Before you commit U.S. forces, there are certain questions you need to be able to answer. You need an objective that you can define in military terms. Our military knows how to liberate a country, destroy a navy, take down an air force; those are militarily achievable objectives.
A second requirement is to specify rules of engagement. The soldier or marine in the trenches needs ground rules — what we call “rules of engagement” — about how he is to achieve his mission. Whom does he shoot? How much force can he use, and under what circumstances?
You also need to know what constitutes victory. How would you define it? How would you know when you had achieved it? And finally, how do you get out? What’s the end game? How do you wrap it all up? And what’s the cost in terms of American lives in that involvement?
Did the Bush Administration meet these three criteria with Iraq? Certainly, we had specific military objectives, but did we have an overall objective that was definable in military terms? Does simply removing Saddam Hussein from power qualify?
As far as the second question, we did seem to have clear rules of engagement. These were apparently the rules as defined by the U.S. Central Command Combined Forces Land Component Commander in January 2003:
Appendix E: Rules of Engagement for U.S. Military Forces in Iraq:
- On order, enemy military and paramilitary forces are declared hostile and may be attacked subject to the following instructions:
a) Positive identification (PID) is required prior to engagement. PID is a reasonable certainty that the proposed target is a legitimate military target. If no PID, contact your next higher commander for decision
b) Do not engage anyone who has surrendered or is out of battle due to sickness or wounds.
c) Do not target or strike any of the following except in self-defense to protect yourself, your unit, friendly forces, and designated persons or property under your control:
Hospitals, mosques, national monuments, and any other historical and cultural sites.
d) Do not fire into civilian populated areas or buildings unless the enemy is using them for military purposes or if necessary for your self-defense. Minimize collateral damage.
e) Do not target enemy infrastructure (public works, commercial communication facilities, dams), Lines of Communication (roads, highways, tunnels, bridges, railways) and Economic Objects (commercial storage facilities, pipelines) unless necessary for self-defense or if ordered by your commander. If you must fire on these objects to engage a hostile force, disable and disrupt but avoid destruction of these objects, if possible.
- The use of force, including deadly force, is authorized to protect the following:
Yourself, your unit, and friendly forces
Enemy Prisoners of War
Civilians from crimes that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, such as murder or rape
Designated civilians and/or property, such as personnel of the Red Cross/Crescent, UN, and US/UN supported organizations
- Treat all civilians and their property with respect and dignity. Do not seize civilian property, including vehicles, unless you have the permission of a company level commander and you give a receipt to the property