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Old 05-02-2008   #41
Steve Blair
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Default Chivalry versus code of honor

I've never been overly comfortable with the term "chivalry" being used to describe conflicts...if for no other reason than the term itself carries too much mythology and revisionist connotations to be worthwhile (by that I mean that it was used by later generations to define and describe an ideal way of conflict that may never have actually existed). Chivalry could also be very class-distinctive and applied to a certain group or limited groups. Tom's quite right to point out tribal conflicts as containing elements of what we might consider a code of conduct (Marc's more qualified to discuss the fuzzy side than I am, though....), and he's also right in pointing out that those codes vary greatly depending on the culture. To draw on his frontier example, ritualized torture was a common part of many tribal conflicts (the degree varying depending on the tribe in question)...something that was horrifying to the white newcomers. But there were also cases where attacks might be broken off and conflicts ended by an act of bravery (honorable conduct) on the part of one or more warriors.

During the Civil War, Grant was known for his honorable conduct toward his opponents in the Western theater. He had the reputation of demanding unconditional surrender, but on the whole his terms were usually honorable. What tripped his switch (I think) was the growing realization that what he considered honorable conduct (to include sparing certain production facilities) was viewed as weakness by his opponents. This has always been one of the interesting points for me (probably because of my Frontier Army research): the intersection of competing codes of honor and/or conduct. I think it's those collision points that make war even more hellish.
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Old 05-02-2008   #42
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Default Western Civlization

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if for no other reason than the term itself carries too much mythology and revisionist connotations to be worthwhile (by that I mean that it was used by later generations to define and describe an ideal way of conflict that may never have actually existed). Chivalry could also be very class-distinctive and applied to a certain group or limited groups.
That is where I was going. I was thinking about various wars in western history. Beginning somewhere back in the days when chivalry and honor were supposed to be born. For instance, Edward I taking Bruce's wife and daughter, placing them in a cage and hanging them over the wall of his castle. For months if I recall the story correctly. Or the horrific death of Edward II. Or Simon de Montfort and his son being hacked to pieces after surrendering. Or Richard I ordering the massacre of people outside of Acre. Or Henry V cutting off the hands and feet of the resisters.

I could go on. But, if we look at Frontier Warfare, I would say that history points to the subjugation of the native population through very unchivalric acts. The western troops being known to ride into camps and kill everyone and everything. Driving the population before them. we now look askance and question such behaviors based on our modern concept of honor and chivalry, but then these acts were considered proper against a "barbarous" enemy.

Which is reflected in our modern dilemma regarding terrorists or "unlawful combatants" against the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare. We long ago placed such people outside of the "rules" and treated them as such. Today, we question that practice or its practicality, but only due to the type of war we are waging and our very modern ideas of "civilization". Particularly in a war where "lawfare" weighs heavily against "warfare".

Can you imagine the furor had we summarily executed Khalid Sheihk Mohammed? Even after his participation in 9/11 and various other terrorist acts killing hundreds and thousands? Do we now or in the future ever designate someone outside of these boundaries and protections?

Someone brings up WWII so I think that is another good place to reference, even if it is "total war". It is the question of when we deem whole populations outside of the protections of any code. Was fire bombing Dresden an act of chivalry, honor or necessity? Some would justify it by saying it was part of the strategy to break the will of the people and the ability of the enemy to manufacture the equipment for war. In the end, some say it may have shortened the war and saved tens of thousands of lives, even hundreds of thousands. The same thing we say about Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

We killed millions to save how many?

Does a war for survival make certain acts more acceptable and less considerate of such niceties as chivalry and honor?

Which brings me to the point about Luttrel's unit's decision and the fact that there was a decision to be made at all. If we would kill millions to save hundreds of thousands, if they had killed two to save four, is it only a difference because, paraphrasing Stalin, one is a tragedy and millions a statistic?
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Old 05-03-2008   #43
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Can you imagine the furor had we summarily executed Khalid Sheihk Mohammed? Even after his participation in 9/11 and various other terrorist acts killing hundreds and thousands? Do we now or in the future ever designate someone outside of these boundaries and protections?
In a word... No.

KSM was a combatant and Operations Officer at AQ Central. Executing him as an unlawful combatant, criminal or brigand on the battlefield would have been acceptable in the Geneva Convention ... unless I am mistaken they can be shot or hung. However once captured the rules apply. We could have interrogated him, tried him and executed him in less than a year but we decided we knew so little about AQ that we had to throw away any semblance of honor and resort to torture.

I reread the book yesterday and before I fly out the the sandbox today i will get a more detailed reponse up.
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Old 05-04-2008   #44
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I've had the book in my queue for some time, and finally cracked it open this weekend. I'm about 100+ pages in, and to be honest, already pissed off.

I understand that this book is written for a specific audience, but I'm having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that one of our supposedly best-trained special ops warriors would write such ignorant babble about our ROE, where it originates, and the purported "fear" it creates in every young servicemember. Give me a break...

After I read that particular passage, I skipped ahead and read up on the communal "decision" about the compromise. Seems Luttrell (remember, in my opinion) was setting this issue up throughout the whole first part of the book, with the repetition about mortal danger, fanatic jihadists, and "fighting for each other".

If this is Luttrell's true point of view, then I sense some sort of disconnect between a SEAL's "high level of training" and the application of that training. I'll be up front that I have my prejudices, as I have watched team members shooting in live fire (with horrible marksmanship), watched small unit leaders brief a poor MEU-level mission plan, and knew the same embarked element to be compromised twice due to poor fieldcraft. I don't drink the Kool-Aid I guess, even though I wouldn't dare mess with a SEAL in the water.

Does the book (please don't drop a spoiler) at least get better further along?

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Old 05-04-2008   #45
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Default I can endorse your fourth paragraph

on about all counts plus a little. Pinnipeds should probably stay real close to large bodies of water, they can really dangerous there; too far away, not so much -- though ya gotta give 'em credit for testicular fortitude if not super competence ashore...
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Old 05-04-2008   #46
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I'm about 100+ pages in, and to be honest, already pissed off....

I understand that this book is written for a specific audience, but I'm having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that one of our supposedly best-trained special ops warriors would write such ignorant babble about our ROE, where it originates, and the purported "fear" it creates in every young servicemember. Give me a break...

Seems Luttrell (remember, in my opinion) was setting this issue up throughout the whole first part of the book, with the repetition about mortal danger, fanatic jihadists, and "fighting for each other"....

If this is Luttrell's true point of view, ...
I haven't read the book, nor will I. I have relatively little to add to the previous comments, and the big issues that have been raised have been addressed by others better than I could, but just to put one more perspective out there -

Luttrell's co-author, Patrick Robinson, is a bit out there. I read a few of his books back when I was spending a lot of time stuck at airports (anyone who travels much in the US has probably seen his stuff on display), and as time went by, they went from moderately entertraining, Clancy'ish thrillers focused on SEAL and sub ops, to sort of a combination of war porn and right wing blog posts.

It should be noted that the last book I read addressed a semi-coup by the US military due to the anemic response of the newly elected, radical left wing US President in the face of a threat. Said threat was a plot by a renegade SAS operator and his wife, a beautiful female radical Islamist named Shakira, to destroy the eastern seaboard of the US by launching cruise missles into a volcano in the Atlantic ocean. The science actually made more sense than the plot.

Perhaps more relevantly - in another of his books, SEALS kill a couple of civilians who stumble onto their hide site.

I'm a bit embarrassed to be admitting to reading this stuff, but in my defense, they didn't start out like that. I actually threw the last one away, and I NEVER throw books away.

None of this is a defense of Luttrell. He's a big boy, his name is on it, and he did the media tour thing. I just think that there are likely to be multiple agendas in that book. And that Patrick Robinson might not have been the best choice in ghost writers.
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Old 05-04-2008   #47
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Well now, that was very illuminating. Sort of like the back story behind Shooter. Thanks for that.
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Old 05-05-2008   #48
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Originally Posted by Jim Rodgers View Post
Luttrell's co-author, Patrick Robinson, is a bit out there. I read a few of his books back when I was spending a lot of time stuck at airports (anyone who travels much in the US has probably seen his stuff on display), and as time went by, they went from moderately entertraining, Clancy'ish thrillers focused on SEAL and sub ops, to sort of a combination of war porn and right wing blog posts.
AhA! I knew I knew the name. Robinson and I have the same UK editor (- back when Random House published my novel! )

My guess is that Luttrell asked for him, but I am guessing, so who knows. Robinson has written creditable non-fiction.
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Old 05-05-2008   #49
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Just wanted to echo what Jim Rodgers said about Robinson. He co-wrote Sandy Woodward's excellent account of commanding the Falklands task force in 1982 (One Hundred Days), and his first couple novels; Nimitz Class and Kilo Class were typical Clancy-like stuff.

But I picked up one of his books a year or so ago at a used book sale, and "war porn and right wing blog post" sums it up perfectly. He's gone completely nuts in his recent writing.

You throw in the co-author's perspective, plus always keeping in mind who the book was written for (Terror in the Mountains! Good Vs Evil! All that kind of crap), and while it doesn't change the facts of the book - I have not nor intend to read it - it can very much influence how the story is told. . .

Regards,

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Old 05-05-2008   #50
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Default Its all clear now.

I re-read the book last night on my flight OCONUS just so I could refresh my memory about what it was that made some of Lutrell's decisions and discussion points worry me. Now that I know about his crazy ghost writer, Patrick Robinson, it seems clear but still very worrisome.

This worry led to my previous posts on the issue of recalibrating our sense of honor and perhaps the reeducation of our young warriors as to who we are morally and what we fight for… hell, even our OLD warriors appear to have a problem on this matter. I'll take up in another thread why the author and ghostwriter decided the ambush was actually the fault of American liberals and the media.

On page 167 he complained that the ROE in Afghanistan was that they “could not shoot, injure or kill civilians.” Surely his view was influenced by the trauma that ensued. He also asked what should he do about “the unarmed civilian who was a skilled spy for the illegal forces”, or “enemies “pretending to be civilians.” Again I am reminded of the MARSOC post-IED massacre in Jalalabad ‘if something bad happens to us, everyone nearby must be in on it, so therefore everyone gets shot.’ Its an attitude that does not serve us well.

To him, there were no innocent civilians in that part of Afghanistan. This belief reflects poorly on whatever training or intelligence he received about who he was fighting in relation to what we are trying to achieve. The mission is to destroy Talib/AQ, but not at the cost of alienating the province. There are plenty of real enemy to be killed in Afghanistan but by the reckoning in this book EVERYONE was that enemy … which is strange because his experience of [SPOILER ALERT] being taken in by sympathetic villagers, surrounded by Taliban, directly contradicts that. It was a great example of the more human aspects of the local human terrain.

The most stunning assertion in the whole book was his insistence that the “correct” military decision, when compromised by civilians, is to kill them. He states this no less than four times starting on page 202 “the military decision was clear” or “[not killing them] was military suicide” (pg 203), “the military decision was obvious” (pg 205), blames others for not executing them “when every codebook ever written had taught me otherwise.” My first question was “WTF!? What is he talking about?” I taught Geneva Convention at SERE and prisoner handling and interrogation to numerous SEAL platoons deploying to OEF and OIF. SEALs are often the best, most attentive students, especially officers and Chiefs –they are all pretty smart. This question of 'can you kill the prisoner once you’ve interrogated them?' always comes up in a tongue & cheek manner and the answer is always the same “Sorry. No. 5-Ss (silence, secure, segregate, speed, safeguard) or leave them” You can zip tie them, leave them and extract or continue mission.

Is there something going on we don’t know? Is the TV show “24” or movies like “Blackhawk Down” the 'military codebooks' that say shooting civilians is doctrinal? Or is it the crazy ghostwriter talking tough? I have read allot of books about special operations going back to Roger's Rangers and I cannot think of one where killing civilians was an objective critical to “military necessity” to meet the mission ... except for Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now!

People get killed in crossfire and off-target effects, but what Lutrell discusses is the execution of civilians as a military policy and how he should have done it. Perhaps some have confused Mil-Porn books like Robinson's with actual Field Manuals? Or is this a matter of our soldiers talking themselves into what they would do in a rite of passage they think all “hard” soldiers get put into and convince themselves they are supposed to “do whatever it takes”? The latter belief is more popular than I’d like to think.

In the first Gulf War many SR missions deep in Iraq were performed and a quarter of them were compromised by the usual suspects - kids and goats, including the BRAVO 2-0 mission. In one, an SF ODA had a little girl walk right up and peered right into the hide. They grabbed her, rejected the thought of killing her, gave her candy to keep her quiet and called for an amazing extraction under intense fire.

“Lone Survivor” was a good read but he should have let Dick Couch ghost write it for him. My fear is that unless some high level SEAL like SOCCOM C.O. Admiral Eric Olsson resets the “moral hard deck” and forcefully points out that this concept is flat out wrong, not written or unwritten in any manual and that Lt. Murphy made the right choice.

If not, then this book will join that pantheon of mythological military “codebooks” where the reader, maybe new recruits, comes away swearing that he will not fail the test of what to do with three woodcutters. Standing orders to bring four zip ties, a half roll of duct tape and five tabs of 12 hour sleep medicine per operator wouldn’t hurt either.

Lutrell is brave, tough and a Navy Cross awardee. I thank God he survived. However, the book’s contention, over and over, that you have to kill civilians may become another equally bad piece of mythology alongside my personal bugaboo, Jack Bauer.
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Old 05-05-2008   #51
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Senior Chief,

Your words put my thoughts into a framework better than I think my own mind could, and that is exactly what I was trying to get at. I don't want to denigrate Luttrell's service or the mission, but I suppose it is the "mil-porn" effect that is giving me the problem.

Quote:
People get killed in crossfire and off-target effects, but what Lutrell discusses is the execution of civilians as a military policy and how he should have done it. Perhaps some have confused Mil-Porn books like Robinson's with actual Field Manuals? Or is this a matter of our soldiers talking themselves into what they would do in a rite of passage they think all “hard” soldiers get put into and convince themselves they are supposed to “do whatever it takes”? The latter belief is more popular than I’d like to think.
This is the I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by six mentality that crops us (especially over at the board you used to frequent a lot ) that drives me up the wall. I think you are on to something about this unwritten code or FM confusion among our young men. I've heard that tone from young and older though, enlisted and officer alike, and I am beginning to see that maybe Louie L'Amour books are the better choice for some of them.
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Old 05-06-2008   #52
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I don't know... maybe we have a new concept for the military literary pantheon, "The Lutrrell effect" where blaming the yellow bellied liberals while not understanding the rules of engagement can be used to excuse mission excess blathering after the fact.

Rest in peace for all others who were lost to the fickle hand of fate there is no dishonor in service regardless of who wrote the book after the fact.
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Old 05-06-2008   #53
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If not, then this book will join that pantheon of mythological military “codebooks” where the reader, maybe new recruits, comes away swearing that he will not fail the test of what to do with three woodcutters. Standing orders to bring four zip ties, a half roll of duct tape and five tabs of 12 hour sleep medicine per operator wouldn’t hurt either.
Aye to all that. This actually speaks to the damage popular military accounts can do, if not balanced against facts, context, and solid training. What we get to read is what will sell, not the operational de-brief!


...and Jack Bauer is a twat.
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 05-07-2008   #54
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Default It would seem the Navy does not share Luttrel's

view of Murphy...

LINK
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Old 05-08-2008   #55
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Navy Secretary Names New Guided-Missile Destroyer USS Michael Murphy

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced today at a ceremony in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., the name of the newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer will be Michael Murphy. Designated as DDG-112, the name honors Lt. Michael Murphy who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.
Well God bless the Navy naming board for fianally showing some forethought. This makes me tear up a little and want a ship's ball cap and Chief's mess mug. *Sniff*
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Old 05-08-2008   #56
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Well God bless the Navy naming board for fianally showing some forethought. This makes me tear up a little and want a ship's ball cap and Chief's mess mug. *Sniff*
I had the exact same reaction when I learned of the USS Higgins' commissioning. Still have the officer's ball cap and the commissioning brochure on my wall at home as well as a framed photo of DDG76 on my office wall.

God bless Lt Murphy and Col. Higgins,

Tom
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Old 05-08-2008   #57
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I'm not sure how many Burke's there are left to build, but I would expect to see a USS Dunham and USS Monsoor as well.
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Old 05-12-2008   #58
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Luttrell had much praise for Lt Murphy as a friend, as well as a team leader. In addition it is Marcus' account of the firefight that is cited for Lt Murphy's MOH.
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Old 05-16-2008   #59
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I had missed this before, but another book is coming out on the subject, and this one looks quite promising.
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Old 05-16-2008   #60
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Jeff your comment could be interpreted as you're advocating shooting unarmed civilians. I haven't seen the AAR on this incident and have no inside knowledge, but in general we can run missions pretty much when we want (weather dependent obviously) to nab or a kill a bad guy, which means you generally have the option of aborting the mission if you have been comprised, because you can come back another day. The article stated that these men thought they may have been compromised, yet they agreed to accept the risk and drive on with the mission anyway. I don't think shooting unharmed civilians was an option to begin with, and either did they. They had two options apparently, one was to drive on with the mission, and the other was to abort. As they suspected in (according to the article), the civilians they released reported their location to the Taliban, thus the ensuing fire fight. I don't question their judgment for a minute (I would if they shot unharmed civilians for a target of moderate importance), unfortunately the situation took a turn for the worst, and we lost several brave men that day.
Even if they aborted, as suggested, they still would have had a mean fight on their hands. What's done is done. They morally did the right thing. Luttrell's vote was the deciding vote. They dealt with the rest like professionals. In a similar situation I wouldn't care if a SEAL team discussed this mission in determining what to do next. In fact, we would never hear about it. In fact, had they killed the natives we probably wouldn't be hearing about this mission as well. I don't recall in the book any talk about shooting the locals. It was going to be more personal. They were just up the mountain from the target. It has never been determined if the locals warned anyone of the SEALs. If they did then they were not innocent civilians. BTW, we bombed the crap out of France before D-Day killing thousands of innocent French civilians along with numerous French collaborators. What's the diff? Micro Macro. The SEAL team knew enough about the danger to discuss it and take to a vote. In hindsight, I don't understand that at all. Since when have SEALs not discussed the possibility of running into locals that may compromise their position and what are the options as a part of SEAL doctrine? With that in mind, it should never have been a matter of a democratic vote. Nevertheless, after that they did everything they could to survive according to the rules of engagement.
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