The Instapundit, with another throwaway link (Really, he isn’t endorsing it. He just wants you all to read it and think about it):
THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM: At Captain’s Journal, a look at rules of engagement.
The Captain (who is not military, we are told) passes along stories from WWII in which the ROE were, shall we say, different:
Roads melted, and some people were seen stuck in the melted asphalt, having put their hands out to try to get out, only to get their hands stuck as well. Many were seen on fire, eventually melting in their own fat. Eight square miles of Hamburg were completely burned out that night, killing 45,000 Germans.
Here Richard Rhodes is setting up the discussion at the end of the book in which the reader engages in the ethical choice to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, or commit 200,000 men to a land invasion of Japan, possibly losing many or even a majority of them. This book is a technical, sobering and difficult read, but highly recommended. It is meant only for the serious thinker.
Serious thinkers like, say, the Captain. We are then treated to the much circulated Washington Times editorial (the paper of record for serious thinkers) from earlier this year:
Now that Marcus Luttrell’s book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10″ is a national bestseller, maybe Americans are ready to start discussing the core issue his story brings to light: the inverted morality, even insanity, of the American military’s rules of engagement (ROE).
On a stark mountaintop in Afghanistan in 2005, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell and three Navy SEAL teammates found themselves having just such a discussion. Dropped behind enemy lines to kill or capture a Taliban kingpin who commanded between 150-200 fighters, the SEAL team was unexpectedly discovered in the early stages of a mission whose success, of course, depended on secrecy. Three unarmed Afghan goatherds, one a teenager, had stumbled across the Americans’ position.
This presented the soldiers with an urgent dilemma: What should they do? If they let the Afghans go, they would probably alert the Taliban to the their whereabouts. This would mean a battle in which the Americans were outnumbered by at least 35 to 1. “Little Big Horn in turbans,” as Marcus Luttrell would describe it. If the Americans didn’t let the goatherds go — if they killed them, there being no way to hold them — the Americans would avoid detection and, most likely, leave the area safely. On a treeless mountainscape far from home, four of our bravest patriots came to the ghastly conclusion that the only way to save themselves was forbidden by the rules of engagement. Such an action would set off a media firestorm, and lead to murder charges for all.
It is agonizing to read their tense debate as Mr. Luttrell recounts it, the “lone survivor” of the disastrous mission. Each of the SEALs was aware of “the strictly correct military decision” — namely, that it would be suicide to let the goatherds live. But they were also aware that their own country, for which they were fighting, would ultimately turn on them if they made that decision. It was as if committing suicide had become the only politically correct option. For fighting men ordered behind enemy lines, such rules are not only insane. They’re immoral.
The SEALs sent the goatherds on their way. One hour later, a sizeable Taliban force attacked, beginning a horrendous battle that resulted not only in the deaths of Mr. Luttrell’s three SEAL teammates, but also the deaths of 16 would-be rescuers — eight additional SEALS and eight Army special operations soldiers whose helicopter was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade.
“Look at me right now in my story,” Mr. Luttrell writes. “Helpless, tortured, shot, blown up, my best buddies all dead, and all because we were afraid of the liberals back home, afraid to do what was necessary to save our own lives. Afraid of American civilian lawyers. I have only one piece of advice for what it’s worth: If you don’t want to get into a war where things go wrong, where the wrong people sometimes get killed, where innocent people sometimes have to die, then stay the hell out of it in the first place.”
You see, the obvious conclusion is the pendulum has swung too far because of the pussy liberals at home. Clearly we need some new Rules of Engagement, ones that presumably include the right to execute, at will, goatherders.
Hearts and minds, deep thinkers. Hearts and minds.