Skip to comments.Rules of Engagement for the 21st Century Battlefield
Posted on 03/01/2016 6:54:49 PM PST by Kaslin
Rules of Engagement (ROE) is defined as a directive issued by a military authority specifying the circumstances and limitations under which forces will engage in combat with the enemy. In the history of warfare we have seen an incredible metamorphosis of the rules of engagement. Long ago, armies presented themselves upon the battlefield in open areas away from civilian populations. The fact that weapons were limited to that which was carried, sword and spear, meant that fighting the enemy meant close-quarter engagement. The rules then were quite simple: engage the enemy, defeat them, and pursue to bring about their ultimate destruction. Given the fact that the level of communications capability was basically that of your voice, formations were tight and not spread out.
As battlefield technology and communications technology improved, the military battlefield expanded, and that meant a broader scope of what a battlefield encompassed. So as time moved forward, the battlefield was not just far away fields where armies came together; it meant involving civilian populations. As armies grew in size and scope, it became more necessary to depend upon local populations for food resourcing.
One thing that remained necessary and important was the states declared war against each other and fielded uniformed militaries that were identifiable on the battlefield. But consider what began here in America with the French and Indian War when there were two adversaries, but each employed non-state entities in support of their uniformed forces. The history of our vaunted US Army Rangers came from a company-sized force from the provincial colony of New Hampshire called into service of the British Army led by Colonel Robert Rogers, Rogers Rangers. This guerrilla force operated in support of a uniformed state military, the British Army, against its enemies and won fame in the campaign against the Abenanki Indian tribe who had been waging a frontier war against civilian populations supporting the British.
In our own Revolutionary War, militias such as that of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, in South Carolina again featured a group supporting a uniformed Army in its prosecution of warfare.
In order to try and police the battlefield and reduce the impact of such non-uniformed belligerents, it was often a practice that those captured on the battlefield as such were summarily tried and executed. The purpose was to try and protect civilian populations.
But with the advent of total war, where civilian populations were in support of the war making machine, industry rules of engagement changed. Industry and means by which the materiel support to warfare were deemed part of centers of gravity were now targets. We remember the bombing of the Ploesti oilfields in Romania. Such as it was for factories that produced weapons components and the train systems that transported troops and materiel. And yes, there were spies and acts of espionage to gather intelligence and sabotage key infrastructure and again, those captured not in uniform aiding and abetting efforts were summarily executed. It was brutal, but in essence it was the unfortunate consequence of civilians entering the expanded battlefield.
Fast forward to Vietnam, where a main belligerent on the battlefield was the Viet Cong, who infiltrated the civilian population and used adjoining nation-states as a base of operations to train, equip, provide provisions, and stage their attacks. They were a non-state actor in support of a state actor, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The ROE during that war was very convoluted, and in many ways enabled the enemy to find sanctuary due to the desire not to inflict civilian casualties.
And so we find ourselves much in a similar position today in the war against Islamic Jihadism. War on terror is a horrible misnomer. One cannot fight against a tactic, which is what terrorism is. It is a means, a method used by an undefined enemy. On the new battlefield of the 21st century, we must have ROE that is not developed at the highest levels but at the battlefield levels to enable success. When the enemy knows that we have a political concern with collateral damage, they will use that reticence to their utmost advantage.
As a Battalion Commander in Iraq, I can recall the insurgent enemy using mosques and burial grounds as assembly points, as well as ammunition and equipment staging points. They knew what our restricted target list was. We insidiously advertised it. The enemy knows that our troops are told to not fire until fired upon, and it has come to the point where Islamic jihadist enemies can simply drop their weapons and walk away, knowing they will not to be engaged by our forces.
We must also employ weapon systems on the battlefield with the proper ROE that enable us to gain and maintain contact with the enemy, and not allow them to reposition into civilian populations, which increases the chances for civilian casualties. Let me provide you with an example from my years in Afghanistan.
When an American element becomes involved in a TIC (troops in contact), it is imperative that they have the support of all resources that can destroy that enemy in place. The ground element must be able to keep the enemy engaged and maintain eyes on target. If the enemy is firing upon you from a location, that location is a target. What happens all too often is that far back at some headquarters, any request for additional fire support must go through ROE protocols, where a series of inane questions are asked of the ground element something the enemy knows very well. Time is of the essence in a firefight.
We need weapon systems platforms that are in support of the ground element; that can deliver close support to them. We need mortars, artillery, and aerial close-air support assets that allow the ground element to keep an enemy pinned down for the ultimate kill, with additional assets. And let me be very clear: an F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 are not exactly fixed wing close air support assets. The best tools for that mission are attack helicopters or A-10 Warthogs. Why? Because the ground element can direct them right in on the enemy while still maintaining their direct fire, and reducing the issue of collateral damage.
What happens on the modern battlefield is that the enemy knows our TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures). When our ground element disengages, meaning they stop firing, they are repositioning to not be in the circular error probable of bombs that will be dropped. So the enemy repositions as well, and normally deeper into civilian areas, and we raise the probability of collateral damage.
If we are to be successful on this battlefield, lets allow the leaders on the ground - not lawyers - to develop common sense ROE. We can ill afford to allow the enemy any advantage and initiative to kill our men and women we have deployed into harms way. This is a critical issue that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees should be examining. This is why we at the National Center for Policy Analysis are addressing this policy issue. To learn more, visit our petition.
the best ‘rule of engagement ‘ that I can think of is : Military - STOP giving your oath of allegiance and service to idiots civilians that are undeserving and unworthy of your sacred oath(s) - Start calling the shots ( literally ) Convene a renewed War Department that handles our military foreign affairs , not subservient to any clueless state department or feckless ‘chief executive ‘
Our enemies need to fear America if they choose to challenge or confront us . They need to feel the steel , not our pussy civ politicians brought to heel
Could we have won World War II with the rules of engagement we have nowadays???
We should go back to the ROE used during WWII and things would change quickly, IMHO.
Stay Calm and CALL FOR ARTILLERY.
The enemy is running OUR SIDE of the fight. There is no need to wonder why we lose the war (whilst winning battles).
And he didn’t even mention Obama’s stupid rules about not damaging the “environment”.
For years I have advocated a very simple solution to the proliferation of stupid ROEs;
If you want to write an ROE you have to serve at least six months operating out of an isolated FOB. No such service not writing.
After all, should our ROEs be based on what is actually happening not what some REMF professor thinks is happening?
I doubt it.
Remember, Allen was a Field Artillery Battalion Commander, but his battalion was essentially employed as a provisional infantry battalion because his guns were so restricted to be practically useless. One gun per battery was more than sufficient to respond to approved calls for fire.
My father and Uncles who fought in WWII and my brother who fought in Korea all said the same thing. “When the fighting starts there are no rules.”
There should be only one ROE: WIN!
Yes, in modern times artillery (and air strikes)have been severely handcuffed by the diversified, squeamished and transgendered command structure in the boutique brigades developed to fight the fair fight against the mooselimbs. Fort Sill has all but turned into a basic training base.
The problem is when we try to move beyond killing people and breaking things.
Any competent army kills people and breaks things well.
The best armies in the world have seldom ever been able to do more than that in the best of circumstances; the U.S in Japan and Alexander the Great and a few other times come to mind, but not many. IF you aren’t willing to kill everyone and break everything don’t try to conquer or neutralize territory.
Wrong and bad. The military must remain subordinate to the civilian Chief Executive and his civilian reports, under our Constitution. It's the only way to avoid the curse of Latin American juntaism and army meddling in politics as "guarantors of the constitution", which is common in Central and South America.
Don't do it. Bad idea, with 250 years of South American history to back up that assertion.
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