"RULES? IN A KNIFE FIGHT?": Redrafting the Rules of Engagement in the First Terrorist War

I still question the logic of having embedded reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Generals must have thought they would get a cadre of Ernie Pyles instead of Bob Woodward wannabes.

Many of these former college newspaper editors are living for the day when they can Break The Silence Of The Evil American War Machine.

They know that they will never get to rub shoulders with Larry King, Oprah or John Stewart by reporting positive news.

God forbid, any soldier should fire off one too many rounds in a firefight. The embed will be doing the Snoopy Dance if he gets that on camera.

If you wanna succeed, it's gotta bleed.

Posted by Mumblix Grumph at June 12, 2006 12:34 AM

"Nice guys finish last" was Leo "The Lip" Durocher's explanation of how the game should be played, not the Old Perfesser's. In fact, for Leo, it probably was a guide to life, period.

Posted by TC@LeatherPenguin at June 12, 2006 5:47 AM

Mumblix, you're wrong. The benefits of having embeds far outweighs the negatives.

A generation or two of journalists have had no prior contact with the military. They don't know anyone who joined, or have any family in the service. All they really know are Hollywood renditions of it. A month or three of training, living and watching them fight can be instructive.

Item the second transparency. Most reporters are just guys doing a job. They report what happens honestly, and we're all better informed. Most of us would not know of the wonderful job the Stryker brigade did in Iraq if not for his reporting as an embed. Or the stories he's brought back. We're seeing what a great job those guys are doing because of embeds.

Also a number of embeds are reporters from local papers riding along with the local Gaurd unit. The reporting they are doing is some of the best in the war.

Posted by Brian at June 12, 2006 6:17 AM

Gerard, are you getting wimpy in your old age? My Comment on your post is at my blog under the title, Advising Half Measures. First in a series, and I do get medieval on the master of amiable problem avoidance, George W. Bush, in later installments.

Posted by Alan Kellogg at June 12, 2006 8:15 AM

Dang, Gerard! I guess it was worth the wait to get you back! A most excellent piece, quite true- and very thought provoking...

It's gonna take some time to digest this one. I've linked it, as well.

Posted by Dan at June 12, 2006 8:38 AM


How do you answer the Christian pacifists who, once seeing your post, want to break out in verses of Onward Christian Soldiers and mean to do so mockingly (as if all Christians must become turn-the-other-cheek pacifists)?

I have one of those over at my place...

If you have time, come by and respond...


Posted by Rick at June 12, 2006 11:27 AM

"I don't want any of you boys dying for your country. I want the other bastards to die for theirs!" Gen. George S. Patton

Posted by RunningRoach at June 12, 2006 12:53 PM

"May God have mercy on my enemy, because I won't" Gen. George S. Patton

Posted by RunningRoach at June 12, 2006 12:56 PM

When I expressed, in a comment on "Slate", a certain amount of joy over the death of Al-Zarqawi, there were a goodly number of responses condemming my lack of "compassion". Now that I have learned that he lived for almost an hour after being struck by the bombs, my only regret is that he couldn't have lived longer to experience a small fraction of the pain and horror he caused.

I see the three suicides at Guantanamo have elicted this reaction from Jennifer Daskal, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch; [They] "are an indication of the incredible despair that the prisoners are experiencing" after many of them have been "completely cut off from the world."

And then I think of John McCain's 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton, existing on beatings and a handful of rice every day. It sometimes seems as if we are trying to turn back a tidal wave of B.S. with a fishing net.


Posted by Portorchardkid at June 12, 2006 2:54 PM

Gerard: Not bloody likely.

Do you recall TIME or some other magazine - this was back around '89, I think - running a cover photo of Bush the Elder with "WIMP" emblazoned across it?

I have the feeling that NATIONAL REVIEW is going to have to do the same with Dubya in order for him to get the message.

Posted by Michael Andreyakovich at June 12, 2006 3:07 PM

"But if a soldier of America has the will to pursue killers and cowards into the chaotic labyrinth of a Baghdad slum where friend, foe, and neutral are all of the same make and model..."

Yeh. They're all Ay-rabs.

"The goal of the Terrorist War must shift from the oft-trumpeted plan of "implanting democracy and bringing freedom" to one of unconditional victory over Islamic Totalitarianism."

Eggzactly. We need to finally put the "Terror" in the Terrorist War and start seriously terrorizing these bastards. The world needs to know that this is not just their war of terror--it's ours too. We're America and we can terrorize with the best of them. So let us rain terror from the skies on the ungrateful Jawas until the last Muslim has converted to Christianity. It's like Winston Churchill said, there's nothing wrong with using poison gas against uncivilized tribes. We must take pride in our terror.

And don't forget, The Media Are the Enemy. Ever wonder what the "column" is doing in "fifth column"? *knowing smile* They are *columnists* indeed. And "columnist" is so strangely close to "communist". Know your enemies. Conquer them. Terrorize them. That's what makes America great. Semper Fi!

Posted by Fabio Damascus Jr. at June 12, 2006 3:41 PM

What can I say except that I somehow don't feel the sincerity behind your words as much as I should. Perhaps you are in need of another lesson. I sincerely hope you don't get one.

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun at June 12, 2006 5:48 PM

Good essay, Gerard!

I suppose all our troops could be equipped with NON-LETHAL weapons (foam, CS and Adamsite vomit agent, stun weapons, net-guns, sticky-balls...) but until they are so equipped, there's a danger of ENEMY DYING in Iraq...

This was supposed to be a FEATURE, not a BUG! I'm GLAD the 'Haditha Massacre' story is falling apart! I'm in favor of Americans doing as the Turks did in the Korean War:

Americans had MPs all around, and arrested those they caught stealing, but STILL had massive losses every week, every DAY!

The Turks, however, had a guard posted out back, and one posted at the entrance to their compound, and the guard could see, right there in front of the gate, the severed, staked heads of the people caught stealing... and the Turks had ZERO loss of equipment/supplies to theft!

Posted by Karridine at June 12, 2006 6:13 PM

"Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of Coming of The Lord, His Truth is Marching On"

When was the last time we heard anyone sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? Thank you for the urgent plea to un-sheathe our "Terrible Swift Swords".

Talk radio and the right wing blogosphere are up to their eyeballs in analysis of the mass media's psychosis vis-a-vis anti-Americanism. They are probably correct, but do not narrow the focus enough. All these carriers and breeders of this virus are, after all, employees of a small number of giant corporations. And, as such, are doing what they are told to do.

The dark gods of these media giants are now tip-towing around schemes to reign in the power of the "Fateful Lightning" of the Internet. Their balconies of power are crumbling beneath their feet. Don't expect them to go down without a fight. The battle is on. We must expose and defeat these evil empires as we would our external enemies.

Loose the Fateful Lightning

Posted by DirtRagsRanch at June 12, 2006 6:41 PM

If you support the troops, stop allowing the superiors who manipulated them to get away scot-free while the "troops" are thrown to the dogs. Stop being satisfied with your scape-goats. Take responsibility for the policy you force them to operate under. For you will reap the consequences, one way or another.

Posted by elendil at June 12, 2006 8:53 PM

Noted. Next.

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun at June 12, 2006 11:57 PM

Great essay, Gerard.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who don't understand the gravity of our situation. I believe I do, yet I don't claim to have a superhuman IQ. It just seems, well, obvious.

By the way, whatever happened to Part 3 of "The Sacrifice and the Reckoning"? You've still got me on pins and needles here.

Posted by rickl at June 13, 2006 12:43 AM

It's my belief that Vlad Tepes of Wallachia had the right idea when fighting the Moslems. If they threaten your castle and countryside, impale and display enough of their heads on pikes to make the living turn back in fear.

Why aren't we promoting our own terror war against the terrorists? We need to do that or we'll never win this fight.

Posted by James at June 13, 2006 12:54 AM

The fabulous town of Toledo, Spain, has been dominated visually and in most other ways for centuries by its Cathedral. A prominent feature is a series of chained loops circling the building several stories above the ground. An extremely cheerful priest there explained to me that when the town was attacked and prisoners taken on the intimidating walls which protected the city, they were hung alive or dead on the Cathedral until their bodies rotted and fell away.

Seeing them was a persuasive reminder to other would-be conquerors that they weren't dealing with a bunch of wimps here. The city's mixed population got along quite well for the times, and suffered comparatively little from outside interference.

I'm just pointing out some useful historical facts. Bullies, and terrorists are the ultimate bullies, don't mess with the strong. They seek out the weak, the self-doubters, the conflicted. The democrats, I suppose we could say, are their natural targets.

Posted by AskMom at June 13, 2006 2:26 AM

Still waiting for "Operation Stick"......

Posted by Corbin Choate at June 13, 2006 7:45 AM

Coming from one that is in the Military and just returned from Iraq, I can testify that nothing bothers a soldier more then NOT having clearly defined orders. Many Thanks to the author of the article for stating what I think should be the obvious.

Also, I can't think of a single soldier that would be willing to go to War with the lesser of the weapons that will be used on the battlefield. Rubber bullets my Arse!!!! As stated by Sean Connery in "The Untouchables" "Only a (descriptive) brings a knife to a gun fight"!!!

Proud to be a Republician American!!!

Posted by Pakathor at June 13, 2006 8:23 AM

Nice post. I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2006/06/re-rules-in-knife-fight-redrafting.html

Posted by Consul-At-Arms at June 13, 2006 1:08 PM

Support for the troops is the first place we average, safe at home, Americans can help. Not the "I support the troops" comments in otherwise off-hand conversations, but stand up, make your position known statements. I have started to do so on my blog (moderatemainstream.blogspot.com)and have done so more specifically by writing to troops serving. My nephew returned from Mosul over the winter after more than a year in country. I thanked him personally. I also make it a point to thank service members when I come across them in my daily life, as we all should.

Posted by Tracy Coyle at June 13, 2006 2:23 PM

The U.S. is not going to do any of the things you suggest. There is zero support for invading anyone else let alone starting a draft. If you want to stopt the Iranian nuclear program then take out their oil installations. No oil, no economy.

Posted by Barnabus at June 13, 2006 5:53 PM

Outstanding essay.

Posted by Moneyrunner at June 14, 2006 6:38 PM

Excellent post...but you may want to consider what happens if we don't get attacked again and we merely lose through slow attrition. The surest way to defeat us is to wear us down. If the Islamic Nutjobs do it right they won't kill us in numbers to inflame us they will merely kill us in numbers to remind us.

Take a look at the fact that right now at Quantico we have finished building a mosque for 25 Muslims and a much much bigger one is planned for 2009. Happy days.

Take a look at the power of Islams propaganda and realize that they may not have laser guided missiles but their propaganda has been honed by hundreds of years of practice.

Here is a post of mine some time ago that is not nearly as cleverly written expressing much the same ideas as this article.

Cricket, War and Rules because you know we might become like them!

Unlike you I believe that unless we do get attacked again we will lose. Isn't that a terrible thing to wish for...my god the world we live in. I am so damned bitter that my children may not see the sort of brilliantly beautiful hopeful world I mostly saw until 9/11.

Thanks again for this beautiful piece.

Posted by Pierre Legrand at June 14, 2006 7:21 PM

Quoting a famous Marine: "Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?" -GySgt. DANIEL DALY, USMC

The United States needs to fight like the Devil Dogs we are! No liberal leaders!

Donnell Sablan

Posted by Donnell at June 20, 2006 9:49 PM