Courageous Restraint?


Hoping to win more hearts and minds in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its NATO allies are planning a commendation to recognize “courageous restraint” among troops in the field. According to a NATO statement, the goal would be to “celebrate the troops who exhibit extraordinary courage and self-control by not using their weapons.”

What an apt metaphor for the Age of Obama. If there is a coherent theme to President Obama’s foreign policy, it seems to be constraining and restraining American power.

Consider the “New START” agreement. From Moscow’s perspective, New START will constrain the U.S. from building and deploying additional missile defenses. New START, according to the Russian interpretation, will “be viable if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile-defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively.”

Where would the Russians get that idea, if not from the administration? And if this is so, then it means the administration is unable to recognize that missile defense is, by definition, defensive. In other words, the goal of missile defense is to constrain America’s enemies.

Then there’s the related issue of the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which is all about constraining the United States. Among other things, the NPR pledges that the United States:

Will not conduct nuclear testing, and will seek ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,

will not develop new nuclear warheads, and

will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

Obama’s NPR also removes the protection afforded by what Defense Secretary Robert Gates calls “calculated ambiguity.” “If a non-nuclear-weapon state is in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty and its obligations,” Gates explains, “the U.S. pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it.” Instead, such an enemy “would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response”—even if that enemy “were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners.”

“Calculated ambiguity” has kept America’s enemies on notice and off balance for decades—and, not coincidentally, has kept America and American forces safe from nuclear, biological or chemical attack. As Eisenhower counseled at the beginning of the nuclear age, quoting Gen. Stonewall Jackson, “Always surprise, mystify and mislead the enemy.”

Obama clearly doesn’t subscribe to that commonsense view. In fact, he recently took a huge step in the opposite direction by revealing the size of America’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, the likes of North Korea and Iran play games with the world—and appear to be under no constraints whatsoever.  For instance, in the past 12 months, North Korea has detonated a nuclear weapon, test-fired long-range missiles and blown a South Korean ship out of the water, killing 46 sailors.

Likewise, Iran has shown no restraint in response to Washington’s restraint. Last summer, as the Iranian people rose up against a sham election and as Ahmadinejad’s henchmen crushed the popular revolt, the President was virtually silent. The sad irony of the President’s restrained reaction to the Twitter Revolution was that it answered his own rhetorical question of a year before, albeit in a manner his supporters would never have imagined. “Will we stand for the human rights of…the blogger in Iran?” he asked during his 2008 rock-concert speech in Berlin. Last summer provided the answer.

And it gets worse. When evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear-fuel plant came to light last autumn, there was no reaction from the White House. In fact, it was French president Nicolas Sarkozy who spoke up: “Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council resolutions…An offer of dialogue was made in 2005, an offer of dialogue was made in 2006, an offer of dialogue was made in 2007, an offer of dialogue was made in 2008, and another one was made in 2009…What did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing.”

Perhaps nowhere is the policy of restraint and constraint on better display than in Afghanistan itself. German forces, for instance, refer to a seven-page guidebook before engaging the enemy. Until mid-2009, they were even required to shout warnings to enemy forces—in three languages—before opening fire. The joys of coalition warfare.

The president has told us, over and over, that Afghanistan is a “war of necessity.” It was so important, as the New York Times reported, that the president gave his military commander “extraordinary leeway” and “carte blanche” control to choose “a dream team of subordinates.”

But when Gen. McChrystal asked for the resources necessary to win this war of necessity, the president balked. Then, after a lengthy re-review of his own policy, the president concluded that “it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan,” before promising that “after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

Of course, vital national interests don’t have expiration dates, and letting the Taliban know when the U.S. military will end its offensive won’t make victory any easier to achieve. But victory is probably not the goal in this era of constraint and restraint. As the constrainer-in-chief himself puts it, “I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory.’”

That brings us back to NATO’s “courageous restraint” idea.

The notion that there needs to be a commendation for restraint is based on the false and faulty premise that U.S. forces haven’t used restraint to date. In fact, as Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis told Navy Times, “Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians.”

Indeed, the U.S. military is so self-restrained that the world doesn’t even notice. Just think about what happens when the U.S. military makes what we civilians, from 7,000 miles away, call a mistake: It court-martials people, changes target sets, scrubs missions, orders bombing pauses, investigates, apologizes and invests in ever-more precise weapons to prevent mistakes.

The fact is, the American military of today is the most lethal force in history, which makes its self-restraint so impressive. U.S. forces could flatten Kandahar, kill anything that moves in Waziristan, erase all the Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and all the terror camps in Syria, eliminate the North Korean and Iranian thugocracies, and turn Mosul into glass—all in less than 24 hours. But they don’t do those things. The reason? Thankfully, the means are as important as the ends to Americans and their military.

This is not an argument for shooting first and asking questions later or for countenancing battlefield brutality. Rather, it’s a reminder that U.S. forces in Afghanistan are already holding their fire enough. They already think twice before squeezing the trigger. We shouldn’t expect them to think three times.

The people who know best—those who have served—worry about the unintended consequences of rewarding and thereby encouraging “courageous restraint.” As Clarence Hill, national commander of the American Legion, observes, “Too much restraint will get our own people killed.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis adds, ominously and presciently, “The creation of such an award will only…put more American and noncombatant lives in jeopardy. Let’s not rush to create something that no one wants to present posthumously.”

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.

  • Irene Faulkes

    Is he clinically insance?

    • 1minuteman

      no he knows exactly what he is doing. this is part of the reason we are not winning this war. he is getting alot of our finest killed with his insane rules of ingagement. i think he is intentionally spreading our forces thin. i think thats why the general did not get all the troops he asked for.

  • Stefcho

    If Obama wants restraint he should send in social services.

  • Villagelights

    So The United States of America is going to issue its armed forces red uniforms and have them march in straight rows, while the enemies of Freedom everywhere are hiding and firing from behind fences, trees, and hedgerows. Great idea! Uh-huh!
    I believe this call for "civilized warfare" has been made before. Didn't work out very well then, or so I'm told. But for some reason, these same people keep trying it over and over, expecting different results —— THIS TIME it will work. Oh yeah.
    Look, we do not have enough blood to shed merely to demonstrate to this next crop of True Believers that handing out flowers and chocolates will not win world peace. Just as one cannot fully educate and transform every bantam chicken in every poultry yard on the planet, even so we cannot afford to waste our time dealing with and supporting the enemy that lives in our campuses, high schools, grade schools, media and day care facilities.

  • al Kidya

    Has anyone ever suspected that President Obama, who is loathe to the U.S. army, might be sending 30,000 additional troops over to Afghanistan as lambs to the slaughter?
    Perhaps that is his closet Muslim agenda to rid the U.S. of its armed forces?
    Then the U.S. will be almost defenceless.
    Even Osama bin Laden was pleased that, after 9/11 he had succeeded in luring the U.S. to certain death in Afghanistan.
    "Something is rotten in Denmark".

    • Turbeaux

      "Even Osama bin Laden was pleased that, after 9/11 he had succeeded in luring the U.S. to certain death in Afghanistan."

      No, OBL got lucky, you give OBL far more credit than he deserves. Had Bush not been a political correct moron and actually understood Islam, he would have limited the mission in Afghanistan to the eradication of OBL and AQ ONLY in retaliation for 9/11 without becoming sidetracked by jumping into the middle of a jihad between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban in a fantasy based plan to democratize the Islamic world.

      Indeed, had Bush actually understood the nature of the jihad we are in, he would have aided the Northern Alliance instead, but not so much as to give them a distinct advantage over the Taliban, but instead just enough to prolong the jihad as long as possible, as Muslims killing each other inside the Dar al Islam is good for the Dar al Harb (us) and bad for the Dar al Islam (them).

  • clyde

    He's certainly beginning to fit into his new title, "BASTARD IN CHIEF".

    • RFYoung

      Maybe we should be more careful and not elect bastards. No father, no country, no honor, and who knowa what God, and we elected him President and leader of the free world. We must think so little of our forfathers and ourselves.

  • SFLBIB

    A friend of mine was a member of the National Guard called up for the Watts Riots. He told me that old "Light Bulb" Johnson [LBJ] ordered that they not be given ammunition, but he carried his own anyway, as probably many others did. The PBS documentary on LBJ said he was afraid a Guardsman would shoot a pregnant "n****r woman".

    I hadn't heard that any women were killed, let alone pregnant ones, so I guess our troops are smarter than LBJ gave them credit for; and I suspect that is the case here today.

    • trickyblain

      Think this caution had something to do with NG troops opening fire on college students in Ohio?

      • TLH

        no. nixon was pres. when this happened at kent state:
        Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
        We're finally on our own.
        This summer I hear the drumming
        Four dead in Ohio."
        Use this ditty to remember to keep the facts straight.and don't confuse caution with naivete.

        • TLH

          naivete with caution…

  • RiverRat2U

    Ideological fools are running America and trying to destroy our Armed Forces and the Country. The Desk jockies in Washington did the same thing in Nam. It is time to pull our troops out of NATO,Afgan and Iraq and let Islam prevail instead of American imposed human secularism.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom1925 tom1925

    This watermelon jockey a bunch of fools elected to 'lead' America has never had even a fist fight because he has a 'yellow' streak down the middle of his back. Restraint in combat will get our folks into trouble. Second place in a gun battle is chalked uo as a loss. Butt out numbnuts and let the military do their job for which they are so superbly trained and dedicated. Your only 'combat' should be limited to a bitch slapping contest with some of the pansies in your administration like let's say Janet Napolitano or maybe Eric Holder.

    Tom Davis, Colonel, USA (ret)

  • USMCSniper

    We Marines have rule in combat regarding these ridiculous politically correct rules of engagement. "It is better to be judged by 12 for murder than is to be carried by 6 for courageous restraint!"

  • Murky

    These are the war standards that Israel has been forced to operate under for decades. Welcome to the upside down world where democracies under siege from genocidal terrorists and dictatorships are expected to tolerate those who want to annihilate them.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JosephWiess JosephWiess

    So, with the Courageous Restraint, our enemies will attack a major city with chemical or biological weapons, but the great appeaser, Obama will not allow us to retaliate, even as millions die. He has bowed to foreign leaders and sided with evil people in the face of our allies.

    Doesn't this in someway equate to treason and shouldn't Obama and the democrats be arrested and tried?

    • trickyblain

      No. It's pretty much the same as the people y'all wanted arrested and tried for treason b/c they opposed the Iraq adventure. just because you disagree with people, it doesn't mean they are guilty of treason.

      • rib/eve

        This isn't about disagreeing with your point of view. It's about deliberately putting America in a disadvantaged position to defend herself. And putting troops on the ground in harms way all the while expecting them to die instead of fight.

        Yes it is treason. What are the steps for dealing with these people? It's not just voting, that will be a done deal. There must be a mechanism for us to immediately throw the bums out and try them in a court of law.

  • sighalot

    can i post?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JosephWiess JosephWiess

    Not really. Because I was never for arresting people for practicing their first amendment rights. They had the right to protest against the war and stand up for their beliefs. However, what Obama is doing is going against 200 years American Tradition.

    We have always been the shining city on the hill, the place that stood against tyrants and murderers, and now Obama is trying to turn us into that den of thieves and murderers, and people are blindly following him.

  • Thalpy

    I doub that there has ever been such crap. Get in or get out. It's simple really. Either you is or you ain't. Don't continue to insult our youth with your pipe dream bull____.

  • Mike

    Colonel Davis thanks for your service. My oldest son is in the A.F. right now. In regards to the Bitch Slapping Contest— my money is on Napolitano?

  • http://www.theworldofgreasywrench.blogspot.com rich b

    And I bet you posters all the thought the sissyfied depiction of the police in the movie "Demoliton Man" was fiction. Now we know where Omama gets his insane ideas – Hollywood. From now on the weapon of choice for our Military will be harsh language. Get this fool out of office or we're doomed!

    • TLH

      From now on the weapon of choice for our Military will be harsh language….

      you mean, GASP! you will push the HATE SPEECH BUTTON! NOOOOO!

      Get this fool out of office or we're doomed!

      LBJ must go! Wait a minute, let's see- Tin soldiers and….

  • Turbeaux

    It was absolutely insane to announce to the Taliban that we would leave Afghanistan in 18 months. I mean all the Taliban has to do is lay low for 18 months and then they are home free.

    Nevertheless, McChrystal’s plan never had a chance of success to begin with. Whoever heard of winning a war by winning hearts and minds and the hearts and minds of Muslims who are obligated to hate our kafir infidel guts no matter what per their religion?

    In any event, our mission in Afghanistan is exceedingly counterproductive to say the least, as Afghanistan, like also Iraq, will inevitably rejoin the global jihad as soon as we leave anyway, as Sharia has been enshrined in both their respective constitutions.

    Both fantasy based missions were totally misguided from the very get go anyway and never really had a chance of being successful because they were both based on idiotic asinine assumptions about the nature of the war we are in that are not grounded in reality. Namely, the fact of the matter is Islam is not a Religion of Peace™ that is being hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists. That was absurd back when Bush first said it and it is just as absurd today.

    Not to mention that no one wins wars by nation building and especially when those nation-building missions are completely fantasy based. I hope America learns its lesson, but if Obama and Bush both have their way, America will never find out the truth.

  • Armando

    America, wake up! Your president is bringing the world closer to Armageddon with his wimpy policies.Unbelievable! With all the talk of his high I.Q. he hasn't an iota of common sense. Most leaders are laughing behind his back and the dictators of the world are rubbing their hands in glee. Ineffectual Quotient is probably what I.Q. stands for in his case.

  • jemc50

    Our "Commander in Chief" really doesn't like the military. He needs to quit pretending he does. He would rather have an "international system".

    No wonder two-bit countries like North Korea and Iran tweak with the U.S. all the time.

    And, hey Taliban, just go low key for the next 18 months. Then, you can reemerge and claim victory for running us out of town.

    • guest

      I have long considered Obama to be the BIGGEST threat to Western security in decades. Bigger than America's enemies. That Americans voted this character in is unbelievable and I can't imagine how anyone could have been swayed by his wooden rhetoric. As for his "intelligence," I simply don't see it. Take the initial decision to hold the trial for the 9/11 "mastermind" in New York City, putting a bulls eye on New York as THE prime target for an Islamic terror attack as well as probably bankrupting the city with the massive security measures that would have been required. Duh…real smart, Obama, real smart. Only when New Yorkers rebelled en masse did Obama and his handlers reconsider that move. Again, it was an IDEOLOGICAL decision–removed from pragmatic reality. We would SHOW the world how democratic we were by bringing this monster back to the scene of his crime!! I personally think Obama has been one of the dumbest people to reside in the White House for ages and ages. I hope the counter-reaction to this dangerous cadre in the White House is massive this coming year, before America truly hits bottom. His arrogance is extraordinary and after miles of lies, the Great Uniter has created THE most divisive population I can recall.

  • Ted

    Imagine given the duty of presenting the grieving family of a fallen Soldier/Marine/Sailor/Airman a medal for "restraint." For an action which most likely got him killed? I would throw that medal on the ground and piss on it. In front of the President if he were there.

    This is madness. Have I died and gone to Bizarro World?

    If this president wants to be president of a third-rate country, then let him move to one (Like Kenya) and be happy there.

  • Ted

    What next? A medal of honor for letting your men die in front of you because if you had intervened it may have caused some civilians to be harmed? We've come a long way from Tokyo, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now, with these new rules, we would be giving out medals to those who refused to enlist after 12/7/1941.
    The Russians have got to be loving this president of ours and laughing their butts off. Same with China. And North Korea. And Iran. Who knows? Maybe POTUS has directed the National Command Authority to target our American cities because of past wrongs. He obviously would never bow to an American.

  • chets1girl

    So, now Obama wants to both pay our military less AND get them killed quicker. Any more proof needed that he is an unAmerican President? Impeach him now!

    • pasbanit

      I am soooo glad I got out of the military years ago. This country does not deserve the sacrifice of its soldiers and marines any longer. We now have a weak, flaccid, equivocating country, incapable of appreciating, or even defending itself, its borders, its culture and its traditions. I fervently

  • Shellback

    I am soooo glad I got out of the military years ago. This country does not deserve the sacrifice of its soldiers and marines any longer. We now have a weak, flaccid, equivocating country, incapable of appreciating, or even defending itself, its borders, its culture and its traditions. I fervently wish another country had a 2nd Amendment so I could move there and try to ignore what these destroyers are doing to this once-proud nation. Good bye Sweet America.

    • coyote3

      You certainly have a point about the American people not being worthy of the members of its military. I saw this coming a long time ago. Problem is, now, the American people are not even supportive of their civilian law enforcement. So, they have slipped to even greater unworthiness. Fortunately, for me, the USBPS did not get politically correct until the end of my career. Until that time is was the last bastion of the pistolero.

      Of course, what do you expect from a country that was invaded by Iran. That invasion has yet to be responded to by successive administrations, and no one cares.

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    America, wake up! Your president is bringing the world closer to Armageddon with his wimpy policies.Unbelievable! With all the talk of his high I.Q. he hasn't an iota of common sense. Most leaders are laughing behind his back and the dictators of the world are rubbing their hands in glee. Ineffectual Quotient is probably what I.Q. stands for in his case.