Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
August 6, 2010
Out with the old, in with the newsBy Greyhawk
Read it? Great! Now, choose your Rules of Engagement news:
In the Time magazine version of reality (Headline: Petraeus' Rules of Engagement: Tougher Than McChrystal's), General Petraeus has "doubled down on the orders imposed by his predecessor," and "added restrictions" that "were not what most troops were hoping for." Their "grumbling is unlikely to diminish with the new directives."
But from the Christian Science Monitor we learn that General Petraeus has "issued a change in approach that appears to relax the rules..."
The nuanced shift in the rules is no surprise. Some officers privately said that under McChrystal the priority on protecting Afghan civilian lives had become too doctrinaire and that, in practice, officers were reluctant to return fire or use artillery against attacking insurgents because of the presence - or possible presence - of Afghan civilians among them.
- But their headline asks "Will the new Petraeus rules of engagement make troops safer?" (Their Magic 8-Ball answer is "it's unclear.")
So - the rules are more/less strict and the troops are grumpy/unsafe. But wait! - there's more. Back to Time:
Under General McChrystal, NATO forces were prohibited from calling in air strikes or artillery fire on village compounds where the enemy might have been mixed in with civilians. Going several steps better, General Petraeus has reportedly expanded the ban on air strikes and artillery fire to all types of buildings, tree-lined areas and hillsides where it is difficult to distinguish who is on the ground.Keep in mind Time's "expanded the ban on air strikes and artillery fire to all types of buildings" as we turn to the Wall Street Journal:
Confused? Let's review a point made here a couple days ago. First, understand that in spite of what you may read elsewhere, with the tactical directive, as with the new counterinsurgency guidance, General Petraeus has not issued "new ROEs".
Ultimately, such guidance can be seen as the scriptures, open to some interpretation from the folks below. ...From this 'guidance' and a few other sources (here's one) come the much-maligned (and misunderstood) ROE.
But oh noes, you might cry - if news reporters can't agree on the interpretation, how can soldiers do the right thing?
A great question - glad you asked. Before answering, let's turn to the Christian Science Monitor story again:
The reporter typed "noncommanding officer" instead of the actual source - a noncommissioned officer - but the gist of the story is true, George Will did type something about that in the Washington Post just "days before Petraeus replaced McChrystal":
The sharper reader will recall that at that time George Bush was President and General McKiernan was in charge in Afghanistan. Is that the same incident Will is talking about, or is his a more recent repeat? I don't know - but I do know that while ROE haven't "changed", something certainly changed in January, 2009 - and most folks who've developed an intense interest in ROE over the past year weren't nearly as concerned about the topic a very few years ago.
And I know there will always be Rules of Engagement, and misinterpreted rules of engagement, complaints, and death - civilian and military - in war.
(And a good reporter will always be able to find a noncommanding officer to quote on that.)
Posted by Greyhawk / August 6, 2010 1:53 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com