Yesterday (April 23), my good friend and fellow Military Vet, Streiff, published a great synopsis and analysis of the recent incident on our Southern Border. Mexican Soldiers crossed into the United States and disarmed two U.S Army Soldiers, a Sergeant and a Private, before ultimately letting them go and returning back to the Mexican side of the border. Streiff draws some pretty interesting conclusions regarding the on-the-ground situation. Please take the time to read his piece to get situational awareness before reading this one.
Today I had the pleasure of calling in to the David Webb show on Sirius XM. Webb (who is a former Marine) and I had a pretty decent discussion about the Rules Of Engagement (ROE) on the Southern Border. We also chatted about a concept I learned during my last two tours over in the Sandbox: The Strategic Private.
Normally when we think of “strategic,” we think of star bedecked Generals and gray-haired civilian politicians in suits, not some 19-year-old kid. After all, 19-year-olds don’t make strategic decisions…or do they? A Strategic Private is a Soldier* (could even be a Sergeant)who does something or is involved in something that comes to National or even International attention, thus bringing unwanted opprobrium on his superiors. One infamous and internationally known example is Private Lynndie England, who posed for a picture holding a leash around an Arab prisoner’s neck at Abu Ghraib prison. This among other pictures of Conduct Unbecoming by our Troops at Abu Ghraib, are in some quarters credited with causing an increase in terror attacks on U.S citizens.
Our most recent Strategic Privates are an Army Sergeant and Private who while manning a temporary observation position near the border, were detained and disarmed on US soil by Mexican troops. In this case, it’s not at all apparent that these two Soldiers did anything wrong enroute to becoming “strategic.” However, their senior leaders might have—leaders going all the way up to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff whose ROE these young troops are operating under.
Based on a conversation today with a representative from his Public Affairs shop, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the approval authority for the Use Of Force rules now in effect for U.S. Forces and would be the approving authority for any revision of the ROE.
According to the CJCS document issued in 2005 and currently in effect,
Military Members may use deadly force to defend all persons, foreign or domestic, who are faced with imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm, and where lesser means have failed or cannot be reasonably employed.
Such force must be proportional to the provocation and must be reasonable in nature, duration, and scope to the perceived or demonstrated threat.
Furthermore, Military Members may exercise individual self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent.
How does this relate to what happened at the border? For one thing, the U.S. Mexican border is certainly not a small, Company sized outpost in the Sunni Triangle. The Mexicans are generally speaking, our friends. We have a very cordial, military-to-military relationship. On it’s face, “peace time” or “stateside” ROE listed would seem reasonable. In this particular case the ROE appear to be insufficient for the moment. If those Mexican soldiers had been in fact Cartel members in disguise, the result might have been a whole lot worse than a brief search and some national embarrassment.
Going back to Abu Ghraib, I put the blame for a lot of that whole debacle, squarely at the feet of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He’s the one who allowed what we call “General Purpose Forces” (like Military Police) to be directly involved with a CIA prisoner interrogation facility. Generally speaking, the only military folks who should be routinely working with or around the Central Intelligence Agency, are Special Ops types. They have the training and more importantly, the maturity to handle “non-standard” situations. Senior leaders put those young Soldiers in that position (Secretary Rumsfeld) and then failed to adequately supervise them—that’s YOU, COL Karpinski.
To be clear, in no way am I even coming close to implying any sort of misconduct on the part of any of our stellar Troops along the Southern border or their chain-of-command. I just hate seeing young Soldiers put in untenable positions. As of today, the NORTHCOM Public Affairs representative was unaware of any effort to revise the current ROE. I’m sorry to hear that. We don’t need to create any more Strategic Privates because we send them out with ROE that might not be suitable for the mission at hand. We damned sure don’t need any of these fine young folks to come home under a Flag.
*The use of “Soldier” unless otherwise specified, also includes my Brothers and Sisters of the US Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force.
Mike Ford is a retired Infantry Officer who writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters.
Follow him on Twitter: @MikeFor10394583
You can find his other Red State work here.
David Webb is a conservative pundit who can be found on Sirius XM, channel 125, M-F from 9-1200 EST