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Are the US Rules of Engagement too "Trigger Happy"?

Europeans complain that US forces kill too many civilians, while Americans complain about the lack of combat contributions from Germany, France, Spain etc.
Europeans consider US tactics and/or Rules of Engagement (ROE) inappropriate, while Americans consider the European caveats in Afghanistan and the ROE inappropriate.
Who's right? Can we find a compromise in order to turn the Afghanistan mission into a success, let NATO continue to be our primary defense organization and prevent the United States and large parts of Europe from drifting further apart? Or is that wishful thinking?

The Atlantic Review readers have turned the latest post Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: Germany's Defense Minister Criticizes US Policy
into an interesting discussion. Our friend mbast has written a detailed comment based on his own experiences with US Air Force personnel.
Since there has been quite a bit of criticism of US tactics from European and Afghan officials, let's devote a new post on the topic of US and European Rules of Engagement (ROE).
The question for our readers, i.e. you, is: Are the US rules "trigger happy" compared to the European ROE? Or are they just less restrictive and more aggressive, because the US forces have tougher assignments than their European counterparts?
To get you started, please have a look at Mbast's five points below the fold:

1. First off I have to admit that I don't know the ROEs for Afghanistan, neither the general NATO ones (which are supposed to be "robust", whatever that means) nor the ones specific to the different national armies. I just couldn't find the text on the internet (figures, since things like that probably fall into the "Military Secret" Department).

2. I did find one set of ROEs, namely the ones for the Joint Task Force in Somalia/Operation Provide Relief in 1992. They read as follows:
"Nothing in these rules of engagement limits your right to take apropriate action to defend yourself and your unit.
a. You have the right to use force to defend yourself against attacks or threats of attack.
b. Hostile fire may be returned effectively and promptly to stop a hostile act.
c. When US forces are attacked by unarmed hostile elements, mobs and/or rioters US forces should use the minimum force necessary under the circumstances and proportional to the threat.
d. You may not seize the property of others to accomplish your mission.
e. Detention of civilians is authorized for security reasons or in self defense.
Remember:
1. The United States is not at war.
2. Treat all persons with dignity and respect.
3. Use minimum force to carry out your mission
4. Always be prepared to act in self defence."

I do not know whether the current ROEs in Afghanistan for US forces are exactly like that, just a little like that or completely different, so it's difficult to judge whether the Afghanistan ROEs are in and by themselves "trigger happy". I would contend, though, that the above rules are very open to interpretation by the soldiers on the ground, to the point that when in doubt, they would probably shoot first and ask questions later.
As a comparison, I know that the ROEs for French soldiers in Bosnia were much, much stricter and only permitted firing when fired upon, and then only whith confirmation by command if at all possible.

3. My own experience with US Air Force personel is that there is indeed an element of "trigger happiness" involved, especially when you're talking about ground attacks by US airplanes. I have personally witnessed a verbal row between a Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant and a US Air Force Captain (flying A 10 ground attack planes, so called "tank busters"), in which the American pilot contended that "casual vis(ual) ident(ification)" was sufficient to attack specific targets. The RAF Flight Lieutenant contended that confirmation of ID and a specific order to attack by the proper authority over wireless was necessary. This was before the second Gulf War.

4. Sure enough, in the first stages of the Iraq war, two American A 10 pilots shot up a British mechanized patrol, although the Brits sported all the identification aids (including a great big Union Jack on the top of one of their vehicles) one could wish for. You will find the details here .

5. I also found a series of other incidents involving US and other troops shooting at/killing allied personel in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters. You will find quite a few of them here . Keep in mind, though, that this is a Wikipedia article and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. But it should give you a starting point for your own web-based investigation.

Now you can all draw your own conclusions from that.
One remark though (a remark that occured to me while reviewing the troop numbers): don't forget the numbers: there are a lot more American soldiers around in Afghanistan and Iraq than soldiers of other nations. Therefore, the risk of getting these types of incidents by Americans is probably higher. Then again, there are only two incidents involving British troops shooting on each other.

And another thought: this does not give any indication of the number of incidents with the Afghan or Iraqi population since there are no statistics on these incidents (they're not considered "friendly fire").

Emphasis has been added
So what do you think, dear reader?
I would appreciate very much any comparative analysis of rules of engagement for US and European armies in similar operational environments. Perhaps some of them have been published for the Balkans, since that might not be secretive anymore. The Somalia ROE are available after all.

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Don S on :

"My own experience with US Air Force personel is that there is indeed an element of "trigger happiness" involved, especially when you're talking about ground attacks by US airplanes." This is known as 'friendly fire' and has probably been going on since cave man days. Certainly since the invention of ranged weapons. There were thousands of complaints from US soldiers about the air force in WWII, Vietnam, and Gulf War I and II. It's a problem. The fact that US warplanes made misakes and shot at Brits is deplorable. I suspect the reverse may have happened from time to time also. You do your best to coordinate between forces and set up warning and 'don't shoot' signals, but mistakes are going to be made. They call it the 'fog of war' for a reason.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Don, on the one hand you acknowledge "It's a problem," but on the other hand you say "mistakes are going to be made. They call it the 'fog of war' for a reason." which sounds as like "shit happens", i.e. it is not really an institutional problem, but a fact of life. I know this is a tough question, but to which side do you lean to more? I think all our soldiers deserve the best protection, thus this should be analyzed. "There were thousands of complaints from US soldiers about the air force in WWII, Vietnam, and Gulf War I and II." What happened with these complains? Any investigation? Any conclusions? As I said soldiers who risk their lives deserve protection, thus there should have been investigations and conclusions and lessons learned. So why do these complains continue? Did the Air Force learn anything from WWII and Vietnam? Off-topic: Has there ever been a successful Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Air Force? (The Israelis just head a lot of trouble with an Air Force general misleading them into the Lebanon war last year) "I suspect the reverse may have happened from time to time also." That's the big question! Do such incidents happen as often as they do with the US units? Sure US has a bigger military as mbast pointed out. Thus we need percentage numbers. Anecdotal evidence sometimes gives a wrong impression, but stories like the following one in Italy from 1998 seem to be limited to US troops. Or are there similar incidents involving British, French, German, Spanish troops? "Investigators say the pilot and crew of a U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B aircraft flew faster and lower than their mission allowed, thereby causing the Feb. 3 cable car accident that killed 20 skiers in northeast Italy. "Aircrew error" was the cause of the mishap, U.S. and Italian investigators announced at Aviano Air Base, Italy, March 12. The air crew disregarded flight rules concerning airspeed and minimum altitude, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. M. P. DeLong, president of a joint U.S. and Italian investigation board." [url]http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=41284[/url] Okay, this was a crew error rather than inappropriate rules. Perhaps ROE are not the problem, but lack of discipline? Or a misunderstanding of the ROE?

Don S on :

Joerg, I refer you to the wikipedia page section on 'ROE Errors' as this is a subject in which I am very much out of my depth - not being ex military. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_of_engagement#ROE_failures They refer to both 'Type I errors' (ROE too restrictive) and 'Type II errors' (ROE not restrictive enough or violated). My general opinion is that it's WAYYYYY too easy for civilians like us or even military not involved to cry error or even 'criminal error'. At the same time it's easy to be too casual tossing around the 'shit happens' as well.

Jean on :

No JW - no investigations, no lessons learned. The US military is just comprised of a whole bunch of red-necks drooling to go and kill someone. However, mbast seems to think the Americans don't practice enough - apparently the Americans spend all that money on equipment and it all sits in a glass case. There's a warning label on the case - in case of war, break glass.

mbast on :

"No JW - no investigations, no lessons learned. The US military is just comprised of a whole bunch of red-necks drooling to go and kill someone. However, mbast seems to think the Americans don't practice enough - apparently the Americans spend all that money on equipment and it all sits in a glass case. There's a warning label on the case - in case of war, break glass." Well, the american Claymore anti-personel mines actually [i]do[/i] have a caution sign reading "front toward enemy" on them ;-). No, I don't think the American miliatry are a bunch of dumb, gun-crazy rednecks, and I don't think they don't train enough as a rule. That's not what I said. They have another, more aggressive attitude towards the use of their weapons which has nothing to do with them being more or less intelligent than anybody else. They are also less nit-picking on battlefield security regulations. Where a British, French or German pilot would first rattle off a whole checklist of security procedures (which he trained with time after time after time beforehand) I found the Americans were much less scrupulous. They had a marked tendency to just "roll in" on the target, as the A10 pilot did in the Blues and Royals incident or the F16 in the incident with the Canadians in Afghanistan. It might just be my own subjective impression, but that's the one I got.

Zyme on :

"This is known as 'friendly fire' and has probably been going on since cave man days. Certainly since the invention of ranged weapons. There were thousands of complaints from US soldiers about the air force in WWII, Vietnam, and Gulf War I and II." There must be a way to prevent this by detailed organisation and clear instructions. While a lot of bad aspects are told about the morality of the Wehrmacht during the last world war - despite the fact it fought with together with troops from Italy, Finland, Rumania, Hungaria, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain, Indians, Arabians and Russians, it has no bad reputations of having had problems with serious friendly fire. According to this source, even in the Wehrmacht itself about 5% were non-germans. (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wehrmacht#Verb.C3.BCndete_w.C3.A4hrend_des_Zweiten_Weltkrieges) So maybe the american lack of structure is to blame :)

Don S on :

"There must be a way to prevent this by detailed organisation and clear instructions." Prevent - no. Minimize perhaps. As I confessed above I have no military experience so I will defer to those who do - but I do have experience with designing usable systems and writing usuable manuals and the like. One thing I've learned is that too much complexity kills. You have to consider your audience. The longer and more complex an ROE - the longer the training required will be on the ROE (as opposed to weapons training for example). There are always trade-offs. Do you want a 'perfect' ROE and troops who are masters of ROE (as opposed to the weaponry). Make the ROE long enough, hard enough, and the penalties vengeful enough and you may drive in another lesson. The lesson would be "don't do anything - Big Brother is watching". There is a natural tendency to decry and heavily punish 'Type II errors', but remember where that leads. Wikipedia's example of a Type I error is a big one - Rwanda. As an American I've felt the past decade or so that the US has been taking a ton of heavily (and deliberately) unfair criticism for all our 'Type II errors'. The 'Type I error' of isolation looks terribly seductive at this point.....

mbast on :

You are absolutely right in saying that complexity kills. The problem is that the US military on campaign is a huge machine. You're talking about thousands of people in hundreds of units, all occupying the same space at the same time. In fact, the US military is so good not because all American soldiers are SuperTrooper-SpecOps-100-to-1-kill-ratio types, but because the Americans excell in one particular department: logistics. They have the experience, organisation and the technical means to projects lots and lots of power at relatively short order all over the world. That's what makes them so strong (that and the fact they have a defence budget out of all proportion so they will always have SOTA equipment). However, that's also the reason why so many accidents happen. You're talking about a very complex organisation in an exceptionally fluid and unpredictable situation (i.e.: war) and in which the potential for mistakes grows exponentially in relation to the number of troops on the terrain. No organisation in the world is that foolproof. Accidents will happen. Simple question of mathematical probabilities. And unlike in civilian life, if something goes wrong, it usually means some kind of weapon gets fired in the wrong place and at the wrong time. This, of course, is not an excuse for friendly fire incidents like the ones cited in the post. However, you do have to take it into consideration when you're looking to reduce the number of incidents. And that's where trainig comes in. The problem isn't the equipment, the problem is the soldier using it. Remember the reply Arthur Rubinstein gave some dumb tourist who asked him how to get to Carnegie Hall: "Practice, practice, practice." ;-).

Pat Patterson on :

There seems to be quite a bit going on in this thread. ROE is a closely guarded secret of the US military, of all militaries, for the simple reason that once known the enemy will change his tactics to avoid being shot. Unfortunately ROE is usually revealed after some catastrophic event takes place during the hearing or the possible court martial. In the case of the accident in Italy the pilot in Italy simply disobeyed his flight instructions and was flying much to low. But it was also pointed out at the court martial that the maps that the controllers and pilots were using did not show the location of the lift. This case was not an example of ignoring the ROE. In 1999 two Tornado aircraft of the German Air Force crashed into each other over Holloman AFB in New Mexico. Initially it was thought to be simply a training accident but the investigation eventually found that one of the Tornados was attempting to duplicate a scene from Top Gun. Stupidity with very fast, deadly and expensive equipment is international. One thing I found when looking for friendly fire incidents was how many were not just the US but mostly Western nations until I realized that many nations in the rest of the world classify these incidents as state secrets. There have been four Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Air Force since WWII. Gen. Myers was the latest, serving from 2001 to 2005. Plus, as usual, Wikipedia has a brief list of friendly fire incidents going back hundreds of years. [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendly_fire[/url]

mbast on :

The problem with this whole issue is the lack of data, actually. Since all these ROE and friendly fire questions arise around current military operations, the US (and the other Nato countries) will be understandably tight-lipped about it, so it's very difficult to judge. One thing I don't like about the US military, though, is their reluctance to provide valuable information to non-American inquiry boards (cf. the "Blues and Royals" incidents, were it took an illegal leak in the Pentagon to really conclude the British inquiry into the whole thing). If you have allies and you shoot at them by mistake, the least you can do is provide adequate information about the whole thing. You might also want to make sure the servicemen in question are duely court-martialled, even if they're exonerated in the end. This did not happen in the Blues-and-Royals incident or the accident Jörg cited in his above post. The current practice of the US military seems to be: cover it up and wait for the storm to blow over. Not very nice. As to the "Fog of War" argument. There is, of course, an element of incertainty in such operations. However, there is also an element of troops not being adequately trained and/or not having a professional enough mindset. During my military service I had the opportunity to compare the policies and mentalities of several Nato militaries on the subject, and I found that the most gung-ho were the Americans in nearly all instances. Especially the Brits were much, much more professional in this respect. In one of the articles cited in the Wikipedia stubb, one of the British personel states that "We had the best trained personel with the worst equipment, and the Americans had the worst trained personel with the best equipment". That about sums up my own experiences as well.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"The current practice of the US military seems to be: cover it up and wait for the storm to blow over. Not very nice." The same seems to be practice about friendly fire of US soldiers. However, cases like the Pat Tillman cover-up get debated a lot in the US, while the friendly fire of allied troops (mbast's example of the "Blues and Royals" incident) does not.

Jean on :

Even though I'm reading online, my mind can detect the British sneer so typical of al-Beeb from here. Tell me, how would you classify British operations in Northern Ireland? Do you think the internment and shoot to kill policies won you many local hearts and minds? Has the softly -softly approach worked in Southern Iraq?

mbast on :

"Even though I'm reading online, my mind can detect the British sneer so typical of al-Beeb from here." Just to clarify: I am decidedly not British. I'm half French and half German. And I fail to see how the British or the BBC "sneer" about the Blues and Royals incident. They weren't sneering. They were, however, really teed off, especially after the American military started to try and cover the whole thing up. Imagine: you follow the Americans into a very complex and very bloody war, you do so against the warnings and protests of your European neighbors and then not only do you get shot at by your own allies but they even try to cover it up. Small wonder that the British public isn't in a very forgiving mood when it comes to Iraq. "Tell me, how would you classify British operations in Northern Ireland?" I don't know. Experience ;-)? Fact is, Northern Ireland is one of the main reasons the British military has a very different approach to contact with the local population than the US military: they've been there and they've done that. They have made their mistakes. And hopefully, they have learned from them. "Do you think the internment and shoot to kill policies won you many local hearts and minds? Has the softly -softly approach worked in Southern Iraq?" Don't know which Brit you're talking to right here (afaik there aren't any posting on this site, which reminds me: all British lurkers, please get off your duff and comment ;-)). Since there's nobody here to defend the Brits, I shall try and do so (now there's Europe for you: a Franco/German actually defending the UK ;-)). The British have indeed made many mistakes in Northern Ireland, not the least of which was not to leave the whole island well alone in the first place, but that's ancient history. They have made many mistakes elsewhere in the world as well. As have the French. Small wonder, both were huge colonial powers, the Brits even more so than the French. That's exactly the reason why I hold that the British approach to the "hearts and minds" operation in Iraq and in Afghanistan is a lot better than the American one: the Brits know what they're up against. In Iraq, right off the bat the British had a [url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,926929,00.html]completely different approach[/url]to contacts with the civilian population. It's just little things like getting out of your jeep/humvee to talk to people or taking off the sand goggles to look people in the eye. And it's also bigger things like having soldiers in the patrols who are able to communicate with the population in their local language and who know local customs. Or still bigger things: help the people by repairing much-needed infrastructure, which is where the PRTs come in. Who do you think will the Afghans and Iraqis like better: the German or British soldier who builds them a bridge and a school or the American one who drives around in an armoured personel carrier and shoots at anybody that looks even remotely like a terrorist? Now I don't dispute the necessity of military action in some areas, especially in the south of Afghanistan. No question of "hearts and minds" operations there since that would only get soldiers killed. In the north, however, I want to see more PRTs.

Axel on :

"...one of the British personel states that "We had the best trained personel with the worst equipment, and the Americans had the worst trained personel with the best equipment". That about sums up my own experiences as well." From my personal Bundeswehr experience with the US Armed Forces in 1990 I heavily agree, too (especially for the Infantry, ouch!). It was very eye-opening, indeed. But for the sake of eternal transatlantic friendship, I will not go in further details, especially about the behavior and the reactions during "Operation Desert Storm" in Germany...

mbast on :

BTW, the Germans seem to have done something right. After the bombings killing three German soldiers, the Afghan locals are [url=http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,484421,00.html]clamoring for the Germans to stay on[/url]. Wow, Germans are [i]popular[/i] now. Completely new concept ;-). Seriously though: it seems the Germans have found a solution to the "hearts and minds" problem. They're taking big risks staying close and open to the population, but it seems the risks are paying out.

Jean on :

I actually have the handbook from CALL (Center for Army Lessons Learned)Southern Afghanistan COIN Operations beside me right now - chapter 3 is titled 'Nonlethal as a Decisive Method'. My better half picked it up at the JMRC in Hoehnfels - where the Americans are using rubber bullets (special bolt) to improve training (shhh! don't tell mbast!). They're even calling in airstrikes with dummy rounds. The real issue here, however, is the accidental killing of civilians and/or friendlies. Here's a hint folks - insurgents use civilians (always have) - as a shield, and very importantly in this era of global communication, as a propaganda tool. And let's not forget the compensation aspect! A widow may claim her husband was just tilling his fields and was shot by the US, even though he may have been shooting at troops, if she can collect $2000. The philosophical question is whether 'heart and minds' works better than 'grab 'em by the balls and the hearts and minds will follow' and as any of you would know if you had studied any past wars - you need both, as upsetting as that is to civilians, the politicians, and especially the media.

mbast on :

"My better half picked it up at the JMRC in Hoehnfels - where the Americans are using rubber bullets (special bolt) to improve training (shhh! don't tell mbast!)." Well it's about bloomin' time, isn't it ;-). Seriously, though: take into consideration that my experiences were seventeen years ago (i.e. even before operation desert storm) so I will admit that things might have changed quite a bit since then. "The philosophical question is whether 'heart and minds' works better than 'grab 'em by the balls and the hearts and minds will follow' and as any of you would know if you had studied any past wars - you need both, as upsetting as that is to civilians, the politicians, and especially the media." The problem seems to be that there wasn't enough emphasis put on the PRT aspect in Afghanistan and too much on the military aspect. That's not necessarily a purely American flaw. It is, I think, a general problem in Nato. Also bear in mind that there is a difference between southern Iraq where all the main terrorist and taliban activity is and northern Iraq where the population is much more sceptical towards the taliban.

Jean on :

Ermm, - you've lost me. Do you mean Afghanistan? I take it you do - and if you do, then yes, exactly, Northern Afghanistan produced the Northern Alliance, hostile to the taliban, which co-operated w/ the US in initially taking down the taliban. Nobody should try to make the hearts and minds/grab 'em by the balls argument based on operating in a safer area. Politicians, however, feel free to speechify on all topics under the sun - why should military matters be any different? Aaargh! Look, I know it's not your fault - because the European press never, and the American press rarely, mention it but the US was doing the clinic building/school establishing and supplying/women's rights developing hearts and minds thing from the beginning. You'd have to be in the military, however, to know much about this effort. And this brings us back to the bigger point: much is pointed out about 'mistakes' that were made concerning Iraq in the popular press, the most frequent being that the US went in with too few troops. However, had the US gone into Iraq with the numbers, population wise, that France went into Algeria, the US would have had 500,000. But France didn't win in Algeria. Rand had a big study recently published on the likelyhood of an insurgency succeeding - the crucial (but not only) factor for an insurgency is outside support.

mbast on :

"Ermm, - you've lost me. Do you mean Afghanistan?" Ahem, right, I lost myself there for a moment. Yes of course, I meant Afghanistan. Sorry about that. "Nobody should try to make the hearts and minds/grab 'em by the balls argument based on operating in a safer area. Politicians, however, feel free to speechify on all topics under the sun - why should military matters be any different?" Whoa, easy there, Jean. I'm not making the argument that hearts and minds operations should be going on in an active combat area. I hope I made that clear enough. We're also simplifying the Afghanistan situation quite a bit for arguments sake. In fact the situation isn't that simple in some supposedly pacified areas either (warlords problem, poppy fields etc.). I am saying, though, that the hearts and minds aspect, or even the reconstruction aspect, is being neglected, and not only by the Americans, but by NATO as a whole. We need more PRTs in the areas where they can actually do some good. We need civilian organisms like the German THW to help build infrastructure. And in the long run, we need qualified civilian staff in there. Schools and hospitals aren't going to run all by themselves without qualified personel. The German experience in Kunduz has shown us that hard work and a certain amount of necessary risk-taking is going to win us much-needed sympathies in the population. Heck, the Soviets occupied Afghanistan for years and I can't recall that any part of the population ever remotely entertained the thought of having a demonstration for them to stay on. Like I said, obviously the Germans in Kunduz must've done something right. "Aaargh! Look, I know it's not your fault - because the European press never, and the American press rarely, mention it but the US was doing the clinic building/school establishing and supplying/women's rights developing hearts and minds thing from the beginning. You'd have to be in the military, however, to know much about this effort." No you don't. I'm perfectly aware that quite a big chunk (in fact: the biggest chunk) of the PRT effort was provided by the American military. Which is absolutely laudable. Excellent. Well done. Thank you and don't stop. I'm not going to blame the US for that at all, and I'm not being sarcastic. I am honestly thankful for what the US have done in that department. I am blaming Nato, though, for neglecting the reconstruction effort in favour of military operations in the south.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Jean, "'grab 'em by the balls and the hearts and minds will follow'" Where did this work? In German and Japan? Yeah, to a large extent it did, but then there is all this complaining about current Anti-Americanism in Germany and in Japan as well. Besides, [b]the US won hearts and minds in Germany primarily because you protected us from the Soviets.[/b] Not because you grabbed us by the balls. The US is not providing this kind of security in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore the US is not winning any hearts and minds Moreover, has this grab 'em by the balls strategy worked in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq War I Nicaragua and all the other places? Nope. Every single war has increased Anti-Americanism around the world. Some rogue elements in the [b]US military have literally grabbed Iraqis by the balls in Abu Ghraib [/b]and other place, but you did not win hearts and minds. [b]Every military expert will tell you that the number of attacks against US forces increased a lot after Abu Ghraib.[/b] Every time Abu Ghraib is discussed many Americans bring excuses and refer to other countries wrong doings. They miss the point. I don't care all that much about the moral aspect of Abu Ghraib or about civilian casualites. Instead I look at these issues from a strategic point of view. I think many conservative Americans still do not understand what a HUGE blow to US interests Abu Ghraib was and civilian casualties are. Israel has grabed the Arabs by the balls in many wars over many decades, but no hearts and minds followed. The US has not won any hearts and minds in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite all the daisy cutter bombings and shock and awe. The US is more unpopular than ever in the Muslim world. "The philosophical question is whether 'heart and minds' works better than 'grab 'em by the balls and the hearts and minds will follow' and as any of you would know if you had studied any past wars - you need both" History tells us to first grab them by the balls, then work on winning hearts and minds by providing security and services. The US is not following this strategy.

Axel on :

BTW, the new "FM 3-24 New Army/Marine Counterinsurgency Manual, (December, 2006), Foreward written by LTG David Petraeus" is freely available ([url=http://usacac.army.mil/CAC/Repository/Materials/COIN-FM3-24.pdf]PDF[/url]).

Jean on :

One thing I wanted to put in my last post but forgot, because I was distracted by offspring no. 2 is that, whenever Europeans discuss the US, the basic assumption seems to be that the Americans are the only actor on the scene. Others are not held accountable for their actions because of the intellectually weak theory of 'blowback' 'made' them blow up civilians/behead people/fly airplanes into buildings/invade Kuwait/blow up Jews in Buenos Aires etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum. Islamists across the islamic world have murdered far more muslims than anybody else in their various attempts to establish the caliphate, but somehow it's always the US and Israel that are to blame over here. What sort of effect do you think this has on European muslims?

Don S on :

The Wikipedia page talks about two kinds of errors, Type I and Type II. Type II is what we are discussiong here. Typw I? I'd say the German refusal to come to South Afghanistan and support your allies is a Type I - failure to act. That's not on the agenda here - but it's true. I'm seeing Germans (and French) discussing US Type II errors but not their own Type I, which I consider more than a small problem.....

mbast on :

"That's not on the agenda here - but it's true. I'm seeing Germans (and French) discussing US Type II errors but not their own Type I, which I consider more than a small problem....." Yes, true enough, if you're talking about Afghanistan. There should be more French and German involvment there Who knows, with Sarkozy, you might see the French becoming more active in that department again. However, when you're talking about Iraq, I don't agree. In Iraq, the US made another kind of error (Type III?): they shouldn't have gone there in the first place.

ADMIN on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle of the thread right behind the comment they respond to. At the top of the comments section you have the option to change the view from threaded to linear (=chronological), which enables you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

Jean on :

Too teed off to write right now, and it's late - so why don't you lot do me a favour until I have the time to reply - why the FUCK keep NATO going then? Can't we all just part company, now please????????????????? I note all of you keep avoiding this question - please answer.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Neither the Europeans nor the American have much faith left in NATO. Both increasingly pursue their defense policies outside of NATO. So NATO in effect is currently being abolished. NATO was founded to keep the Russians out of Western Europe, the Americans in and the Germans down, as NATO's first Sec General Lord Ismay allegedly said. NATO's purpose is not to bring democracy to Vietnam or Iraq. That's why the US was/is fighting these wars without NATO. Some Americans want to globalize NATO: More members and more combat around the world, while Europeans don't: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/423-NATO-Response-Force-to-Darfur-A-Global-NATO-for-more-Burden-Sharing.html[/url] The Afghanistan mission is very much out of area. It is stretching the limits of NATO's purpose. NATO's job is not to fight an insurgency which was not responsible for 9/11. The Taliban provided Al Qaeda with a safe haven. They paid a price: They got removed from power and suffered numerous casualities. For every American [b]murdered[/b] in 9/11 many Taliban were [b]killed[/b] and many innocent civilians. Isn't that enough of payback? Now NATO is fighting an insurgency, which is not limited to Taliban. The stupid US and European media describes everybody fighting against NATO as a Taliban, because the media has no clue about Afghan tribes and the lose coalitions etc. The Karzai government has little legitimacy in Afghanistan, is corrupt, and involved in drug trade. NATO is supporting them against some other warlords. What's the point? NATO is not able to bring democracy and stability to Afghanistan anyway. NATO is not able to defeat the insurgency. The US has many more troops in Iraq than in Afghanistan, but the US can't defeat the insurgency in Iraq. I think some Americans just want to see some of their allies share the burden and die alongside US troops as part of solidarity. They don't care much about whether we have success or not. It's just about fighting out of solidarity. NATO is about defense, i.e. about emergencies. The military is supposed to serve their country in emergencies. They should fight only in wars of necessity, not wars of choice in my opinion. Germany has started far too many wars, incl. both world wars. We are ashamed and sick of it. We don't want to fight unless it is absolutely necessary. Americans have not experienced the kind of casualities and shame Germans had. Therefore you have a different attitude to war. The US military fights in wars of choice all the time. Fine, just don't expect your allies to do the same. Fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan is a war of choice. What's the purpose of NATO: If Russia, China, Iran, North Korea attacks a member of NATO, then NATO strikes back. If you think such attacks are unlikely or you don't expect or need European support in such case, then you could petition your government to leave NATO. When there is another terrorist attack like 9/11 and some training facilities in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Yemen are identified, then NATO might bomb the hell out of them. If the training facility has been some flight school in Florida, then NATO won't do that, obviously. Please, try to avoid the F-word. Thanks.

Kevin Sampson on :

"The Afghanistan mission is very much out of area." 'The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.' Article 5, North Atlantic Treaty I don't see any mention of an "area" there, do you? "For every American murdered in 9/11 many Taliban were killed and many innocent civilians. Isn't that enough of payback?" Afghanistan was not and is not about payback. It is about depriving al Queada of a secure base from which to launch further attacks. FYI we killed an estimated 10,000 French civilians during the battle of France. I guess we should have left them to deal with their German problem on their own. "The US military fights in wars of choice all the time. Fine, just don't expect your allies to do the same." Indeed. Our participation in WW1 was a war of choice.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Afghanistan was not and is not about payback. It is about depriving al Queada of a secure base from which to launch further attacks." It is not possible. And even if it were, Al Qaeda would just use Pakistan. They already do that. [b] To follow your logic about NATO, we would need to invade Pakistan as well. Are you prepared for that?[/b] Besides, Afghanistan was just some ideological center for Al Qaeda, because their Guru Bin Laden was there. Not a single Afghan was involved in 9/11. Why are we not invading Saudi Arabia, which provided most of the 9/11 hijacker and the funding? Because the United States does not want to attack Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the concept of the global war on terrorism does not sound so serious to me. It seems more that Afghanistan and Iraq are some kind of obsession. You pick on them and ignore all the other terrorist places. You can't win the global war on terrorism this way. Fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan does not make the US safer. Afghanistan was not the base for launching attacks as you claim. Besides, Al Qaeda has developed further. It is a movement rather than a terrorist group, as you know. Bin Laden as the main Guru and chief architect is no longer needed. Al Qaeda types are around the world. They probably have sleeper cells in the US as well. You neglect homeland security by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Besides, 9/11 pilots conspired in Hamburg. They learned their deadly craft in US flight schools, not in Afghan flight schools. 150.000 US soldiers cannot get rid of Al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Bush, Al Qaede is big in Iraq. So how shall NATO get rid of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, especially since they find refuge in Pakistan?

Kevin Sampson on :

“To follow your logic about NATO, we would need to invade Pakistan as well. Are you prepared for that?” Crap. Although elements of AQ are hiding out in Pakistan, they have not launched any further attacks against the US itself. And they do not receive the kind of support from the Pakistani government that they did from the Taliban. And it’s not ‘my logic about NATO’, it’s what’s in the Charter. “Besides, Afghanistan was just some ideological center for Al Qaeda, because their Guru Bin Laden was there.” What utter BS. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who conceptulalized and planned the 9/11 operation arrived in A-stan in 1996, OBL arrived later the same year. Mohammed Atef, AQ chief of operations was in A-stan full time by January, 2001. All three of these men attended the meetings in A-stan in 98 and 99 when the 9/11 plan was finalized and blessed by OBL. “Not a single Afghan was involved in 9/11.” Mullah Omar and the rest of the Taliban leadership were complicit in it. “Why are we not invading Saudi Arabia, which provided most of the 9/11 hijacker and the funding?” The hijackers themselves were expendable. They mattered no more to AQ than a mortar round or a rocket propelled grenade. To say we should invade SA because most of the hijackers were Saudis is like saying we should invade Austria because Cho Seung-hui used a Glock. “Fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan does not make the US safer.” That’s your opinion. And there have been no further attacks on the US since. “Besides, Al Qaeda has developed further. It is a movement rather than a terrorist group, as you know. Bin Laden as the main Guru and chief architect is no longer needed. Al Qaeda types are around the world. They probably have sleeper cells in the US as well.” Probably. But without the financial, logistical, and technical support provided by the infrastructure they formerly enjoyed in A-stan, these individual cells are relegated to nuisance status. Just like the bunch of wannabe martyrs who were planning to shoot up Ft. Dix. “Besides, 9/11 pilots conspired in Hamburg. They learned their deadly craft in US flight schools, not in Afghan flight schools.” Wrong. The hijackers were radicalized and recruited in Hamburg. The briefings for 9/11 took place in A-stan in 1999 and Spain in June and July of 2001. And you can add Yugoslavia to our ‘wars of choice’. Both times.

mbast on :

"Too teed off to write right now, and it's late - so why don't you lot do me a favour until I have the time to reply - why the FUCK keep NATO going then? Can't we all just part company, now please????????????????? I note all of you keep avoiding this question - please answer." I will: I'm not avoiding the question. I already stated that you're right. Nato is an antiquated concept since it was tied to the cold war. And when the US (or anybody else for that matter) decides to go it alone in any given conflict, NATO is not going to make the other members tag along (cf. Iraq). Either the US (or whichever country has to conduct a military operation) have a coalition to go in or they don't. Whether that coalition has a NATO label on it is actually irrelevant. I'm all for disbanding it as well. In Europe, we should concentrate on the European defense initiative, not on NATO. You are also right in implying (I know, you didn't say that explicitely, but it seems to follow from what you wrote; correct me if I'm wrong) that shutting down NATO is a very popular concept neither in American nor in European political circles. I suspect there are ulterior motives for that on both sides which I won't go into here since that will only make tempers on this thread flare even more. So calm down: I actually agree with you on this point.

Jean on :

I was going to go through the comments and respond to them but frankly, I have a lot to do - and I doubt there's much point anyway. JW - thanks for pointing out how NATO came into being - I had never heard that /sarc. Btw, I'm not American, just married to one. Apologies for the use of the f-word, but I've been stuck in Germany too long and need a trip back to the States. Apologies to you too Mbast - but the beebs' presenters do sneer. There really isn't any point in continuing this discussion; anytime a point is rebutted the goalposts are moved. The stereotypes 'good smart Europeans/violent stupid Americans' are just too deeply embedded, e.g., mbast's claiming the British approach around Basra (hearts and minds) is working - it's not. And the British have lost a lot of fine soldiers down there. And JW, could you at least give the surge some time? Or is there too much joy at the thought of being a Besserwisser? Which one of the psychotic sons would you have liked to have seen take over from Saddam, btw? And JW, your anti-Americanism shows in your crack about dead civilians and payback.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"The stereotypes 'good smart Europeans/violent stupid Americans' are just too deeply embedded" You still don't get it. Please read mbasts comment again and pay attention to the headline of this post, which refers to the Rules of Engagement rather than the character or intelligence of US soldiers. Why don't you get it? Or you don't want to get it, but prefer playing the Anti-Americanism game? "And JW, could you at least give the surge some time?" Sure. What time frame? Let's continue this discussion in x months. You define x. How many Friedmans (1 Friedman = six months) do you want to wait? "Which one of the psychotic sons would you have liked to have seen take over from Saddam, btw?" The present powerful Iraqis are not much better. "And JW, your anti-Americanism shows in your crack about dead civilians and payback." Please explain. Thanks.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Anybody who cares about dead civilians is Anti-American? Okay, then I don't want to be pro-American.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

So if I support the complains by European officials about civilian casualties, I am Anti-American because I hold the US to a higher standard than the Taliban and other bad guys? Is that what you mean? "European officials at NATO headquarters have expressed concern in recent days at the reports of civilian casualties," [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/673-Civilian-Casualties-in-Afghanistan-Germanys-Defense-Minister-Criticizes-US-Policy.html[/url] Will you elaborate on your "grab them by the balls" comment? See my above response.

Anonymous on :

"There really isn't any point in continuing this discussion; anytime a point is rebutted the goalposts are moved. The stereotypes 'good smart Europeans/violent stupid Americans' are just too deeply embedded, e.g., mbast's claiming the British approach around Basra (hearts and minds) is working - it's not." You are right in saying that stereotypes should not be overused in the context of Iraq and Afghanistan. And my stereotype wasn't "US=dumb trigger happy idiots vs. Europe=totally enlightened god-like troops". You're gut- reacting. I also never said that the British approach in Iraq still worked. It doesn't since now even Basra and the south have factually become war zones. The approach as such had a better chance of success, though, as the German experience in Kunduz shows. Maybe it still has in some regions of Iraq, I don't know. You don't want anti-Americanism? Fine, then don't be anti-European. If Don posts things like "Chirac backstabbed us in Iraq" that is anti-Europeanism because it's just plain wrong. If some Americans keep insisting that Iraq was a maginificent victory and all Europeans are spineless sissies, that's just plain wrong, self-delusional, and frankly, more than a little offensive. If you perceive that as as anti-Americanism, so be it.

mbast on :

Oops, forgot my ID: the 9.2 comment was made by me, mbast :-).

Karl on :

The fact of the matter is Britain is allies with America and America should have come clean and cooperated over these two incidents period,they didn't because America sees it self a law until it self,just imagine things the other way around if The R.A.F bombed and killed American Armoured Vehicles then covered it up and prevented it's serviceman and women from facing tribunals in America and withheld video evidence,what then all you brit hating americans would be shouting out for justice and America it self would no doubt kidnap the pilots responsible to face trial,as the U.S government has already stated it has the right to forcibly remove anyone from any country that has committed a crime against it or American people.

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