10 years, 3 months ago
Note: This article has been updated and expanded with The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement.
In his article Spinning Haditha, Marine W. Thomas Smith made the following sad but prophetic observation:
… every student of military science understands the ugly nature of insurgencies; where insurgents are un-uniformed, unconventional fighters who move freely throughout the community during the day, and become bushwhackers at night. They routinely use women and children as human shields, and often coerce the latter into the service of operating guerrillas.
This is particularly effective against U.S. forces, because the enemy knows that no matter how much stress they may be under, American soldiers will go to great lengths to avoid killing women and children; and even hesitate (at great risk to themselves) when they see women and children shooting at them.
I followed on to predict that charges of civilian casualties and inappropriate rules of engagement would become a staple of enemy propaganda, that rules of engagement would be modified, and that U.S. troops would become increasingly hesitant to fire on the enemy. Every one of these predictions has come true.
As discussed in Newsweek’s expose on Marine Captain Rob Secher, Captain Secher wrote home that “any time an American fires a weapon there has to be an investigation into why there was an escalation of force.”
In my article Unleash the Snipers!, I noted that Marines in Ramadi have noted the hindrance the rules of engagement have become to their missison:
The military has also tightened rules of engagement as the war has progressed, toughening the requirements before a sniper may shoot an Iraqi. Potential targets must be engaged in a hostile act, or show clear hostile intent.
The marines say insurgents know the rules, and now rarely carry weapons in the open. Instead, they pose as civilians and keep their weapons concealed in cars or buildings until just before they need them. Later, when they are done shooting, they put them swiftly out of sight and mingle with civilians.
In my article Racoon Hunting and the Battle for Anbar, I noted that Marines from Fallujah report that:
“A lot of us feel like we have our hands tied behind our back,