The military’s self-sacrificial Rules of Engagement are costing American lives andthreatening the success of the war against Islamic Fundamentalism. This is not to say that the rules present a potential threat,but a real and concrete one. When you send your military to war, but do not allow them to safeguard their own lives, you make a mockery of the principles upon which that war is being fought. How can you claim to fight for individual rights,yet sacrifice the livesofthose who defend our liberties in the name of those who threaten them?
Yet that’s what the rules do. Marcus Luttrell, the only survivorin a group ofNavy SEALS fighting in Afghanistan in 2005 recounts the events in Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10. Diana West of The Washington Times summarizes:
Dropped behind enemy lines to kill or capture a Taliban kingpin who commanded between 150-200 fighters, the SEAL team was unexpectedly discovered in the early stages of a mission whose success, of course, depended on secrecy. Three unarmed Afghan goatherds, one a teenager, had stumbled across the Americans’ position.
This presented the soldiers with an urgent dilemma: What should they do? If they let the Afghans go, they would probably alert the Taliban to the their whereabouts. This would mean a battle in which the Americans were outnumbered by at least 35 to 1…If the Americans didn’t let the goatherds go — if they killed them, there being no way to hold them — the Americans would avoid detection and, most likely, leave the area safely. On a treeless mountainscape far from home, four of our bravest patriots came to the ghastly conclusion that the only way to save themselves was forbidden by the rules of engagement. Such an action would set off a media firestorm, and lead to murder charges for all.
The SEALs sent the goatherds on their way. One hour later, a sizeable Taliban force attacked, beginning a horrendous battle that resulted not only in the deaths of Mr. Luttrell’s three SEAL teammates, but also the deaths of 16 would-be rescuers — eight additional SEALS and eight Army special operations soldiers whose helicopter was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade.
The first chapter of Luttrell’s book can be found here. Of the Rules of Engagement (ROE), he says:
[From] the standpoint of the U.S. combat soldier, Ranger, SEAL, Green Beret, or whatever, those ROE represent a very serious conundrum. We understand we must obey them because they happen to come under the laws of the country we are sworn to serve. But they represent a danger to us; they undermine our confidence on the battlefield in the fight against world terror. Worse yet, they make us concerned, disheartened, and sometimes hesitant.
I can say from firsthand experience that those rules of engagement cost the lives of three of the finest U.S. Navy SEALs who have ever served.