Monday, October 12, 2015

Rules of Engagement--the Most Common Bitch I Heard in Iraq



The serious complaint I heard most often in Iraq was about our Rules of Engagement.  The rules that say when we could fire and, mostly, when we could not.

In movies and on TV, this is most often illustrated by showing an American unit taking fire from a mosque and not being allowed to fire back.  And to the soldiers I served with, it seemed to them like the concept of Rules of Engagement was a new to their war.  I will admit that the ROE in Iraq was more restrictive than anything that preceded it.  The whole idea of fighting a war and "winning hearts and minds" seems crazy in an actual war.  It sounded crazy when I heard it in connection to Viet Nam. It sounded no less crazy in Iraq.

But American soldiers suffered and died with ROEs in Viet Nam and Korea also.  At different points in every war since World War 2, American soldiers have not been allowed to go all out for victory for political reasons.

Given our track record of success in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan, you might think we would get the idea that pursuing anything less than victory was a dumb idea that gets our own soldiers killed.  But we continue to put more and more restrictions on our soldiers.

Right now we claim to be bombing ISIS, but our rules of engagement are so restrictive that many of the bombers come back with their bombs.

Which makes the Russian intervention in Syria so interesting.  Syria is not Afghanistan where tough mountain fighters beat the Soviets on very favorable ground.  Syria has mountains along its western border and in the south, but much of the country is flat, including its borders with Iraq and Turkey.  The Soviets got bogged down in Afghanistan, but the country ISIS controls is flat.  It's a great place for armored formations supported by ground attack aircraft.

It will be interesting to see how the Russians fight ISIS.  The Russians will not twist themselves in knots over rules of engagement.  They doubled their sorties over the weekend.  And they don't return loaded without dropping bombs.

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