When you decide to go to war, make sure you go ball’s deep. In my segment on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, I focused on the frustrations that I hear from milblogs to MSM reports to reports from my own sources that the ROEs have devolved to the point of absurdity and our forces are more fearful of UCMJ violations than they are of enemy insurgents. This devolution of the ROEs in Iraq originated from an institutional CYA instinct by the DOD and senior commanders resulting from sensationalist media coverage of such events as Abu Ghraib, CIA "secret prisons", and various manufactured Gitmo abuse claims.
The Ethiopian Army has imposed no such constraints on itself and is doing to islamist forces in Somalia in days what the UN, and the US weren’t able to achieve in years. Reports from the front indicate that the Islamic Courts who had been administering sharia law in Mogadishu have surrendered and fled the city in advance of the Ethiopian assault. Obviously, the Ethiopian Army’s combat power, training, and capabilities are a mere fraction of ours and yet they are decisively defeating a fanatical and entrenched enemy in an urban environment. Why?
Off the top of my head, I would say that Ethiopia is not afflicted with a pernicious and defeatist media machine that is capable of manipulating public opinion, and even if it was, it doesn’t look like the Ethiopian president would give a damn in any case. The word that comes to mind is resolve. When a leader resolves to send men into battle, he is obligated to withstand the criticism of the media so that the troops who are withstanding hostile fire from the enemy are able to decisively defeat that enemy. This is the area where the President, Rumsfeld, and the Generals have been found wanting. Wars cannot be won with restrictive ROEs that allow the enemy to use our self imposed limitations against us. If the situation dictates that ROEs of this type must be employed, then it has not yet reached a point where combat troops are warranted.
This vicious cycle, in my opinion, is a primary reason for our difficulties in Iraq and the reversal of these policies, meant to protect military commanders and administration officials from criticism, would end up being the best "way forward" strategy that we could employ.