More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

Briefly following up on Taliban Ambush in Eastern Kunar Kills Four U.S. Marines, we know now that there will be an investigation of this incident reviewing whether the ROE was a contributing cause to four Marines perishing.  There have been some blog posts and other discussion forums questioning the veracity of the reporting done that day by McClatchy.  Christian at Defense Tech (whom I respect) says Jonathan Landay with McClatchy is ”a well-respected journalist whom I’ve known for years.”  I see absolutely no reason prima facie to doubt the veracity or accuracy of the report.

If the report had vacillated I would be less strident about this incident.  But the report was clear.  The Marines were under fire and demanded artillery not once, but twice.  They were denied artillery and CAS not once,  but twice – for the stated reason that the ROE didn’t allow it.

McChrystal has released his tactical directive, but let’s be clear about this.  There is what is written on paper and the unwritten context.  Here is the unwritten context.

“If you are in a situation where you are under fire from the enemy… if there is any chance of creating civilian casualties or if you don’t know whether you will create civilian casualties, if you can withdraw from that situation without firing, then you must do so,” said McChrystal.

There is always a chance.  Always.  But here is something that has no chance of happening.  No investigation will find that a tactical directive written or endorsed by a four star general was responsible for anything bad.  The directive will be exonerated and the field grade officers responsible for denying artillery had better begin looking for another line of work.

You heard it here first.



  • http://www.bernardwoodworking.com 1stsgt

    There was a movie many years ago called ‘Catch 22′. It seems there is no bottom limit for those who would make decisions and then seek shelter in the shadows of men of greater courage. If they want to boil this down to nation building and protecting the civilian population of a foreign entity; they should ‘man-up’ and say so. But they won’t because it is easier to write a set of convoluted rules and then sit back while better men try to figure out how to carry out the mission while working within them. If they screw up – on either side of it, the cowards can then cry foul, destroy the lives of the better men and declare themselves justified; but in the end they are just common cowards. The better men always wear a uniform. The three piece suits and the uniforms in the process of morphing into a three piece suit will never be worthy of shining their shoes.

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You are currently reading "More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement", entry #3861 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,General McChrystal,Kunar Province,Marine Corps,Rules of Engagement and was published September 20th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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