“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” — attr. to various generals at the Battle of Bunker Hill (although it has a longer pedigree than that).
Liberals have been orgasmically excited by a video that Wikileak published showing a 2007 shootout in Baghdad, during which two Reuters stringers died. Wikileaks contends that the video shows ordinary guys just walking down the streets with cameras, when suddenly blood-thirsty U.S. troops rained horror and death down on them from the skies. That’s certainly how it’s being sold in the liberal American and European media.
My liberal husband, who saw the story in the New York Times, was “shocked” at the type of killing machines the U.S. troops were. After he admitted that he hadn’t actually watched the video, I explained that the video took place in a moving battle zone, and that the photographers were embedded with non-uniformed combatants who were carrying guns, including what looked like an RPG. I also said the vehicle that pulled up later was unmarked and that more men, also out-of-uniform, came spilling out. My husband fussed and fulminated about the fact that this was “no excuse” for what the Americans did. My son was more to the point: “RPGs? Those photographers were idiots.”
If you’d like details about the combat zone; the weapons; the lack of identification on the photographers, the combatants and the vehicles; and the explicitly stated, on-the-ground perceptions of the American troops, Bill Roggio and Rusty Shackleford have been all over this one. You can read Rusty here, here and here. Roggio’s analysis is here and here. (Bob Owens chimes in here too.)
I wanted to talk about something different, which is the liberal perception of rules of engagement. It’s very clear from the coverage that liberals believe that American soldiers should not be firing if they merely perceive themselves to be at risk, no matter the amount of evidence supporting that perception. Liberals would rather see a battalion of soldiers die, than suffer the loss of one Reuters photographer who deliberately places himself in a battle zone, and goes about without any identification or advanced warning. (Of course, the lack of advanced warning arises because the reporters and photographers who have embedded themselves with combatants hostile to the US can’t exactly let the US know in advance where the combatants will be. That is one of the risks of embedding with one side or another during a war. You take the same strikes your new comrades take.)
Given their sensibilities, the liberal ROEs are simple: You can’t know that someone wants to kill you until they actually try to kill you. American troops, therefore, should not fire until one of their own has been bloodied or killed. Only in that way can they be absolutely assured that they are firing at a legitimate military target, and not simply firing at something that looks like a legitimate military target.
These ROEs, of course, get expanded to world conflicts. Just because Iran is busy building a nuclear arsenal and has spent the last 30 years stating explicitly that it believes Israel should and will be destroyed in a tremendous Holocaust is meaningless. Because there are good people in Iran (true), it’s simply not fair to judge Iran by its words and conduct, if those words and conduct fall short of actually launching a nuclear missile at Tel Aviv. Only when Iran follows through on its threats, and actually launches that nuclear missile, can Israel be justified in taking the chance that any defensive actions might kill innocent civilians.