The Captain’s Journal has an interesting piece on how politically-correct rules of engagement are hampering our troops in Iraq. The terrorists in Iraq know that our troops are held to the highest standard — so they are perfectly willing to use women and children as human shields, get kids to shoot at our troops, and other barbarous techniques to put our soldiers in harms way, knowing that they’ll be reticent to shoot back. The analysis given is important:
Consider the psychology of the warrior. Even if not a single Soldier or Marine had died as a result of hesitation due to ROE (that is, even if this danger is only potential and has not become actualized), the psychology of fear has set in. Not fear of the enemy, but fear of firing a weapon. This fear can cause hesitation, and even the enemy knows the U.S. ROE and can and has taken advantage of them. Hence, there is increased danger for our troops, and they know it.
We can’t have our soldiers afraid to fight this war for fear of reprisal — yes, we should continue to maintain a high ethical standard. At the same time, there’s a balance necessary: and many of our troops feel strongly that they’re being put into a situation where they are afraid to act for fear of recriminations. The military chain of command needs to be more responsive to these concerns — ensuring that soldiers who act responsibly aren’t forced to spend significant amounts of time defending their actions.
Ultimately, the less effective we are in fighting the terrorists in Iraq, the more innocent Iraqis will die at their hands. In a war such as this, the consideration has to be weighed on whether our inaction will do more harm — as Iraq suffers the constant predation of terrorist groups, each time we allow one of these butchers to escape alive or unapprehended, we give them another chance to kill more innocents. If our troops fear doing their jobs, how can we expect them to fight an enemy who has no consideration for the rules of civilized warfare?