Friday, March 30, 2012

Honor, Not Law: Rules of engagement are only a small part of battlefield discipline

Armed Forces Journal published a very interesting article entitled
"Honor, Not Law: Rules of engagement are only a small part of battlefield discipline"
"...The military can and should do a better job teaching troops the law of armed conflict, but this would not have prevented civilian deaths in Haditha nor the abuse of enemy corpses in Afghanistan.
The problem of battlefield discipline goes beyond the law of armed conflict. The law is society’s response to undisciplined or unethical conduct. It does an OK job of sorting out the aftermath of an incident and categorizing the participants as either guilty or not guilty. But the law often falls short as a catalyst for ethical behavior, especially on the battlefield.
Law is the judgment of the community at large, but the impetus for ethical conduct among warriors must come from other warriors. The real challenge for commanders is not just to teach their troops about the law of armed conflict but to inculcate in their troops the ethos of the professional warrior — to instill an abiding sense of honor.
It is not enough for soldiers to know the rules, or even to follow them. Without deep reserves of character and psychological strength, troops in high-stress battlefield situations may fall prey to undisciplined impulses. Honor, not law, is the key to battlefield discipline...."
Read the whole article. We who are civilians may be thankful if we never need to understand the subject in practical terms, but when we, the civilian population, give directions to our military "Go there, do that!" we need to understand this stuff.

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