Leadership: Enemy Exploits the Rules of Engagement


June 14, 2007: The Rules of Engagement (ROE) in Iraq and Afghanistan are kept secret, so that the enemy does not have an opportunity to use them to his advantage. But the enemy does, over time, figures out, by observation and experience, approximately what the ROE is. For example, Islamic terrorist web sites note that the ROE puts a lot of emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties. For that reason, the terrorists in Iraq, and Taliban in Afghanistan, are quick to use human shields. While the ROE do not make human shields an automatic "get out of trouble" card for the bad guys, they do slow down American forces. That's because it takes a higher level decision to hit a target where civilians might be nearby. It takes time to get the permission from the right guy. The enemy uses this to their advantage. And, of course, if civilians are killed by American bombs, the Islamic terrorist propagandists scream atrocity.

One proposed solution is developing UAVs and UGVs that carry more sensitive sensors, so that the decision makers will have sufficiently compelling information, more quickly, to enable them to make decisions faster. Other combat commanders are less optimistic, believing the entire process is the result of lawyers and public affairs officers imposing themselves on the battlefield commanders, just because they can. While combat commanders understand that there is an Information War component to what they do on the battlefield, they believe that it puts U.S. troops in danger, and enables the enemy to survive longer. This debate goes on out of sight, for obvious reasons. But eventually a lot of the details will become public, and it won't be pretty.


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