The term “Rules of Engagement” is generally considered a military expression, but certainly isn’t limited to the military. In the martial sense, it defines how and when our fighting men and women can pull the trigger, drop the bombs, or fire the torpedoes, when they come in contact with an enemy. In law enforcement the rules of engagement are usually a lot less restrictive than in our armed forces. Seeing a felony, an officer is required to make an arrest, when possible, but has discretion in most misdemeanor violations. In both organizations, though, these rules are put in place to prevent the start or escalation of a conflict or to prevent the killing or injuries of non-combatants.
It was probably in the Korean War that the rules of engagement began to get confusing and started getting our troops killed and injured. Certainly during the Vietnam war, politicians began restricting areas where our bombers could bomb or areas our soldiers could attack. The result was that many more of our military personnel were killed and injured than would have occurred otherwise. These two wars in particular, should have taught our leaders some valuable lessons. The first lesson is that if we don’t intend to win a conflict, we should not risk our most valuable resource, our fighting men and women, by putting them in harm’s way.
The second lesson is that the rules of engagement should be made by those at the site of, or the vicinity of the conflict, not those back in Washington. There are horror stories of US Presidents, Secretaries of Defense and other Cabinet officials picking bombing targets in Vietnam and then notifying the enemy, through neutral countries, where those sites were so as not to cause civilian casualties. It was so nice of them to show such compassion for our enemy’s civilians. It would have been decent of them to show the same compassion for our pilots who were shot down because the North Vietnamese knew they were coming.
Our leaders apparently didn’t learn these lessons. When my Marine son was in Iraq in 2004, they were not allowed to shoot at the enemy until they were shot upon first. Even more ridiculous, they were not allowed to attack Mosques even when they saw armed enemy combatants going into them and they knew that the enemy kept their weapons in those buildings. There is no more telling indication that our politicians from both parties care less about those who protect this country, than rules of engagement that put our warriors of all military branches in danger because of political correctness and/or fear of a media or public backlash
This is exactly what happened to our front line law enforcement officers after the George Floyd incident. Leftist leaders in our most progressive cities denied law enforcement the right to do their jobs. This past summer we’ve all seen the disastrous results of the “rules of engagement” placed on our police officers by politicians. Actually, there seemed to be only one rule of engagement and that was to not engage or to “Stand down.” This enabled the so-called “peaceful protesters” to violently attack police officers, vandalize and loot buildings and commit numerous acts of arson.
What ignorant political leaders fail to understand is that in any war and/or civil conflict, the best way to prevent, stop or deescalate a battle or civil riot is to meet it with overwhelming strength. To let a combat enemy know that they can do whatever they want until THEY fire the first shot shows them we are weak and they will exploit it. Similarly, if those intent on rioting know that the police have been ordered to “stand down”, they will exploit that weakness and riot, loot and burn cities down. Last summer’s riots are proof that this is true.