Commentary Magazine


Topic: Engagement Make Sense Andrew Exum

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Rules of Engagement Make Sense

Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army officer who now blogs at Abu Muqawama, has a good piece explaining why Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s rules of engagement, designed to minimize civilian casualties, make sense. Those rules have been questioned by a few soldiers, parents of soldiers, and, also, right-wing pundits. He points out (as I have in the past) that “Gen. McChrystal had grown convinced that Afghan civilian casualties were taking an immense toll on the NATO mission in Afghanistan.” He explains:

This was not the conclusion of a scholar who had studied war from the comforts of a library, but rather the words of a student-practitioner of combat who had seen everything else in Afghanistan tried and fail. By 2006, when Gen. McChrystal gave up command of the U.S. military’s most elite Special Operations task force, his units were killing the enemy at a cyclical rate — as fast as they possibly could — and it was not making a difference. A friend of mine likes to say that you cannot kill your way to victory in counterinsurgency campaigns, and that is precisely what Gen. McChrystal learned at the helm of the Joint Special Operations Command.

That is something that McChrystal’s critics still do not seem to have learned.

Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army officer who now blogs at Abu Muqawama, has a good piece explaining why Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s rules of engagement, designed to minimize civilian casualties, make sense. Those rules have been questioned by a few soldiers, parents of soldiers, and, also, right-wing pundits. He points out (as I have in the past) that “Gen. McChrystal had grown convinced that Afghan civilian casualties were taking an immense toll on the NATO mission in Afghanistan.” He explains:

This was not the conclusion of a scholar who had studied war from the comforts of a library, but rather the words of a student-practitioner of combat who had seen everything else in Afghanistan tried and fail. By 2006, when Gen. McChrystal gave up command of the U.S. military’s most elite Special Operations task force, his units were killing the enemy at a cyclical rate — as fast as they possibly could — and it was not making a difference. A friend of mine likes to say that you cannot kill your way to victory in counterinsurgency campaigns, and that is precisely what Gen. McChrystal learned at the helm of the Joint Special Operations Command.

That is something that McChrystal’s critics still do not seem to have learned.

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