win? They are focused on the mission, so when somebody tells them to defeat the Taliban, they devote all their energies to defeating the Taliban, not to wondering whether a bunch of tribesmen with AK-47s are worth the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars that would really take. But it is clear to me that the trillions of dollars we spend on our military have bought a very impressive and powerful thing, one that can do amazing things. But it still remains to us to decide what those things should be.