Imagine if the United States had fought World War II with a mandate to avoid any attack when civilians were likely to be present. Imagine Patton’s charge through Western Europe constrained by granting the SS safe haven whenever it sheltered among civilians. If you can imagine this reality, then you can also imagine a world without a D-Day, a world where America’s greatest generals are war criminals, and where the mighty machinery of Hitler’s industrial base produces planes, tanks, and guns unmolested. In other words, you can imagine a world where our Army is a glorified police force and our commanders face prosecution for fighting a real war. That describes our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Contemporary rules of engagement, he argues, are not suited to contemporary wars, which often involve insurgents and irregulars.
Think of the battle of Waterloo in what is now Belgium or, here in the United States, the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. The United States hasn’t fought a conflict governed by the law of war in almost a century. Indeed, just as the law of war is part of America’s military heritage, so is the modern concept of “total war” — a nation mobilizes its full resources to destroy not just the military of an opposing country but also its very capacity to wage war. America’s enemies, moreover, have consistently and flagrantly disregarded the laws of war.Significantly, he does not mention Sherman's campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas.
In the current campaigns, however, National Command Authority's understandable unwillingness to appear ruthless constrains the behavior of the troops, in ways that the opposition regularly exploits.
Fully aware of American restrictions, enemy fighters not only refuse to wear uniforms, they often do their best to blend in with the civilian population, eschewing distinctive dress, armbands, or any other insignia that brands them as members of a terrorist militia. Rather than congregate in isolated outposts, they cluster in mosques, around hospitals, and even in private homes. While such tactics are frequent in guerrilla warfare, they are neither legal nor moral, and our jihadist opponents have reached appalling lows even by the rough and brutal standards of insurgencies.There might be more to his story, though: the current use of drones in noncombatant nations regularly comes under criticism from the libertarians at Reason and the pacifist left at Common Dreams. Mr French suggests, however, that if National Command Authority commits troops, let troops be committed with the freedom of action to win, and with the recognition that war is cruelty, and no lawyerly rules of engagement can refine that. Michael Walsh reinforces the message.
Fight, and end, wars, decisively and finally.