If you needed a bodyguard to keep you safe from attack, would you hire one who scrupulously observed the rules of fair fighting when he was protecting you?
That amounts to what Western democratic societies have allowed the internet to foist upon their military engaged in war. For Americans, war has long been waged somewhere else, out of sight. (Much more comfortable!)
The result distinguishes the lackadaisical and relatively ineffectual anti- ISIS campaign that the U.S. has been waging in Syria and Iraq from the presently more effective Russian one in those places. It is all about the: “ROE.”
Rules Of Engagement are the boss general’s orders to his troops concerning what they are and are not allowed to do when confronting the enemy. American voters seeing prompt pictures and reports showing especially, civilian dead and wounded rose up in horror that American soldiers should harm innocents. The media reaped ratings boosts therefrom and sought more. The politicians in charge in Washington reacted and new ROE were issued, essentially permitting U.S. troops to attack or defend themselves only when civilians were absent or protected.
The enemy does not suffer from these qualms: to them. the more dead the better and civilians are just as good for their purposes as soldiers. Better really, since they are less likely to shot back. But this is what you get when politicians are in charge. Russians lack this super-sensitivity so Mr. Putin is proceeding briskly in Syria, killing lots of civilians in the process and making immediate progress. Notably, the media aren’t paying attention to all the dead and wounded civilians he is producing; they seem to lack news value.
But when the Afghan security forces recently called in an American airstrike on a compound from which Taliban were shooting at them and in response an American C-130 gunship flew in and shot up the place, all journalistic hell broke loose; one of the buildings hit was a hospital. The media pounced and by the next morning, politicians were talking about war crimes. If the Taliban, who normally surround themselves with civilians when firing upon Americans or when defending an important location, had hit the hospital it would have been about as much news as a Hamas missile fired into Israel. But as the Americans did it, it rather resembles Israelis when they defend themselves. That is, world news.
Seems to us, this is not only a pernicious double standard but constitutes willful prostitution of policy to the detriment of the Western military when it is occurring. The media and politicians are implicitly demanding that war be fought nicely by our guys while giving the enemy a free pass to do as he wills. That, we think, is providing aid and comfort to said enemy, a common definition of treason.
War is intended to force your will upon an enemy via death and destruction to the point that he cannot afford to continue. War is hell. If you are not prepared to engage in that, stay out of wars because as we see, expecting others to observe your nice scruples when it weakens them is unrealistic. They aren’t that stupid. The United States presently seems that stupid. While that obtains, it should avoid the useless waste of lives and treasure by refraining from any but defensive war.
We are confident that when Americans and their cities are under attack, those now demanding “nice” war will vanish and the awful work will be done expeditiously and well, with a minimum of waste. Efficient, effective … but not “nice.”
If you have a war, fight it. If you won’t fight it, don’t have it. That is after all, what to expect from an enemy.