Matt has a point that bears emphasis. Among the wingnutty, the argument that restrictive rules of engagement are ruining Iraq has become all the rage. Now, it’s possible that rules of engagement for US troops in Iraq are too strict, but the wingnuts have conspicuously failed to make their case. The methodology thus far has been to ask NCOs and enlisted personnel whether they’d like to have more lenient rules of fire. I love NCOs; they’re the backbone of both the Army and the Marine Corps, and the US military could not function without them. Their primary responsibility, however, is to keep their men safe and effective, and they aren’t paid to make big picture strategic decisions. This is why the Army has officers to determine the ways and means to engage the enemy. Of course the NCOs think that the rules of engagement are too restrictive; they would think any ROE so, because they work counter to the primary job that an NCO has. That some seargeants don’t like the ROEs tells us nothing whatsoever about whether those rules are appropriate to the job at hand. Indeed, in any good counter-insurgency doctrine the ROEs will be restrictive, and the NCOs will be complaining, because good doctrine requires putting soldiers in dangerous situations.
So why is this suddenly so popular? The argument carries a lot of wingnut water. First, it emphasizes that the problem in Iraq is that we’ve been too soft, and suggests that a more hard-line, brutal approach would put the natives in line. Second, it places implicit blame for the problem not on the people who actually designed the rules (the Army, Marine Corps, DOD, and the Bush Administration), but on those who we already know are soft and weak and don’t care about American soldiers. Thus, the problem is defined as “Politically Correct Rules of Engagement”, suggesting that the villains are likely liberals, Clintonistas, UN-niks, etc. Third, it allows wingnuts to express concern for the well being of the troops in the field, while ignoring the fact that the troops would be much, much safer if they weren’t in Iraq, regardless of the ROE.
Cross-posted to Tapped.