News

US Re-Defines Its Rules for War

America's top military leader argues overwhelming military force can be “counterproductive”

U.S. attacks in Afghanistan by Air Force drones like the MQ-9 Reaper have been cut in half to prevent the civilian casualties that can turn into Taliban propaganda victories.
U.S. attacks in Afghanistan by Air Force drones like the MQ-9 Reaper have been cut in half to prevent the civilian casualties that can turn into Taliban propaganda victories.

 

 

America’s top-ranked military officer has laid out new principles to govern how the United States will wage future wars. 

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The new rules - outlined by U.S. Joint Chief of State Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen – draw upon recent experience in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They favor an approach that values a more restrained use of force -- one that safeguards civilian lives.

Powell Doctrine Superseded

Until now, U.S. fighting forces were governed by rules of war enunciated by General Colin Powell in the run-up to the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

The so-called Powell Doctrine held that the American military should be sent to war only when a vital national interest was at stake, when support from the public was assured, and when “overwhelming force” was committed to the effort.

Admiral Mullen argues the use of overwhelming force can be “counterproductive.”

Afghan Reaction

Reaction to the new policy announced last week is generally favorable.

Afghan journalist Nabi Misdaq says it is wise to restrict the use of combat force in Afghanistan, where civilian deaths have outraged the local population and have only strengthened the power of the insurgency.I

It has been the feeling of Special Forces, of CIA people who have been in the country for many years, that force does not pay and it is making them more enemies,” Misdaq said.

Misdaq said the way Western forces have waged war in Afghanistan goes against local value.  Bombing in which civilians are killed, and nighttime home invasions, he said, have been a major source of resentment.

“All this is totally against the honor of the Pashtuns.  It is against their Pashtunwali, their code of behavior,” said Misdaq.  Such policies, he contends, have the effect of creating more enemies every day. 

Misdaq quotes a Pashtun proverb that he said sums up the feeling in Afghanistan:

"As a friend, I will go with you to hell, but as an enemy, I will not go with you to heaven.”

Misdaq suggests the U.S. military is now beginning to appreciate that sentiment.

A British View on the Use of Force

“The British have been pleading with their American counterparts for quite a long time to readjust their policy on the use of overwhelming force,” said British journalist Ian Williams from his post at the United Nations in New York.

Williams said he thinks the main point of the Mullen Doctrine is “Let’s not be doctrinaire….let’s consider the circumstances each time.”

The Powell strategy for waging war at the start of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was labeled by military leaders as “shock and awe.”  The objective of confronting and destroying the armed forces of another state, according to Williams, is no longer applicable.

“It is not what most wars are about nowadays,” said Williams.  “The essence of terrorism,” he said, “is that the terrorists are trying to provoke the state into recruiting people for them.

Williams strongly disagrees with those who call Admiral Mullen’s new philosophy “naïve” and claim it will only perpetuate war and conflict. 

“There are occasions when overwhelming force is necessary,” said Williams. “But above all, you have to bear in mind that every time you have what is euphemistically called ‘collateral damage,’ you are making enemies – and you are not winning the war.”

A Regional Reaction from Pakistan

In Pakistan, where the war on terror and insurgency has reportedly taken tens of thousands of lives, the Mullen Doctrine is being met with considerable relief.

“Admiral Mullen’s very sensitive and sensible directives are welcomed,” said former Pakistani diplomat and journalist Akbar Ahmed.  “The earlier strategy of going all out, all guns blazing, has not really worked,” he observed.

“I know that words like ‘respect’ and ‘dignity’ are being used consistently by people like Mullen and his field commanders – such as General [Stan] McChrystal – and that really is the way to go because America has to be there for the long haul,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed, who chairs the department of Islamic studies at the American University, said he thinks it is not too late to reverse the anti-Americanism that has been building for nearly a decade in some areas of the world as a result of U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

--------------------

Misdaq, Williams and Ahmed were interviewed on VOA Radio's International Press Club

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs