As a member of the US military, we’re the cutting edge in the administration’s foreign policy toolbox. Our government is usually quite good at using diplomacy and persuasion to advance our interests or solve problems between other states, but sometimes that fails and we need to resort to the threat of force – sometimes even to actual force. That’s what soldiers, sailors and airmen are here for, and we can be relied on to obey the call when it comes… but there are right and wrong ways to send the military into battle.
Here are a few things America’s leaders would hear from America’s warriors, if they chose to ask.
- Be open about what’s happening. When you send people off to war make sure we know what we’ll be fighting for. Don’t dress it up; if someone’s getting on a C17 to go risk their life for you, they deserve to be told why. If you want to make the Middle East a safer place for America’s allies just say that; don’t make up stories about weapons of mass destruction that aren’t really there. It’ll come back to bite you.
- Give us the tools we need to do the job. When military planners write the list of troops and weapons needed for an operation, it’s based on the real situation on the ground, not a list of things they’d like to have. If the generals tell you they need X divisions and Y combat aircraft to do the job, there’s a reason for that. Don’t fiddle with the numbers for political reasons, because doing that will get people killed. When we invaded Iraq in 2003 the generals warned the government that the force was too small to hold down the country after the fighting finished. They were ignored, and the insurgency got the breathing space it needed to rebuild capability.
- Don’t restrict us unnecessarily. We’re all trained in the laws of armed conflict and, despite a few well-publicized incidents, the military takes these laws incredibly seriously. Commanders and troops at all levels do their best to avoid collateral damage. It really isn’t necessary to add extra restrictive rules of engagement that just make things easy for the enemy and endanger the lives of both US personnel and the local civilians we should be protecting.
- Know when to stay and when to go. Continuing a mission when it’s obvious that nothing more can be achieved is never a good idea. Keeping troops deployed to save pride might look good from a political point of view, but people are going to pay for it with their lives. If we’ve done all we can, bring us home. At the same time, don’t bring us home just to get a boost in the polls. Deployments should be launched or ended based on the facts on the ground, and nothing else.
- Listen to us! We don’t expect to make the big decisions, but we’re the ones out there and we know a lot about what’s going on. If we say the vehicles are too heavy or the rifles don’t have the range, we know what we’re talking about. If we say the people are angry with the USA, it’s based on personal experience. If we say something’s working, it’s because we’ve seen it work. Even if you don’t take our advice, at least listen to it.