Thursday, October 23, 2014

Paper Tigers

The military goes to war with lawyers to screen our use of firepower. I worry the soldiers doing the fighting need them more.

The Soviets had political officers to ensure that military officers did their duty in accordance with the party line. We have political correctness officers, instead (tip to Instapundit):

U.S. Army combat brigades are now being deployed with lawyers in the command post. ...

David Woods, the HuffPo’s military correspondent, cites it as a “good-faith effort” to uphold “American values.” But nobody is suggesting that this is necessary because American troops routinely violate the norms of civilized warfare. Instead, this seems to be an effort to sanitize something that is inherently messy (“War is heck”). This is a classic peacenik proposition: the whole world can be tamed, and not only that, so too can the means by which it is tamed.

Our troops fight clean. Does anybody really want to argue that but for the lawyers we'd carpet bomb civilians?

At best this slows down operations--perhaps tolerable in counter-insurgency but deadly in conventional fighting.

At worst it provides the means to prosecute officers for fighting a war rather than policing.

More than worry about whether our troops fight according to the rules of war, I worry that simply fighting will be criminalized:

When we have a battlefield where we see all of our troops and record all that they do, how will we treat our soldiers? Even in "good" wars that are universally agreed to be justified, such as World War II, we had our share of criminal actions and mistakes that cost lives. Civilians were killed or abused. Prisoners were shot or robbed or abused. Americans died from incompetent commanders or shoddy equipment or just bad luck.

Our military fights very clean based on any combat standards you want to apply--from a historical basis to a contemporary comparison. But war will never be completely clean. Even police commit crimes and abuse prisoners or detainees. Combat is far more stressful and so our troops will commit crimes or simply make lethal mistakes on occasion. How will we react to this? How will we make sure our troops fight even cleaner and how will we protect out troops from unfair prosecution? ...

How do we get our military to win when human rights groups might get a hold of tapes that show fatal mistakes and even isolated crimes?

We want our troops to fight clean but when even a good war like World War II would be flyspecked in our day, how do we deal with all this recorded material and how do we bring our troops home with their heads held high over a war well fought and won?

The objective of going to war should be to win, not to get the fewest penalties. While we should (and do) fight clean, that's a relative term given that this is killing people and breaking things. An over-emphasis on fighting super clean risks that whole "winning" notion.

Ah, what the Hell. Our leaders don't send our troops to do anything as 20th century as "winning" these days. We should just take our standard infantry company and strip out that dangerous heavy weapons platoon, and just replace it with a JAG platoon to be the company's attorneys when the inevitable charges are drawn up for "fighting while American."

UPDATE: Maybe our police departments should have these lawyers, instead.