Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Learning About War

The more stories such as this one appear in the media, the more likely it is that reasonable regular sort of folks, the ones who aren't animated by this ideology or that, will begin to understand how war is waged these days. The more mainstream people understand this, the less audience there will be for the Goldtone reporters of the world. People will glance at their narrative, recognize how detached it is from reality, and move on. Remember how back in 2001, every Israeli targeted assassination of an enemy was automatically tagged as a breach of international law? Hard to image these days, isn't it, when targeted assassinations are the most commonly used tool of the Americans and their allies.

Close to the road and relative safety, soldiers saw a man in black walking. He was unarmed. They watched him in their scopes but did not shoot. Western forces in Afghanistan are operating under rules of engagement, or ROE, that restrict them from acting against people unless they commit a hostile act or show hostile intent. American troops say the Taliban can fire on them, then set aside their weapon and walk freely out of a compound, possibly toward a weapons cache in another location. "The inability to stop people who don't have weapons is the main hindrance right now," McMahon said after the firefight. "They know how to use our ROE against us." (h/t Silke)


Anonymous said...

I remember the ROE in Tzahal during the 1st intifada. It felt ridiculous to debate whether it was ok or not to shoot to kill if a molotov cocktail was in someone's hand as opposed to the same molotov flying through the air.

It was a hinderance to our job.

But there is an important point of ROE: It turns us away from barbarity.

And that is why they exist - because we are better than our enemies: The jew haters of the world.


Soccer Dad said...

It reminds me a bit of this observation:

It's hard to make sense of the incident: perhaps it is just another of those odd, inexplicable things that happen in a war. On another level, though, it seems to capture the quandary in which the Palsars find themselves. Most any other army in the world, faced with the very real threat of suicide bombers, would probably have simply shot the man in the street -- just as most any other army would have shot the boy in the house the night before -- but even in the heat of the moment the Palsars hesitated.

Anonymous said...

Soccer Dad
thank you - what a read - there should be definitely more of that
- when in 2006 I wanted to learn what Urban Warfare means these days the best I could find was a Fallujah book by Bing West, an author I had gotten to like via The Atlantic, and which in an apt confirmation of the NYT-piece is titled "No True Glory".

Yaacov said...

Actually, the weird thing about the article is that it's subtext is wrong. Everyone seems to think there's no military solution, the operation isn't working, it will only make things worse. It turns out Sharon knew what he was doing. The way to peace isn't any closer now than it was then, but the violence has mostly been gone, and the article was written at the exact moment the tide changed.

It's hard to make forecasts, especially about the future, even when you've got the full blast of conventional wisdom on your side.