Rules? We don’t obey rules

Americans rightly admire our troops for their bravery, dedication and integrity.

The Marines, for instance, are renowned for abiding by an honorable code — as warriors and as individuals in civilian life.

They epitomize the rectitude of America’s soldiers.

But a recently disclosed Pentagon study — little noted in the media — has seemingly cast a shadow over our troops. The study of U.S. combat troops in Iraq finds that less than half of the soldiers and Marines surveyed would report a team member for breaches of the military’s ethics rules.

Military and civilian observers have concluded from the study that more and stricter training in combat ethics is urgently needed. But instead of reinforcing the military’s ethics, we must challenge them.

The Pentagon study provides evidence for a searing indictment not of our soldiers but of Washington’s rules of engagement. Consider the waking nightmare of being a U. S. combat troop in Iraq: Imagine that you are thrust into a battlefield — but purposely hamstrung by absurd restrictions.

Iraqis throw Molotov cocktails (i.e. gasoline-filled bottles) at your vehicle — but you are prohibited from responding with force.

Iraqis, to quote the study, “drop large chunks of concrete blocks from second story buildings or overpasses” as you drive by — but you are not allowed to respond.

“Every group of Soldiers and Marines interviewed,” the Pentagon study summarizes, “reported that they felt the existing ROE (rules of engagement) tied their hands, preventing them from doing what needed to be done to win the war.

“And the soldiers are right.

In Iraq, Washington’s rules have systematically prevented our brave and capable troops from using all necessary force to win, to crush the insurgency — and even to protect themselves.

As noted in news articles since the start of the war, American forces are ordered not to bomb key targets, such as power plants, and to avoid firing into mosques (where insurgents hide) lest they offend Muslim sensibilities.

Having to follow such self-effacing rules of engagement while confronting sniper fire and ambushes and bombs from every direction, day in and day out, must be utterly demoralizing and unbearable.

No one should be surprised at the newly reported willingness of combat troops to defy military ethics, because such defiance is understandable as the natural reaction of warriors made to follow suicidal rules.

When being “ethical” on Washington’s terms means martyring yourself and your comrades for the sake of murderous Iraqis, it is understandable that troops are disinclined to report “unethical” behavior.

It is understandable that troops should feel anger and anxiety (as many do), because it is horrifically unjust for America to send its personnel into combat, deliberately prevent them from achieving victory — and expect them to die for the sake of the enemy.

It would be natural for an individual thrust into the line of fire as a sacrificial offering to rebel with indignation at such a fate.

How can we do this to our soldiers? The death and misery caused by Washington’s self-crippling rules of engagement — rules endorsed by liberals and conservatives alike — are part of the inevitable destruction flowing from a broader evil: the philosophy of “compassionate” war.

This perverse view of war holds that fighting selfishly to defend your own freedom by defeating enemies is wrong; but fighting to selflessly serve the needs of others is virtuous.

It was on this premise that U. S. troops were sent to Iraq: Washington’s goal was not to defend America against whatever threat Saddam’s hostile regime posed to us, as a first step toward defeating our enemies in the region — principally Iran, the arch-sponsor of Islamic totalitarianism.

Instead, the troops were sent (as President Bush explained) to “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers” — spilling American blood and spending endless resources on the “compassionate” goal of lifting the hostile and primitive Iraqi people out of poverty, feeding their hungry, unclogging their sewers.

The result of this “compassionate” war is thousands of unnecessary American deaths, and the preservation and emboldening of the enemies we most need to defeat: Iran and Saudi Arabia.

We must put an end to the barbarous sacrifice of American troops, now.

It is past time to abandon Washington’s self-sacrificial rules of engagement, and its broader policy of “compassionate,” self-sacrificial warfare.

Instead of subjecting troops to more intensive “ethics” training, we should unleash them from the suicidal militarily ethics of self-sacrifice.

(Elan Journo is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, in Irvine, Calif. For more stories visit


  1. JustinsTired

    “…it is horrifically unjust for America to send its personnel into combat, deliberately prevent them from achieving victory-”

    What victory are you speaking of? It was my understanding that we are trying to get rid of people willing to bring harm to our country. If we give hundreds or thousands of more people just cause to start killing soldiers we’ll only make more terrorists. I know if MY mother got blown up by some foreign government while she was at church or my kid died because someone bombed the hospital’s power supply, I’d be willing to go fight against it. The only way to truly win is to turn the other cheek and handle things diplomatically. Even if such a task is near-impossible, the alternative you offer is hopelessly impossible.

    Yes, I’m aware of the ramifications of that statement: It means our troops will suffer through a living hell until they leave, and if they leave before the region stabilizes, then the situation could be worse than when we got there. That’s a burden that lies solely on the shoulders of the people that sent our soldiers over there and the voters that supported them.

  2. bryan mcclellan

    Ethical Warfare ? Christ !!!Who is the REMF (rear echelon mother f#*ker)that came up with that load of bull cookies. I can’t believe what I just read. Get our people out NOW!!!!

  3. LurkingFromTheLeft

    The same spin doctors…

    …that brought you Bushian Logic –

    …and other examples of Bush Thinks –


  4. adamrussell

    The Iraqi president has said that we can leave anytime we want to. So lets go.

    The Iraqi people dont want us there, the American people dont want us there, the world doesnt want us there. Who is left? Just the oil companies and george bush.

  5. RSW

    Well, at least it’s nice to see that the think tanks are finally getting dumbed down, too…


  6. 124c4u

    I don’t know where Journo gets his info on ROE, but some of the basic ones are:
    1. Shoot if you feel threatened.
    2. Dead check ’em if you think they could be a threat.
    3. Don’t shoot in to mosques unless you feel threatened.
    4. When in doubt shoot.
    5. Remember, “What is the value of one mere Haji?”

    Too bad he didn’t provide even a hint of the name of the report, but I think he took it from discredited Washington Times articles.