Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Launch time got pushed back 24 hours - in any case showtime isn't until Thursday a.m. and the reindeer games don't start until Friday so you'll be hearing from me up until Thursday p.m. latest - time & internet connectivity allowing, that is.

In the past I've included material from Eeben Marlow's Military and Security Blog. Lt. Colonel Barlow served in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Forces. Later he founded the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organized crime. His posts are insightful dispatches from the mind of a consummate military professional.

Today Lt. Col Barlow posts about the atrocious concept of "Courageous Restraint". I say atrocious because for me, the greatest war crime - once a nation has committed to war - is not to do any and everything required to complete the military mission as soon as possible, in order to minimize suffering for all involved, civilians and non-combatants included.


Having read an article about the sheer lunacy of an instruction to exercise “courageous constraint”, I have to ask myself what on earth are we doing?

Going to war is a political decision.

Making war is the military’s responsibility.

Making war and in the process minimizing collateral damage is something all soldiers accept as necessary. However, there will seldom be a situation where an enemy action provokes an own forces retaliation with zero collateral damage – unless the enemy acts away from population concentrations. Sadly, this is something the modern-day enemy does not do.

To order troops not to fire on the enemy as it risks waking up the local population is going several steps too far. By having to get permission to open fire on an armed and identified enemy laying IEDs – or face murder charges if that order is violated - is nothing other than surrender without honour . . .

. . . As it now appears that the politicians and senior commanders have lost the stomach to follow through on their decisions, perhaps the Principles of War ought should be whittled down to 2 basic principles in order to appease them.

Principle #1: Do not fire at the enemy.

Principle #2: If you observe the enemy, either run away or surrender.

When senior military commanders simply accept such orders, they are, in my opinion, not fit to command. If they lack the moral courage to stand up for their men, they ought not to be in uniform at all. If they are so lacking in moral fibre as to bend and buckle with the political whims of the politicians who drafted their mission, then they may save more lives by simply surrendering to the enemy and then disbanding the armed forces and going home . . .

This piece is brilliant - read it in it's entirety HERE

I wish to revisit what I said above; that once a nation has committed to war - not to do any and everything required to complete the military mission as soon as possible, to minimize suffering for all involved, civilians and non-combatants included. Consider: "War is Hell" - anyone who has experienced it knows this. When the military is required to deploy to your home town, it is not a nice thing - just ask the residents of Normandy about the memorable summer of 1944.

Perhaps a more appropriate example would be Libya, Spring and Summer of 2011, where well-meaning self-imposed constraints on behalf of the NATO powers have guaranteed the continued suffering of civilians and non-combatants for months now. Consider: if the purpose back in May was to prevent or limit human suffering in Libya, wouldn't it really have been more effective to have done nothing? Once having made the decision to engage in combat operations, however, to constrain ourselves to a device which diplomats and politicians can digest their dinners over - "No Fly Zone" - is to me actually a greater war crime than launching a fully-fledged military invasion designed to topple the dictator and liberate the land a la Iraq in 2003 (or France 1944 for that matter).

Your comments are invited.




  1. This would be analogous to slaughtering an animal for meat, but in order to be kind, slit its throat very, very slowly with a dull knife!

  2. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army: By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey; This is called hobbling the army. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army; This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
    -Sun Tzu, the Art of War

  3. That is what I have noticed for the past 50 years we as a Western power have hobbled ourselves with "rules of engagements, no fly zones, ete,ete" Our enemies don't have any and take advantage of us because we do. I also have noticed that we as a society havn't had the intestinal fortitude either.

  4. The SADF did not have the rank of Lt Colonel during the time Barlow served. For accuracy he should be referred to as Commandant.