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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Do we need a review of the rules of engagement in war?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16563points) April 6th, 2010

In the light of the footage from Iraq recently released, should the military hold a review of the rules of engagement? The soldiers noticed the victims carrying objects (cameras), assumed they were guns, and then in their transmissions specifically stated that they were AK-47s when they did not have a picture clear enough to confirm that they were weapons in the first place. Is this premature action, or is it a risk that must be taken in action against terrorists? What do you think of these events?

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36 Answers

Storms's avatar

The current rules of engagement tie the military’s hands behind their backs to begin with, preventing them from “fighting to win”. AK-47 was probably just slang for “gun” due to commonality.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

Depends on the enemy you are fighting. If you are fighting an enemy that has any respect for the current rules of engagement, fine, they should be followed. However, if you are facing an enemy that has no respect for them, will only see them as a sign of your weakness, then the gloves should come off.

Pandora's avatar

Sure do. Send the leaders in first. :D
Then everyone can go home.
War is war. If you wait for everyone to prove to be innocent than you’ll probably be dead.
Whats to say that terrorist wouldn’t risk the lives of their own by sending a so call innocent so they can use the propoganda to force others out of the country.
Sometimes trusting the wrong people will get you killed. In vietnam, they used children to deliver bombs to blow up the troops. You just never know.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Any attempts to impose rules on war are futile. Someone will always break the rules.
If we’re going to get serious about war crimes, we need to prosecute war crimes but how often does this happen to the winner?

fireside's avatar

I think it was clearly a missed call on the part of the soldiers who were looking at an unclear image of people that did not seem to be up to any potential trouble and just happened to have something slung over their shoulders.

To me the cameras did not look like AK-47s at all, nor did they seem to be carrying them in a manner consistent with how someone might hold a weapon.

If the entry for Wikipedia on ROE is correct, then there was no visible reason for the lethal force that was used.

Unfortunately, I think this reflects something that happens often in warfare. When you are facing an enemy any move can be misinterpreted to be hostile. Unfortunately, now we have long range weapons and cameras that can help us to make mistakes like this from further away.

aprilsimnel's avatar

That helicopter was at least a half a mile away, so I’m not sure how sharp those cameras were in capturing what those men were actually holding. I think there was some confirmation bias going on. At the very least. I’m not sure how ground troops wouldn’t have the same thing going on.

Dammit, I dont know.

Whatever rules are going, you’re talking about people who are serving 3 and 4 tours of duty, and terrified that the next move they make, somebody with a an IED is going to take them out. I don’t know. It obviously looked like a camera lens to me when the one journalist peeped round the side of that building, but I’m sitting in a comfortable home.

Storms's avatar

@aprilsimnel I love how this discussion has already transformed you into a twitchy-fingered ‘nam vet. =p

aprilsimnel's avatar

One of my uncles was a paratrooper. Twice. I never know how to feel about these war questions. I wish we weren’t there. But speaking of this particular situation, I see that those soldiers on the Apache made some SERIOUS ERRORS in judgement. But I’m not in a war. My uncle talked to me about what he’d done in Viet Nam. Lots of it wasn’t moral. War doesn’t allow time for reflection or checking out people thoroughly. One could be dead in that time. So what to do?

I am against this war, by the way, and I have always been. But we are now there. Dammit. I just want us out. We should just cut our losses and leave!

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@aprilsimnel I agree, we cannot really understand it unless we have been in a war situation. For the record, I support the war, but I would like to see some way of better determining who is hostile and who isn’t. I think it is naive to take the approach some are taking on the matter, assuming that it was malicious and that the soldiers didn’t feel any sense of remorse afterwards.

davidbetterman's avatar

It is war. Rules do not apply.

phillis's avatar

GQ. How about we review starting any war to begin with unless we’re attacked first? Or how about we review whether we need to be butting our noses into fights that have been raging for eons and will never stop? How about we don’t sell guns and ammo to the damn opposition to be used on our own people in a war?

Here’s a novel idea – how about listening when nearly 100% of your country says they do not agree with a war and want nothing to do with it? Or, how about following through on a campaign promise that says you’ll bring home all the troops within 16 months, instead of cranking up an additional war? I’d really appreciate if people who have not lost their fucking minds being the ones who decide when we’re in a war.

davidbetterman's avatar

@phillis Novel ideas. Too bad we are at the mercy of the arms merchants, weapons manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and the oil guys.

phillis's avatar

Yeah, but other than that, we’re good, right? Hehehehe :)

Bluefreedom's avatar

If we’re going to review the Rules of Engagement (ROE) we might as well review the Laws of Armed Conflict too. Neither one of these is perfect and you’re never going to get all countries to follow these rules and regulations equally no matter what type of conflict is going on, unfortunately.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Get frakkin’ real! If you’ve never been under fire, then you don’t have the knowledge required to speak intelligently about “Rules of Engagement.”

davidbetterman's avatar


Get frackin real! hahaha…of course anyone has the knowledge required to speak intelligently about “Rules of Engagement.

That is what America is all about. And that is what all those soldiers of ours are fighting and dying for. Our freedom to think freely.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Words do not equal knowledge.

davidbetterman's avatar


It is quite easy to read about the rules of engagement and formulate our own opinions on the matter without ever having been under fire.

As I stated somewhere above, I don’t believe any rules apply in War. It is war and it is kill or be killed.

evandad's avatar

Maybe. If we did we could figure out the loopholes.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You have a right to your opinion, courtesy of the US Army. Enjoy.

davidbetterman's avatar


My right to my opinion is not courtesy of any army. It is courtesy of me having the balls to state my opinion despite the US Army.

the US Army has not done anything to secure any freedoms for me in my lifetime.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Then you are misinformed ( to be kind about it ).

davidbetterman's avatar

@CaptainHarley No I’m not. But perhaps you are. Most ex GI’s think they were defending the USA and the citizens thereof, when in reality they were just killing people and following orders given by lame idiots.
Too bad you were brainwashed too.

World War II was our fault. We forced japan to fight us and we bankrolled Adolf and the Nazis. We knew about Pearl harbor before it occurred and kept silent until after the attack.
Korea was not any threat to my freedom.
VietNam is just a horrible tragic fiasco (that is probably the one you were in), Didn’t secure any freedom foe me then or there.
All the little crappy wars between nam and Iraq are jokes in regards to securing my freedom.

Nope, the US Army has done nothing to secure my freedom. You are just brainwashed. ( to be kind about it ).

CaptainHarley's avatar

This conversation is over. I’m not in the habit of catering to the misinformed or to the seriously misguided.

davidbetterman's avatar

I always love how people who have lost a debate need to say that the conversation is over. As if they couldn’t just let it drop and not return.

I know it hurts to realize that the Nam was a stupid waste of lives and friends, but it was.

It was simply a war to steal the poppies from Vietnam and Cambodia and Air America them direct to the US without the intervention of the French, who did it before us.

Coloma's avatar

yes x 2

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley ‘If you’ve never been under fire, then you don’t have the knowledge required to speak intelligently about “Rules of Engagement.”’

I disagree. Of course I cannot understand the rationale behind the actions of the soldiers, but that does not preclude me from forming an intelligent opinion about it. If you are forming laws about punishment for crimes the last people you ask are the victims of crime, because they are going to think emotionally rather than rationally. In the same way, the decisions on rules of engagement should be made by people without an involvement in the situation.

CaptainHarley's avatar


So we should just allow anyone and everyone to become involved in the life or death encounters structured by the rules of engagement, whether they’ve ever been in combat or not? What you’re saying is that you have the right to decide the fate of thousands of your fellow countrymen in the military, live or die?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley Anyone should be able to participate in the discussion, but that does not mean that their contribution will be valid. Well structured rules of engagement would not endanger the lives of the personnel, but also provide better means of determining who is hostile. In the given example, the victims are strolling through the streets obviously not posing any imminent danger to anyone, but yet the decision is made before satisfactory confirmation is obtained. If there is time, it should be used to make a more definitive decision. In situations that are life and death in the immediate future, of course no delay should exist, but in those situations it is usually quite obvious who is an enemy.

phillis's avatar

Holy crap!
@FireMadeFlesh I agree with you that rules of engagement would eliminate most of the blights of war. At the same time, humans sitting in counsel with each other are looking ardently to secure the upper hand in future wars, or at least provide themselves with serious protection. That’s why nobody is getting rid of all of their nuclear arms. They claim to get rid of some of them, but WTF? You only need a few. What good does getting rid of some of them do?

We can readily see that when war is on all those lofty ideas agreed to at those meetings fly right out the window. These talks don’t do a bit of good. That’s why the UN is largely ineffective. We don’t need heads of state and dignitaries at those meetings. We need a chain of accountability that leads from the battlefield all the way back to commanding generals.

It is my opinion that it most certainly is due to our armed forces that we have the freedoms we do. Anybody with a brain knows that, without defense, you can easily be taken over at any time. I really don’t understand how the legitimacy of such a basic concept can be denied.

CaptainHarley's avatar


The rules of engagement which do not allow for the milliseconds within which life or death decisions must be made are rules of engagement which will get your own people killled.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It would probably be even better to re-examine “What are the rules for the US even starting a fucking war in the first place?”

And “War on (Some) Drugs” doesn’t count. Nor “War on Poverty”. Not even “War on Terror”.

Let’s make sure that the noun object of the phrase “War on ” is a country or group of known combatants… and that they constitute a clear and present danger to the US or its citizens.

davidbetterman's avatar

I believe Congress must declare War, not the president. However, what generally happens is war is not at first declared, and the president has some leeway to move advisers onto an area of conflict. Sooner or later we end up in a shooting war and Congress sort of just goes along with the whole shebang.

Keep in mind that the president, congressmen and women are being bribed with giant bucks by the pharmaceutical industry and the weapons manufacturers to fight these wars.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@phillis Of course our freedoms are protected by the defence force. Even New Zealand, which has been scaling down its military for years, is protected by the military of Australia and the US.

@CaptainHarley Millisecond life or death decisions are made by reflex arcs and never enter human consciousness until the outcome of the decision is already enacted. If you hear gunfire, you shoot at the shooter. That is basic common sense. I am talking about shades of grey, in which the decision is not so urgent.
I realise that it is difficult to impose rules on war; if everyone followed them we would just ban the practice. However in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, we can only win if we stop making enemies of the civilian population, and that will be a whole lot easier if we don’t kill so many innocent people. In this case, rules of engagement will end the war more quickly.

CaptainHarley's avatar

The US military moves heaven and earth to avoid civilian casualties, but as the man said, “You can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs.” That’s especially true when your opponent is using civilians as human shields.

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