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Since the Vietnam War a sense of frustration, confusion, and distrust has seethed within the operational community with respect to rules of engagement (ROE). The debate over ROE has intensified over .e Past two years in light of U. S. operations in the Per- ^'an Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. Among the incidents at raised questions were '"e 17 May 1987 Iraqi x°cet missile attack on the
I9s» (FFG;31), the 3 July ° downing of an Iranian rpj,ner by the Vincennes j G'49), and the 4 January I ^ engagement of two p1 Van MiG-23 Floggers by p ^ Tomcats from the John Kennedy (CV-67). ue facts in each incident re generally known and do p0t Fe&r detailed repeating.1 ri°r to the Vincennes inci- ent and as a direct result of e attack on the Stark,
G0tnmanders in the Persian
Set WCre §*ven a rev'sed . °1 ROE that clarified
tivlr authority to take posi- Protective measures Cr> hostile intent was ^ atiitested. It was empha- t() p Utat they did not have sgif6 sFot at before acting in had C*e^CnSe anc* tFat they
and 3n Unarnbiguous responsibility to protect their units and Fe°F*e- Notices to airmen and mariners were revised the rCISSUed 'n September 1987 to warn all concerned of ShjSC additional precautions being taken by U. S. Navy 0pJ- Tet the Vincennes and other U. S. Navy ships were few Utln^ 'n a difficult environment. Despite the notices, anv c.0rnrnercial airlines rerouted their aircraft or made y Slgnificant allowances for the hostile environment.
i 1986 Universal Press Syndicate
OK, stranger.. ^ What'S the circumference of the Earth?-. Who y wrote “The Odyssey" and "The. ft had?". .What's the average rainfall of the flmaz-on Basin P
In 1984 the late D. P. O’Connell wrote that “The rule that neutral shipping [and aircraft] may not be denied the right of navigation on the high seas [or the airspace thereof] is one of the fundamentals of the law of war at sea, and it is especially rigid in times of limited war or states of belligerency short of formal war. Yet it is
precisely in these circumstances that the problem of positive identification in the exercise of self-defense is most acute. For modern naval planning, therefore, the condition of tension between these two requirements of the law leads to inevitable perplexity.”2 The dilemma described by Professor O’Connell was the dilemma facing the Vincennes. It had been exacerbated by the refusal of commercial airlines operating in the Persian Gulf area to assume some responsibility for avoidance of potentially sensitive actions or for their proper identification; by reports during the preceding months of Iran’s efforts to improve its capability to attack a U. S. man-of-war; by the movement of Iranian F-14 Tomcats from Biishehr to Bandar Abbas; and by a specific warning of some type of unusual assault on U. S. naval forces in conjunction with the Fourth of July weekend.3
On 2 July, the cruiser Halsey (CG-23) warned away an Iranian F-14. On 3 July, the Vincennes became engaged in a sea battle with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) gunboats that continued during those fateful seven minutes from the moment that Iran Air Flight 655 took off
You can'tshoot\ '-first and ask i questions later0
from Bandar Abbas to the time when Vincennes- launched Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missiles brought the Airbus down. The briefing for arriving U. S. naval units alluded to the “very complex but ordered” commercial air picture in that area, cautioning all units to be concerned with air contacts that might deviate from the normal pattern. The downing of the Airbus occurred in part because of its deviations in norm both as to departure time and heading. The situation was compounded by other human error, not the least of which was the inadvertent misuse of the remote control indicator on the Vincennes identification supervisor’s console to query the unidentified aircraft’s IFF transponder. A response was received from an Iranian Air Force plane on the runway at Bandar Abbas in a code known to be used by Iranian F-14s flying out of Bandar Abbas. The response was tied to the airborne aircraft, convincing the Vincennes's tactical information coordinator (TIC) that the approaching aircraft was an attacking F-14. According to the official investigation, the TIC then “distorted data flow in an unconscious attempt to make available evidence fit a preconceived scenario.” The official investigation noted a myriad of other factors that prompted the decision of Captain Will C. Rogers III, commanding officer of the Vincennes, to launch his missiles, concluding:
“Based on the information used by the commanding officer in making his decision, the short time frame available to him in which to make his decision, and his personal belief that his ship and the USS [Elmer] Montgomery [FF-1082] were being threatened, he acted in a prudent manner.”
Correctly the investigation also concluded that Iran must share responsibility by “hazarding one of its civilian airliners by allowing it to fly a relatively low altitude air route in close proximity to hostilities that had been ongoing for several hours, and where IRGC boats were actively engaged in armed conflict with U. S. naval vessels.” It also concluded that, “The fog of war and those human elements which affect each individual differently— not the least of which was the thought of the Stark incident—are factors that must be considered.”
In considering the confrontation on 4 January 1989, a number of nonquantifiable factors again played heavily in the decision-making process of the engaged F-14 aircrews. Undoubtedly Libya’s track record was on the minds of the aircrews. Aside from Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s extensive record of exporting terrorism, Libyan forces have a history of shooting without provocation:
► 16 September 1980: Two MiG-23s made an unsuccessful attack on a U. S. Air Force RC-135 operating in international airspace.
► 19 August 1981: Two Su-22 Fitters were downed by U. S. Navy F-14s after the Fitters fired at the Tomcats.
► 25 March 1983: Two SA-5 Gammon missiles were launched at MiG CAP Station #1 operating in international airspace while supporting the U. S. Navy freedom of navigation exercise in the Gulf of Sidra.
In the post-incident environment, some critics feared that the United States had adopted a new standard for engagement of potentially hostile forces that would have the world tottering at the edge of global warfare. There was no new standard; the ROE employed had been in effect for some time. Although there had been some slight alteration of the ROE for operations in the vicinity of Libya owing to the threat, the ROE fundamentally followed the JCS Peacetime Rules of Engagement (PROE) with regard to hostile intent and self-defense. The pilot of the lead F-14 exercised greater precaution than was required, in part because he had the range that permitted him to do so. This emphasizes the fact that ROE seldom, if ever, will draw an absolute line: “If he does this, then you can shoot;’ discretion and sound judgment always are essential, along with flexibility to address the situation as it occurs.
In the course of the intercept, the airborne-warfare offi" cer on board the John F. Kennedy radioed “Warning yellow . Weapons hold,” indicating probable hostile intent and giving the Tomcat crews authority to respond unilaterally. This is consistent with the JCS PROE that emphasize the inherent right of unit and individual self-defense. After five turns away were met by the MiG-23s turning into the F-14s, and closure, the lead F-14 made the decision to fire. The result, as they say, is history.
There is a legitimate need for ROE. As former fighter pilot Jack Broughton observed, “ROE are a necessary evil. . . . However, they should not be so restricting that the forces you’ve committed to the combat job are hurt or suffer undue losses while trying to carry out tasks assigned them.” The dilemma lies in finding the happy medium- lf is compounded by commanders who want clear, unequivocal guidance as to when they may shoot, or what they may or may not do, yet desire maximum latitude in exercising the judgment and discretion with which they have been entrusted.
U. S. Peacetime Rules of Engagement: A decade ag° ROE were in a state of disorganization only slightly short of anarchy. In 1979, the Chief of Naval Operations, Ad' miral Thomas B. Hayward, directed a study to standardize the worldwide peacetime maritime rules of engagement- The CNO-directed study was to bring together in a single document these various references while also providing a list of supplemental measures from which a force commander could select when he felt it necessary to clarify force authority beyond basic self-defense statements.
The Worldwide Peacetime Rules of Engagement for Seaborne Forces (PMROE) were approved by the JCS in 1981, following coordination among the four armed services and with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of State, and the National Security Council- They were significant in that they represented substantially more than the views of a single service; they were a clear statement of national views on self-defense in peacetime that also could smooth the transition to hostilities and, for that matter, might be used in many stages of 3 belligerency.
The PMROE provided for their adaptation by each Commander in Chief (CinC); thus the March 1986 exercise challenging Libya’s illegal claim over international waters south of 32°30' used the U. S. Commander in
While national ROE do not delineate specific tactics, cover safety-related restrictions, or set forth doctrine, ROE at the operational level frequently integrate all these matters to avoid incidents like this downing of a U. S. Caribou which was hit by American artillery at Ha Phan, South Vietnam, in 1967.
Chief Europe (USCinCEur) peacetime ROE, not the JCS PMROE, as the basis for planning.4 On 26 June 1986 the PMROE were supplanted by the JCS PROE. The PROE endeavor to expand peacetime ROE to all sea, air, and land forces; success with the latter remains limited. Revised, updated JCS PROE were promulgated on 28 October 1988.
The JCS PROE is a document to facilitate planning. It never was intended to substitute for the judgment of the on-scene commander or individual sailor, soldier, airman, or Marine. Its lengthy list of supplemental measures may not be adequate in a given situation, or may require modification. Prior to the March 1986 freedom of navigation exercise off Libya, for example, Vice Admiral Frank B. Kelso III, Commander Sixth Fleet, selected and modified— through detailed coordination with USCinCEur and the JCS—certain of the supplemental measures in order to ensure that his ROE agreed with his mission requirements. ROE for the Persian Gulf operations underwent similar tailoring. This illustrates the use for which the JCS PROE was intended and its flexibility when used properly.
The PROE never will draw a line that, once crossed, automatically authorizes the use of force—except that very clear line a protagonist crosses when he fires first. The line otherwise cannot be drawn because the line does not exist. Herein lies the frustration. While there is a reluctance to be the first to shoot, there is an equal desire not to be the first to be shot, shot down, or sunk; the temptation by many is to endeavor to write ROE that go beyond the basic self-defense language in receiving a clearer picture of the potential threat. Yet no word picture can be drawn that offers an effective substitute for the discretion or judgment of the man on the scene. The problem is not unlike that with which police are confronted in questions regarding the use of deadly force. Commenting on this, Edwin J. DeLattre notes:
“[Commanders and others must be] granted the authority to exercise discretion, to use judgment in the fulfillment of their duties, because it is impossible to build, or to learn, a set of laws and regulations so detailed and specific that they would dictate what to do in every possible set of circumstances. No effort to reduce matters of judgment to matters of rules can succeed because a contingent world is too filled with possibilities for us to anticipate everything that can happen.”5
ROE encompass far more than the question of when to shoot; they include all facets of strike warfare planning or other combat operations. ROE are influenced by a variety of sources, particularly in a peacetime environment. These sources represent a composite of interests. In all cases the product—the ROE—constitutes a compromise of these interests. The sources include:
Domestic Law: Domestic law can have an impact on operations and ROE. The limitation on the number ot U. S. military trainers allowed into El Salvador, the weapons they are allowed to carry, and the prohibition on their travel to areas in which they may be in proximity to combat are directly attributable to and illustrative of the potential effect domestic law may have on ROE. For some operations domestic law has had no impact.
National Security Policy: A number of agencies—t0 include the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury- Commerce, and Energy—share responsibility for the development of national security policy. Just as hostilitieS (whether brief or extended) are a continuation of politics by other means, planned military responses or, for that matter, the purposeful avoidance of a situation warranting a military response, always will be undertaken with a vie''' toward their possible impact on the diplomatic, economic- and related interests of the United States. ROE for U. S- forces operating in the Persian Gulf were influenced by the views of these various agencies, for example.
Operational Concerns: It has been suggested that- given the JCS Pub. 1 definition, “ROE should not delineate specific tactics, should not cover restrictions on specific system operations, [and] should not set forth service doctrine, tactics or procedures.”6 But JCS definitions are not policy per se, and such a limited view of ROE is not consistent with their proper use at all levels, and particularly at the operational level. For example, a restriction on the air delivery of a particular munition on an axis of attack parallel to friendly lines or within x meters of friendly forces is a ROE based on weapons-delivery parameters and safety-related restrictions. Similarly, ROE frequently contain words to the effect that “these targets will be attacked only with observed fire or guided munitions.”
In reality ROE often are selected as the vehicle for accomplishing a variety of tasks as political authority is integrated with operational requirements. When U. S. air forces were authorized to engage enemy fighters ovcf North Vietnam, the ROE continued to require visual identification of the target to protect aircraft carrying third- nation diplomatic personnel in and out of the country and to protect other U. S. tactical aircraft that were operating in the very congested airspace over Hanoi and Haiphong-
understatement JCS Pub 26 notes, “The optimum jy. air defense weapon systems requires separation of . Iend and foe to maximize BVR engagement while avoid- n^/ratricide [iic].”7
be problem lies in part in developing ROE applicable anF^ weaPon systems spectrum. Optimum ROE for b-14 Tomcat crew may not seem feasible to the pilot of e;P/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Falcon, or AV-8B Harrier, or 0j.en to the F-14 crew when viewed from the perspective ea Stinger surface-to-air missile operator. The problem is ^acerbated by the ever-present potential for electronic CePtion, the look-alike traits of fourth-generation Soviet Nat^1 SUC^ as MtG‘29 Fulcrum, and the inability of tip 9 nat'°ns to resolve the potentially irresolvable iden- ^ation-friend-or-foe (IFF) equipment issue. q be problem is psychological as well as technical. ^ ombattints frequently experience a self-fulfilling proph- See ln t*lat they come to see what they are expecting to Oy ■ This was the case in the 1939 Battle of Barking eeb, when Royal Air Force (RAF) Spitfires intercepted
may be written in part to minimize risk to neutral shipping and aircraft, as was the case with respect to British forces in the Falklands/Malvinas War and U. S. naval forces operating off Beirut in 1982-84. ROE for U. S., ahied, and Soviet operations in the Persian Gulf took into c°nsideration service doctrine, capabilities, tactics, and Procedures in order to maximize use of available forces while minimizing risk to friendly units, neutral ships and a|rcraft, and civilian and military ships and aircraft of the belligerents that posed no threat to U. S. and third-country a*rcraft and vessels.
Such correlation of subject matter exists in peacetime and on the battlefield, and frequently is contained in doc- jrine. For example, an airspace coordination area (ACA) ls a block of airspace in the target area in which friendly a,rcraft are reasonably safe from friendly surface fires.
he purpose of an ACA is to allow simultaneous attack of targets near each other by multiple fire support means, one 0 which normally is air. ROE at the operational level may lnclude procedural methods for identification of aircraft, "eluding the use of approach corridors, airspace control z°nes, restricted operations areas, low-level transit routes, and altitude and speed restrictions, in order to minimize n.sk to friendly forces from friendly fire. While it may be Vlewed as academically incorrect by some, integration of j^h information into ROE pragmatically permits ROE to e jhe single reference point for fire control measures. at>onal ROE do provide authority to fire; but common Sense dictates that the on-scene commander establish fire c°ntrol measures as part of his ROE to ensure that he is parrying out his assigned mission while minimizing risk to lrd-country nationals or friendly forces.
• *'lsk to friendly forces is a risk common to all nations, 'n Peacetime as well as in war. The danger of friendly fire as been compounded by technological advances in weap- (Fu anc* weaPon systems that permit beyond-visual-range and over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting. As weap- ,tls have evolved to increase BVR/OTH capabilities, there as been a commensurate effort to prepare doctrine bal- capabilities and the risk of friendly losses. In a
and shot down (with close-range .30-caliber machine guns) three RAF Hurricanes over the English Channel. It was also the case almost four decades later in the downing of the Iranian Airbus by the Vincennes, although Iranian actions clearly contributed to the latter.
In the earlier event, despite their proximity, the pilots of the RAF Spitfires visualized the German Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters they expected to see rather than the RAF Hurricanes they engaged. Pilot tension during the course of the intercept had increased as the pilots were informed that the three aircraft they expected to intercept had multiplied to 30 owing to false radar returns—contributing to the fear of death that Karl von Clausewitz identified within the fog of war.8 In the Vincennes episode, highly trained, professional crewmen, operating within carefully constructed ROE and using sophisticated air defense equipment, tracked what they perceived to be an Iranian F-14 at an altitude entirely different from that indicated by their equipment in a classic example of the phenomenon described by the official investigation as scenario fulfillment. Precisely for reasons such as this, ROE at the operational level commonly include safety and doctrinal characteristics not anticipated by higher authority.
International Law: NWP-9, The Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations (1987), correctly observes that the law of war “provides the legal framework within which U. S. ROE . . . are formulated. Because ROE also reflect operational, political, and diplomatic factors, they often restrict combat operations far more than do the requirements of international law.”
Frequently mission and ROE parameters may be dictated by a combination of legal, political, and military considerations. During the March 1986 freedom of navigation exercise in the Gulf of Sidra, U. S. naval and air forces were limited to operations outside of Libyan territorial waters. While the principal reason for this limitation was based on the purpose of the exercise—to demonstrate our international legal right to use of the high seas—an appreciation for the difficulty of conducting a combat search and rescue mission within 12 nautical miles of Libya and a desire to minimize the possibility for escalation beyond the exercise also were considerations.
ROE always are influenced by U. S. international law obligations, but operate well within the law. ROE generally reflect the on-scene commander’s desire to exercise control over his forces in keeping with the manner in which he wishes to accomplish his mission. Frequently the on-scene commander’s desire to control will be confused with an international law obligation. Two examples will illustrate this.
In the opening scenes of the movie Top Gun, as Navy F-14 Tomcats maneuver against the fictitious MiG-28s, the carrier air wing commander admonishes the Tomcat crews, “Do not fire until fired upon.” If it was intended to make a statement of Navy policy or that which is legally permissible, the line was incorrect. Section 0915 of Navy Regulations (1973) correctly recognizes the right of preemptive self-defense where naval forces have indications and warnings of an immediate threat of the use of force, as
do the Worldwide Peacetime Rules of Engagement—and as was exercised in the 4 January 1989 downing of the two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers. On the other hand, the statement would have been appropriate if it was intended to represent the air wing commander’s desire to check his fire based upon the situation as he perceived it. His discretion, manifested in his ROE, constitutes a lawful order, and may use less authority than allowed by international law or, for that matter, than he was authorized by the ROE given him.
In the 1981 freedom of navigation exercise conducted against Libya’s claim over the Gulf of Sidra, the initial plan stated (a) that U. S. forces would not fire unless or until fired upon, and (b) that if U. S. forces were fired upon and initiated hot pursuit of hostile forces, pursuit would be terminated once the hostile force(s) departed the exercise area. Legally, both statements were incorrect. U. S. forces could have fired in preemptive self-defense, and it was not necessary to discontinue hot pursuit so long as the pursued aircraft or vessel continued to pose a threat to U. S. forces. Once the exercise began, Libyan manifestations of hostile intent were substantial. On the first day, fighter aircraft from the USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) performed some 30 intercept operations against more than 100 Libyan fighters. There were clear indications and warnings of hostile intent by every Libyan fighter, but intercepting aircraft prudently held their fire. On the second morning, Libyan fighters approached the exercise force and proceeded to engage in air combat maneuvering with Navy fighters, all the while manifesting hostile intent, as two Libyan Su-22 Fitters launched from Ghurbadlyah air base. The latter also provided indications and warnings of hostile intent as they were approached by two Navy F-14s on a head-to-head intercept. When air-to- air missiles were fired at the F-14s, the Tomcats quickly took control of the situation, downing both Fitters.
At the moment of their exchange of fire, other Navy fighters were engaged in air combat maneuvering with other Libyan fighters, and a Libyan Osa missile patrol boat with one of her missile doors open was within missile range of the destroyer Caron (DD-970). Following the hostile act by the Fitters, all Libyan aircraft in proximity to U. S. forces and manifesting hostile intent could have been presumed hostile and engaged; the same was true of the Osa. U. S. fighters held their fire on the direction of the task force commander, however, and the Libyan fighters quickly broke contact to return to base. Prior to the Fitter missile launch, the Caron had obtained a fire control solution on the Osa, and a Rockeye-armed A-7 Corsair was orbiting overhead. The Caron and the A-7 elected not to engage the Osa, which promptly closed her missile door and departed the area at high speed.
Legally and in accordance with the ROE for the exercise, the task force commander had authority to shoot on manifestation of hostile intent by the Libyan forces. But the commander elected to shoot only following a hostile act, and limited the response of his ships and aircraft once Libyan forces had committed a hostile act. Clear distinctions existed between the commander’s legal rights, ROE authority, and the exercise of his discretion.
ROE are influenced by each of the preceding factors. ROE also are scenario or situation dependent, based upon a myriad of nonquantifiable variables, such as the known or likely threat, level of tension, and track record of the potential protagonist. Frequently interjected into the equation are equally disparate human and political variables which may affect ROE for a particular mission:
Participants in the planning process may couch arguments in “humanitarian” or “moral” terms to oppose a partic- , ular course of action. A few examples from history will serve to illustrate this point:
► In planning the recapture of Manila in February 1945, both the ground force commander and General Douglas A- MacArthur’s air deputy recommended use of the close atf support capabilities of Marine Air Groups 24 and 32, which had worked closely with Army ground forces in the earlier phases of the Philippines campaign. General Mac- Arthur, never a fan of the Marine Corps, refused, declaring:
“The use of air on a part of a city occupied by a friendly and allied population is unthinkable. The inaccuracy of this type of bombardment would result beyond question in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. It is not believed moreover that this would appreciably lower our own casualty rate although >• would unquestionably hasten the end of the operation- For these reasons I do not approve the use of air bombardment. ...”
General MacArthur then proceeded to use heavy artillery in lieu of close air support, some in indirect, unobserved fire from as far away as 8,000 yards. As a result- much of Manila was razed, U. S. forces suffered heavy casualties, and more than 100,000 Filipino civilians were killed.
► In the course of the 1965-68 Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara justified his decision for refusing the recommendation of the JCS to attack 94 fixed targets associated primarily with North Vietnamese war-related manufacturing, import, and storage, instead concentrating al' most exclusively on interdiction of lines of communica' tion outside populated areas by arguing that “There is n° basis to believe that any bombing campaign, short of one that has the population as its target, would . . . force H°
Chi Minh into submission.” An intention of McNamara s statement was to imply that there were only two courses of action, that of the JCS and his “humanitarian” bombing program. The JCS never recommended attack of the civil' ian population, and their recommendations met with substantial success when subsequently executed during the 1972 Linebacker I campaign of bombing North Vietnam- Not until recent years has it come to light that McNamara’s refusal to accept the JCS recommendation was based not on humanitarian concerns but on his belim from the outset that the Vietnam War could not be won, and that air power could contribute nothing to winning h- His constraints ensured a self-fulfilling prophecy.
► During the planning of the 1986 U. S. air strike again*1
jj^'Very and damage effects, it also demanded ------------
^rtect execution and, ultimately, forced several crews not ^ ""mb. One of the F-l 1 Is actually made the long flight ^Tripoli, acquired the target, and overflew it, all the ^ nile endeavoring to regain systems redundancy in order accomplish that which they had worked so hard to do. It as a case of the best being the enemy of the good; an j eremphasis on prevention of collateral damage resulted substantial force degradation.
for it is not
c . — for those planning and/or exe-
'"8 a mission to “take all measures to minimize collat-
. requirement enhanced the accuracy of the weapons
for “all,” but the effect has been equally nega-
errorist-related targets in Libya, a debate occurred among ^CinCEur planners over the feasibility of attacking Zlziyah Barracks, even though it was Colonel Gadhafi’s Pr|ncipa] command and control headquarters for his terror- 'st operations and by far the most important target of the ,'Ve ultimately selected for attack. Those opposed to its attack, whatever their underlying reason, couched their °Pposition in terms of concern for collateral civilian casu- les> even though a Gadhafi-imposed curfew limited the n"rnber of civilians likely to be in the vicinity at the time j. attack. Although Aziziyah Barracks was approved r attack, a subordinate Air Force headquarters imposed P°n the F-l 1 IF crews the requirement that all target acquisition systems had to be operable in order to bomb, (Qen though systems redundancy was unnecessary in order 0 k°mb accurately. While an argument may be made that
a ^ 'elated issue is the frequent admonition rue rule of engagement
c'vilian casualties,” or words to that effect. In recent rs the statement has been amended to substitute “reae while causing confusion at planning levels. The state- ty, nt *s a throwback to the Rolling Thunder campaign, pi ?"> as General John W. Vogt, U. S. Air Force, ex- "led it, “Every single target was weighed for the im- n1 °n the press, public opinion, collateral damage, and °n whether the mission would help us win the war.” "e requirements placed on the F-l 1 IF aircrews illustrate the confusion that continues to surround this admonition, as concern for collateral civilian casualties superseded mission accomplishment. The admonition should be purged from the system. It incorrectly implies that there are missions in which U. S. forces would not take reasonable measures to minimize collateral civilian casualties, consistent with mission accomplishment and security of U. S. forces. It also places a disproportionate burden on U. S. forces not required by the law of war.
The principal objective of any attack is target destruction with force survival. The admonition against civilian casualties tends to place undue emphasis on one aspect of strike planning with a concomitant de-emphasis on mission accomplishment and force survival. It neglects the common sense fact that minimization of collateral civilian casualties is a shared responsibility of attacker, defender, and the individual civilian, but one that in many respects is beyond the control of each; the attacker has the least control over it.
Perhaps some fault lies in peacetime puffing as to accuracy of new weapon systems; certainly “surgical strike” in terms of striking a pinpoint target in a heavily defended urban area where that target is commingled with other buildings presents something less than an accurate picture of the capabilities of any nation, and mission planners briefing the National Command Authority (NCA) should disabuse the NCA of any thoughts to the contrary. But insertion of this admonition into strike guidance or ROE accomplishes nothing other than causing confusion or, as occurred in the F-l 1 IF strikes against Libya, a minimally successful mission. For very good reason, the statement does not exist in the JCS Worldwide Peacetime ROE. It
should be erased forever from the list of tack-on ROE that have acquired a life of their own and are considered “boilerplate.”
Higher authority interest may have a disproportionate effect on ROE. The temptation of authorities above the operational level to micromanage combat operations has fluctuated. This factor is highly personality dependent. Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, as CinCPac, and the JCS were unsuccessful in remedying Secretary of Defense McNamara’s tight, personal control over the target selection process during Rolling Thunder. The hand of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was very apparent during the August 1974 noncombatant evacuation of U. S. and foreign nationals from war-torn Cyprus, the Mayaguez recovery, and the 1976 tree-cutting incident in the Korean demilitarized zone. In contrast, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John W. Vessey, Jr., was extremely successful in insisting upon and enforcing a “hands-off” attitude during the 1983 Grenada operation.9
The political sensitivity of a mission may affect the degree of higher authority interest. The detailed control of the Marine peacekeeping force in Beirut by members of the National Security Council, the Department of Defense and State, the JCS, USCinCEur, and the U. S. Ambassador in Lebanon—with a continuous stream of congressional “fact finders,” newsmen, and other kibitzers visiting the unit superimposed over an already-crowded scene—attested to the extreme political sensitivity of the mission assigned to the Marines, and had a debilitating effect on mission performance and ROE. Similarly, ROE for the neutral mission of U. S. forces in the Persian Gulf of enforcing international transit rights were heavily influenced by the political ramifications of the mission, as well as the politics of command relationships between CinCPac, CinCPacFlt, and CentCom.
Force selection and ROE may be affected by concern for risk of capture of U. S. personnel. Another legacy from the Vietnam War is the degree of concern frequently expressed for risk of capture of U. S. personnel. From 1965 to 1969, U. S. authorities exhibited a blatant disregard for U. S. military personnel in North Vietnamese and Viet Cong hands, principally because Ambassador Averell Harriman was able to prevail in his insistence upon “quiet diplomacy”—in effect, a decision to say nothing critical of the North Vietnamese in the face of clear evidence that U. S. prisoners of war were being tortured and otherwise mistreated by their captors, in fear that the North Vietnamese government would refuse to negotiate an end to the war.
The organization of the relatives of U. S. personnel lost or captured in Southeast Asia was boosted by the 1969 decision of Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird to “go public” with U. S. charges that were successful in causing the North Vietnamese to curtail their program of abuse. The organization of the next of kin into the National League of Families was to have a substantial influence on the Nixon administration to end the war and repatriate the prisoners of war as quickly as possible; this in turn influenced President Richard Nixon’s decision to execute Linebacker II, the 12-day B-52 and tactical air strike against targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area.
The political influence of this group continues to this day as the debate rages over the missing in action from the Vietnam War. Incidents of hostage taking in Teheran and Beirut also have contributed to a fixation by some with avoidance of capture of U. S. military personnel at all costs. President Jimmy Carter made the decision to send a rescue force into Teheran in 1980, notwithstanding the risk of adding to the number of hostages already there, however, the alternative of doing nothing in the face of the daily press announcement of “ days since the hos
tages were taken” was viewed as worse. The issue resurfaced when Lieutenant Robert Goodman was captured by the Syrians after his A-6E Intruder was downed during the December 1983 air strike into Lebanon. Concern for cap' ture of U. S. personnel was a key factor in selection coastal targets in the 1986 Libyan air strike, and in establishment of ROE that mandated a single pass over the target while prohibiting restrike or reattack. Public speculation over the use of cruise missiles against Iranian Silkworm missile sites during U. S. operations in the Persian Gulf or against the Libyan chemical weapons plant at Rabta have been prompted by this concern.
During the Rolling Thunder campaign, minimization ° collateral civilian casualties not only took precedence over but frequently was accomplished at the direct risk of U. S- personnel. While a shift from that standard is welcome, prudence dictates that the pendulum should not swing t0 the opposite extreme. With good intelligence and adequate- planning time, strike leaders have the ability to plan a strike that will accomplish the mission and minimize the risk to U. S. personnel. That should be the mission commander’s responsibility rather than a decision made f°r him at a higher level by elimination of an otherwise viable- force option. ROE frequently will limit a commanders force options due to this concern, however.
Targeting, weaponeering, ROE, and other mission Pa' rameters may be affected by political sensitivities, actu11 or perceived. “Political sensitivities” is a general tern1 used to cover a number of bases for target denial. F°r example, the Hanoi thermal power plant was successfully attacked in 1967. Subsequently the North Vietnaniese housed several U. S. prisoners of war (POWs) in the fad*' ity as hostages to preclude its reattack. It remained oft' limits from attack until confirmation was received that tbe POWs had been removed. The POWs were moved follo'v' ing the Son Tay POW camp rescue attempt in 1970, b11* confirmation of this fact did not occur until some tima later. The target was reattacked during Linebacker II, aI\ remained out of service for the remainder of the war. “ commander selecting targets for attack may not always be privy to the reasons for their exclusion from attack, or f°f ROE that emphasize avoidance of damage to them.
ROE more frequently will contain weapons restrictions- Higher authorities in the United States on occasion haW imposed restrictions on lawful weapons because of poh11' cal sensitivities. The most obvious example are the con-
°t law that can be summarized as follows:
kl a commander, in the light of all information reasona- y available to him at the time, is satisfied that a threat is ijb'e, he is not precluded from exercising his right of defense. Commanders and others responsible for
stfaints placed upon the employment of riot-control agents ar|d herbicides by Executive Order 11850. Politically imPosed ROE do not necessarily follow logic:
In the course of U. S. air operations in Laos, the U. S. Ambassador in Vientiane forbade the use of napalm on the as's that its unique “signature” differed from that of ar- nlery 0r high-explosive bombs and, accordingly, the nited States would lose the plausible deniability of its c°vert campaign in support of the anti-communist Meo fibesmen and against North Vietnamese use of the Ho Chi M'nh Trail.
A* the time of the 1983 Grenada rescue operation, a r^uest was forwarded to the JCS for permission to em. °y r>ot control agents where their use would decrease the r,sk to the civilian population of Grenada. However, real- IZl"§ a key vote on modernization of the U. S. chemical ^eapon deterrence capability was scheduled in the Senate at Week, a response to the request was delayed lest the ar)ticipated reaction to the use of riot control agents on rer>ada undermine the Senate vote.
Summary: Rules of engagement have been and always
II °ffer the potential to be the bane of a mission com- lander’s existence. They need not be, but rather should ^ v>ewed as effective tools for the planning and execution ' 'be mission assigned. Whether they will be is dependent
a myriad of factors, many of which have been raised n 'be preceding pages. The objective was to illustrate '"e of these factors, and to show that these matters may °' always be within the mission commander’s control, j ' is not the purpose of this article to second-guess the pCc>sion of the F-14 aircrews or Captain Rogers to shoot, years ago a German general was tried for combat a'sions he made in the waning days of World War 11. o^c court concluded that his decisions were wrong, based 'be information available to the court years after the Q °f 'he war. But the court declined to judge the accused (b 'be basis of what the court knew; rather, it judged him ^ 'be basis of the facts that were reasonably available to
III at the time. The court’s decision has become a princiho:
Planning, deciding upon, or executing attacks necessarily djV? t0 reacb decisions on the basis of their assessment of at '"formation from all sources that are available to them ' e relevant time.
"les of law aside, there are several lessons to be in !ned ^rom 'be Vincennes incident and the MiG-23 down- L Roe are intended to assist the individual faced with a cntial threat in deciding whether or not an armed re- llj ?Se *S necessary; no amount of rules can substitute for
judgment of that individual, and ROE are not intended 0 do So.
" Preparing ROE for a particular situation, threat, or ai|Cra'ion, less always is better than more, in order to in°w 'be individual in the “hot seat” maximum latitude r"aking decisions when being confronted with a threat.
Any additional ROE implementing the national ROE or the standard guidance regarding the right of self-defense should be prepared at the lowest possible level—but coordinated with higher authority whenever possible. In turn, higher authority has an obligation to assist subordinates in understanding their mission and ROE.
As the preceding pages suggest, there is no magic formula for addressing or preparing ROE, and there are a myriad of additional factors that may enter into the equation. While for this reason ROE may remain somewhat unpredictable, in the end the best guarantee for successful rules of engagement is the same as for military operations in general: thorough preparation and coordination at all levels.
‘Examination of the Vincennes incident is based upon the unclassified investigation report, the transcript of the 19 August 1988 press conference held by Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci and JCS Chairman Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., and articles by Martin Hill in the January and February 1989 issues of San Diego Magazine. The MiG-23 encounter is based upon Pentagon press conference transcripts. Based upon the unclassified Navy investigation and a report of the House Armed Services Committee, the 17 May 1987 Iraqi attack on the Stark is regarded as a failure to follow prescribed procedures rather than a failure of ROE. See also M. Vlahos, “The Stark Report,” Proceedings/Naval Review, May 1988, pp. 6367. As noted, however, the Stark attack had a chilling effect on interpretation of ROE authority at the cutting edge.
2The International Law of the Sea (London, 1984), p. 1109.
•'In contrast, during the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas War, the United States regularly informed the two belligerents of the location of U. S. vessels and Liberian tankers owned by U. S. interests, even when those vessels were well outside the war zones declared by Argentina and Great Britain; each ship regularly notified Argentine and British authorities, providing the ship’s name, international call sign, registry, position, course, speed, and voyage description. Notwithstanding these precautions, the tanker Hercules was attacked repeatedly over a period of three hours by Argentine fighter aircraft on 8 June 1982 while 500 miles from the Falklands and 600 miles from Argentina, well outside the Argentine war zone. Severely damaged, she eventually was scuttled.
4A more detailed discussion of the development of the peacetime rules of engagement and U. S. operations against Libya is contained in H. Parks, “Crossing the Line,” Proceedings, November 1986, pp. 40-52.
5“Police Discretion: The Limits of Law Enforcement,” The World & 14,1 (January 1989), p. 564.
6A. Roach, “Rules of Engagement,” Naval War College Review 36,1 (January- February 1983), pp. 46-55. Emphasis in original text. JCS Pub. 1 defines rules of engagement as “directives that a government may establish to delineate the circumstances and limitations under which its own naval, ground, and air forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with enemy forces.”
7Joint Doctrine for Theater Counterair Operations (1 April 1986), p. III-7. Fratricide is grammatically incorrect, as it involves the murder (i.e., an unlawful rather than accidental killing) of a brother or sister. A 1982 Army study coined the term amicicide. Shrader, “Amicicide: The Problem of Friendly Fire in Modem War,” US Army Command & General Staff College Studies Institute Research Survey No. 1 (1982).
8An excellent discussion of this point is contained in M. Spick, The Ace Factor (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988), p. 3.
^The Joint Chiefs of Staff personally drafted the ROE for the mission:
► Use force and weapons as may be essential to mission accomplishment.
► Minimize disruptive influence of military operations on the local economy commensurate with mission accomplishment.
► Execute essential tasks rapidly with minimum damage and casualties.
► Treat Cuban/Soviet nonbelligerent civilians with the same respect provided other civilians.
In his civilian position as Chief of International Law in the Office of The Judge Advocate General of the Army, Colonel Parks has been involved in writing rules of engagement for more than a decade. He participated at the Washington level in the planning for the 1981 and 1986 operations against Libya described in this article. Occupant of the Charles H. Stockton Chair of International Law at the Naval War College in 1984-85, Colonel Parks lectures on rules of engagement at the service, staff, and war colleges and the Naval Strike Warfare Center.