Paul's Here

Killed by the Rules

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I put this in the Ethics section rather than Current Events because it presents a very real problem that illustrates how altruism is the morality of death in a stark, clear-cut situation.

Killed by the Rules presents the morality of killing innocent civilians during a war, a question that is often hotly debated. This example should go a long way to assist people in conceptualizing what the proper action should be.

On a stark mountaintop in Afghanistan in 2005, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell and three Navy SEAL teammates found themselves having just such a discussion. Dropped behind enemy lines to kill or capture a Taliban kingpin who commanded between 150-200 fighters, the SEAL team was unexpectedly discovered in the early stages of a mission whose success, of course, depended on secrecy. Three unarmed Afghan goatherds, one a teenager, had stumbled across the Americans' position.

This presented the soldiers with an urgent dilemma: What should they do?

For the answer to this question, what were their considerations, what they chose to do, and the consequences, you'll have to read the article in the above link.

An alarm sounds at the end of the article about the actions taken by the SEALS and what it means for America.

It strikes at the core not only of our capacity to make war, but also our will to survive. A nation that doesn't automatically value its sons who fight to protect it more than the "unarmed civilians" — spies? fighters? — whom they encounter behind enemy lines is not only unlikely to win a war, it isn't showing much interest in its own survival.

This is what comes through, loud and ugly, from that mountaintop in Afghanistan, where four young Americans ultimately agreed it was better to be killed than to kill.

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By contrast, compare this idea for a new slogan for the US Army.

The slogan for a while was "an Army of One" -- meant to appeal to a somewhat individualist spirit, I guess. Then it changed to "Army Strong." Ok, that has some machismo to it, but strong in what way? Strong like Jesus, who was willing to endure torture and death?

Picture this commercial: the sound of some hard rock or heavy metal plays over video of enemy vehicles exploding. Then silence as the image fades to black. In white text:

Army. We Blow Things Up.

Simple and to the point: the miltary is a destructive weapon, not a peace-keeping tool or a charity or an assembly of self-sacrificing Christian altruists.

If only...

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I just bought a highly discounted DVD of Rules of Engagement. Not a perfect movie but its theme is exactly about American self-preservation vs. pure modern altruism. It's conceptually similar to Night of January 16th; whether you consider the man on trial to be guilty or innocent depends greatly on your philosophy.

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I agree that The Rules of Engagement in todays military are against self-preservation, but I would have done things differently than Petty Officer Luttrell. Petty Officer Luttrell was the Leading Petty Officer (LPO), on the mission which means that he was the highest ranking person in that situation. The article states that the SEALs knew all about the conduct that is expected under The Rules of Engagement which, for me, means that I would have already had this discussion with my men. This was also a clandestine operation that few people should have known about. Given this context and if I was the LPO, I would have killed those goatherders and not had to think twice about it. As the LPO, I would have been responsible for the safety of my men and the accomplishment of the objective. I find it almost unfathomable to think that these men could not have quitely slit the throats of three goatherders and kept it all to themselves.

SEALs are an extremely tight group of men, or they used to be. A person that wants to become a Navy SEAL has to make it through 6 months of training before they graduate from BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School). After graduation from BUDS they still are not considered a SEAL by the other SEAL Team members until they make it through many more months of training. It is not until these final months of training that they earn the SEAL Trident by being approved by their contemporaries, the men/warriors they are going to work, fight and live with.

This is an example of how an irrational philosophy and ethics arrest the minds and actions of people causing death.

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By contrast, compare this idea for a new slogan for the US Army.

Some Marine Corps recruiting slogans.

" We didn't promise you a rose garden."

"We'd promise you sleep deprivation, mental torment, and muscles so sore

you'll puke, but we don't like to sugar-coat things."

"Superior thinking has always overwhelmed superior force."

"If you want to fight, join the Marines."

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The first chapter of Marcus Luttrell's book Lone Survivor can be found here.

PaulsHere is correct, putting this subject in the ethics thread instead of the current events thread was the right thing to do.

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Here is what happens when a squad leader decides to kill the enemy.

Marine to Testify Against Squad Leader

Wuterich was charged with murdering 18 Iraqis in a bloody combat operation that left 24 Iraqi civilians dead, but at the outset of his hearing Thursday, prosecutors withdrew one murder count.

Dela Cruz also was charged with murder, but prosecutors dismissed his charges and gave him immunity to testify against Wuterich.

The case centers on whether Wuterich, who had never experienced combat before, acted within Marine rules of engagement when he shot the men by the car, then led his squad in a string of house raids.

Wuterich asserts that he was following combat rules and that he attacked the houses because he thought gunfire was coming from them.

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Here is what happens when a squad leader decides to kill the enemy.

That is why as a squad leader you are very particular of the people you choose to be a part of your squad.

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I do not want to give anyone the idea that I am blaming Petty Officer Luttrell as I am not. I think it is terrible that he and the rest of his SEAL Team were even put into a situation like the one being discussed. What I was trying to point out is that he is a Navy SEAL which makes him, in my opinion, one of the most highly trained warriors on the planet. Through my own personal experience with SEALs, I have never seen a closer unit of people and why I am somewhat surprised at there unfortunate outcome.

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Through my own personal experience with SEALs, I have never seen a closer unit of people and why I am somewhat surprised at there unfortunate outcome.

Perhaps it's that American military culture has, today, become so deeply affected by modern altruism, which in turn has become part of formal doctrine, ingrained into the soldiers. Quite literally they don't know the right thing to do, and when they try, they up killed by the lethal contradiction between rational self/national-interest, and altruism.

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According to this article, Lt. Michael P. Murphy was in charge of the unit. When the unit needed to decide on what to do they voted. Several questions arise. Is voting on what to do with prisoners a proper course of action? What if they voted to kill the prisoners, who would do the killing? Would the officer in charge lead the way? Would he do the killing or order his men to do it instead? One man said no to the killing. One man abstained. One man said yes to the killing. Why was the tie breaker up to Luttrell and not Murphy? Is there a known incident where an officer in charge of a SEAL unit killed a goat herder to keep his unit from being compromised? If so, was Murphy familiar with this incident? While the interogation was being done, why did the SEALS not communicate with their bosses? Should they have aborted the mission? When they let the goat herders go, why not have back up in flight to their position in case the goat herders informed the enemy?

Luttrell's mission had begun routinely. As darkness fell on Monday, June 27, his Seal team fast-roped from a Chinook helicopter onto a grassy ridge near the Pakistan border. They were Navy Special Operations forces, among the most elite troops in the military: Lt. Michael P. Murphy and three petty officers -- Matthew G. Axelson, Danny P. Dietz and Luttrell. Their mission, code-named Operation Redwing, was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban leader. U.S. intelligence officials believed Shah was close to Osama bin Laden.
The four Seals zigzagged all night and through the morning until they reached a wooded slope. An Afghan man wearing a turban suddenly appeared, then a farmer and a teenage boy. Luttrell gave a PowerBar to the boy while the Seals debated whether the Afghans would live or die.

If the Seals killed the unarmed civilians, they would violate military rules of engagement; if they let them go, they risked alerting the Taliban. According to Luttrell, one Seal voted to kill them, one voted to spare them and one abstained. It was up to Luttrell.

Part of his calculus was practical. "I didn't want to go to jail." Ultimately, the core of his decision was moral. "A frogman has two personalities. The military guy in me wanted to kill them," he recalled. And yet: "They just seemed like -- people. I'm not a murderer."

Luttrell, by his account, voted to let the Afghans go. "Not a day goes by that I don't think about that decision," he said. "Not a second goes by."

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The first chapter of Marcus Luttrell's book Lone Survivor can be found here.

A very interesting account. I especially liked the closing paragraphs:

I am not a political person, and as a Navy SEAL I am sworn to defend my country and carry out the wishes of my commander in chief, the president of the United States, whoever he may be, Republican or Democrat. I am a patriot; I fight for the U.S.A. and for my home state of Texas. I simply do not want to see some of the best young men in the country hesitating to join the elite branches of the U.S. Armed Services because they’re afraid they might be accused of war crimes by their own side, just for attacking the enemy.

And I know one thing for certain. If I ever rounded a mountainside in Afghanistan and came face to face with Osama bin Laden, the man who masterminded the vicious, unprovoked attack on my country, killing 2,752 innocent American civilians in New York on 9/11, I’d shoot him dead, in cold blood.

At which point, urged on by an outraged American media, the military would probably incarcerate me under the jail, never mind in it. And then I’d be charged with murder.

Tell you what. I’d still shoot the sonofabitch.

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Well, it is a good thing that General Arnold did not think the same way as Petty Officer Luttrell, during the bombings of Japan during WW II. I wonder what would of happened if they had a leader like Richard Marcinko or Roy Boehm.

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Well, it is a good thing that General Arnold did not think the same way as Petty Officer Luttrell, during the bombings of Japan during WW II. I wonder what would of happened if they had a leader like Richard Marcinko or Roy Boehm.

In WW II, there were no New Lefters crying over the Germans and Japanese being bombed to oblivion. Their cities were bombed on orders from the top and were entirely sanctioned by the military, by the government, and by most of the American population. What General today would turn Iran to rubble without Presidential orders, even though it's long overdue?

Today American soldiers are put on trial for "murdering civilians" in an active warzone. One question is, why aren't more soldiers actively speaking out against this self-sacrifice?

Luttrell and his team could have presumably killed the goatherders and never reported it, I assume in violation of military protocols. Given the circumstances it was the only logical choice. Therefore the logical choice contradicted protocol. If the military is supposed to be the embodiment of hierarchical chain of command, then the real problem is much, much higher than Luttrell.

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Here is a transcript of a radio interview Luttrell gave.

Lt. Murphy is being considered for the Medal of Honor.

A Marine squad leader who hasn't seen combat reacts to an IED and does what he is trained to do. Kill the enemy. He is being charged for murder. A SEAL Team is discovered during a covert operation. The prisoners are released by a vote. Two men say release the prisoners. One man abstains. One man says kill the prisoners. One of the men who says to release the prisoners becomes known as 'The One.' The OIC, who supposedly is also against the killing, is being considered for the Medal of Honor. A helicopter sent into rescue 'The One' is shot down killing all on board.

What's next? Perhaps a counter-insurgency strategy calling for less force and more cultural understanding.

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What's next? Perhaps a counter-insurgency strategy calling for less force and more cultural understanding.

TO DEFEAT THE TALIBAN Fight Less, Win More

I had served as an infantry officer in Afghanistan in 2001-02 and in Iraq in 2003, but this was my first time on the other end of an American machine gun. It's not something I'll forget. It's not the sort of thing ordinary Afghans forget, either, and it reminded me that heavy-handed military tactics can alienate the people we're trying to help while playing into the hands of the people we're trying to defeat.
The objective in fighting insurgents isn't to kill every enemy fighter -- you simply can't -- but to persuade the population to abandon the insurgents' cause. The laws of these campaigns seem topsy-turvy by conventional military standards: Money is more decisive than bullets; protecting our own forces undermines the U.S. mission; heavy firepower is counterproductive; and winning battles guarantees nothing.
The first tenet is that the best weapons don't shoot. Counterinsurgents must excel at finding creative, nonmilitary solutions to military problems.
Bold is mine.
Said another way: Reconstruction funds can shape the battlefield as surely as bombs. But such methods are still not used widely enough in Afghanistan. After spending more than $14 billion in aid to the country since 2001, the United States' latest disbursement, of more than $10 billion, will start this month. Some 80 percent of it is earmarked for security spending, leaving only about 20 percent for reconstruction projects and initiatives to foster good governance.

I'll provide more information on Nathaniel Fick in a future post.

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More fallout from the Haditha case.

Marines disciplined in Haditha case.

A major general and two senior officers have been disciplined for their roles in investigating the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha in 2005, the Marine Corps said Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, former commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division, has received a letter of censure from the secretary of the Navy for the "actions he took and failed to take" in response to the killings.

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Rick and Phil, if I am correct, I think we are in agreement that being that the ROE are disgusting at best. I also agree that it will take more than a young LPO or even a junior officer to create change. But, this situation is known throughtout the military and as a military member one is given classes on the Geneva Convention policies.

Policies such as, no shooting one's enemy if he is parachuting to the ground as he must be given an oppourtunity to fight fair. I knew some Army Green Berets that had fought in Panama and said that while they were jumping out of the back of the plane rounds went flying into the plane and others were shot while parachuting to the ground. What this also means is that if the enemy is parachuting to the ground and opens up on me, I am not supposed to fire at him until he hits the ground. This type of situation never happened to me, but if it did I can guarantee you that he would have been dead before he reached the ground, Geneva Convention or not.

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Perhaps it's that American military culture has, today, become so deeply affected by modern altruism, which in turn has become part of formal doctrine, ingrained into the soldiers. Quite literally they don't know the right thing to do, and when they try, they up killed by the lethal contradiction between rational self/national-interest, and altruism.

The "American military culture" is a microcosm of American culture at large. Altruism permeates the military, but I do not think it is any more so than the rest of our society. To wit, I taught sophomore college classes. (These students were hardly steeped in military culture or indoctrination. I made a point to ask my students if they would use atomic weapons if the president had authorized their use. Only one student ever said she would.

In my experience, even at the Major-level, most officers are afraid to suggest using nuclear weapons, let alone chemical weapons. I constantly made the case that the most immoral thing I could do would be to let my soldiers die when I had the weapons to prevent it. When I made the statement, they would never respond, positively or negatively. I think most of my students and my contemporaries were/are, much like the SEALS in the story, willing to sacrifice themselves for their enemies, and too blinded by altruism to consider any alternative.

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Rick and Phil, if I am correct, I think we are in agreement that being that the ROE are disgusting at best. I also agree that it will take more than a young LPO or even a junior officer to create change. But, this situation is known throughtout the military and as a military member one is given classes on the Geneva Convention policies.

Hi Ray,

You are correct and I agree that its going to take more than this event to create change. Unfortunately, the individuals that have the power to debate the ROE issue and force change are preoccupied with the latest ethics scandal at USNA.

The Lamar Owens Rape Case

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't.

(In order to read the article you will probably have to register.)

The Owens imbroglio has driven a wedge between Academy alumni. Many applaud Vice Admiral Rempt's handling of a dicey situation, but an unusually vocal contingent is infuriated. (Sept. 2007, Proceedings, p. 24)

While our young men and women are sacrificing their lives and limbs in order to bring democracy to the Middle East, the Navy is concerned with the image of USNA. The fact that the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings has decided to make this an issue is very significant.

"Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't" is, in part, a chronicle of the sexual misconduct case that revolved around Lamar Owens, the great Navy quarterback of recent seasons. The Owens case, for reasons detailed in the story, split the Naval Academy community in ways rarely if ever seen. But much more was at play, and it goes well beyond Owens and the Academy. To this day, as the story by Bradley Olson amply demonstrates, the military still finds itself unable to deal in a consistent and credible manner with sexual misconduct in all its many guises. That's why this tale belongs in Proceedings. The Navy( and the rest of the services) has got to start getting it right.

(Robert Timberg, Editor-in-Chief, p. 4, September 2007 Proceedings)

The U.S. Military is never going to get its ROE or ethics problems right until it rejects altruism and starts applying a proper philosophy that is pro-reason and holds self-interest instead of self-sacrifice as a moral absolute.

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The U.S. Military is never going to get its ROE or ethics problems right until it rejects altruism and starts applying a proper philosophy that is pro-reason and holds self-interest instead of self-sacrifice as a moral absolute.

What's the essence of the scandal, and why has it "split the community"? How does it tie into what I quote above?

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The U.S. Military is never going to get its ROE or ethics problems right until it rejects altruism and starts applying a proper philosophy that is pro-reason and holds self-interest instead of self-sacrifice as a moral absolute.

What's the essence of the scandal, and why has it "split the community"? How does it tie into what I quote above?

The essence of the scandal is that Lamar Owens went out with friends to Baltimore for drinks. The rape victim also from the Naval Academy went out for drinks in Annapolis. According to the article, the victim drank three rum and Diet Cokes, and downed four shots-- two of tequila, one Southern Comfort, and a Kamikaze shooter. I don't know how much Owens had to drink. Owens and the victim return to Bancroft Hall and somehow Owens ends up in the victim's room. Owens admits to having sex with the victim. Having sex in Bancroft Hall is a conduct offense. One of the worst and is grounds for dismissal. The victim several days later decides that she has been raped. This is not the first time this has happened in Bancroft Hall. Now the question that needs to be asked is "Why do Midshipmen drink as much as they do and put themselves in these situations?"

It has split the community because some Alumni still believe that women should not be admitted into the Naval Academy. They blame the women for these scandals not the cause that drives these Midshipmen to drink excessively.

How does this tie into the quote above? These Midshipmen are dealing with the same questions those Navy SEALS had to deal with but in a different context.

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How does this tie into the quote above? These Midshipmen are dealing with the same questions those Navy SEALS had to deal with but in a different context.

My response probably doesn't answer your question. In essence, the two incidents in question are the effect not the cause. Identify the cause and these two problems will go away. I'll have more to say about this later.

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Here's an essay that provides some more information about the ethics problem facing our Navy. If this isn't an Ominous Parallel than I don't know what one is.

Ethics at the Naval Academy: A Summary of the Debate

and

The State-Mandated Religion at the Academy by Default: Secular Humanism

How did this surprising state of affairs arise at the nation's premiere military officer education institution? How did this New Age 'religion' become mandatory at the U.S. Naval Academy? Why is it now the essence of the new 'ethics' program, a required program there? How can secular humanism become the foundational 'religion' for our nation's future core combat naval leadership -- one in which builds TRUST and which America can depend upon to WIN our future wars at sea. A summary set of answers is presented below.

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I read most of that essay, overburdened as it is with (to me) unimportant minutiae. The author is rightly criticizing the injection of New Left philosophy into the US Naval Academy, but this is what he sees as the problem:

One final point on ADM Stockdale's version of the teaching of ethics. And the point is made over and over again, even in articles in the 'Proceedings [2].' "During 1967, five Navy carrier pilots, all members of the Class of 1951, formed the '51 Hanoi Group, the largest Naval Academy class organization in the USNA Alumni Association's North Vietnam Chapter … We made Chuck Gillespie … the Fourth Allied POW Wing's honorary chaplain. Chuck inspired us with his tremendous effort to instill spiritual values in us all and to organize church services throughout the camp. He was a great patriot, a brave pilot and a devout Christian." Indeed, the moral and ethical foundation for most of those who survived those terrible years was Christianity. Not Stoicism. Not Kant. Not any of the world's intellectual philosophers. But Christianity.

This is backed up by General Robbie Risner, USAF (Ret.) who was a senior ranking officer at the Hanoi Hilton. Risner describes how he survived imprisonment and came back with his pride and honor intact [3]. "Someone asked me why I was writing this book and my honest answer is this: I want to show that the smartest and the bravest rely on their faith in God and our way of life. I hope to show how that faith has been tried by fire - and never failed. I would like to say, 'Don't ever be ashamed of your faith, nor of your wonderful heritage." When Mary McCarthy, a liberal American journalist visited North Vietnam, Risner was forced to undergo an interview with her. "She wanted to know what I missed most. I told her a Bible. She asked, 'Don't they give you Bibles?' I said no." Risner's captors would not agree to provide Bibles for the prisoners.

When Risner formulated a set of policies that were to guide those who were in his charge as SRO, he states that "But as important as all of these were, none was more important than the fourth - faith in God. Before imprisonment many of us had been too busy to put God first in our lives. A North Vietnamese prison cell changed that. We learned to feel at ease in talking about God, and we shared our doubts and faith. We prayed for one another and spent time praying together for all kinds of things. Our faith in God was an essential without which I for one could not have made it."

Christianity might be better than the New Left, but smallpox is also better than Ebola. Neither are a philosophy that ought to be taught in an ethics class. Perhaps someday somebody will introduce a rational philosophy at the USNA. I hear that there might be one available. But clearly the author of that article would not consider it, given (bolded) that he blanketly condemns "intellectual philosophers" and wants to introduce more faith into the Academy.

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