mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Wing-Tips on the Ground
Cry Havoc, and Let Slip the Lawyers of War

U.S. Army combat brigades are now being deployed with lawyers in the command post. A recent Huffington Post profile details the role of Major Megan Wakefield, paratrooper and legal advisor in the 82nd Airborne. As the report suggests, it is now common procedure for operations to be run by these legal eagles for preemptive approval:

Maj. Wakefield’s outfit, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne, recently held 12 days of high-intensity war-fighting exercises at Fort Polk against 800 soldiers playing enemy forces resembling the Islamic State militants. The fighting at times was desperate. Crises tumbled atop crises as staff officers scrambled to manage dozens of firefights, coordinate air strikes and long-range artillery, and protect local civilians.

In the midst was Maj. Wakefield. In a sweltering corner of the tent that houses the brigade’s Tactical Operations Center (TOC) she would listen intently to operations officers outlining planned missions: an enemy force with trucks and tanks to be destroyed with 155mm artillery fire; an enemy anti-aircraft missile position and dug-in heavy artillery to be destroyed; a cache of enemy weapons to be destroyed with one precision-guided bomb and four rounds of artillery.

When Maj. Wakefield clears her throat, heads swivel. She too has questions: are the human targets positively identified as enemies? Are they demonstrating hostile intent? Because if not, you can’t engage, she reminds them. And if you can engage, should you?

David Woods, the HuffPo’s military correspondent, cites it as a “good-faith effort” to uphold “American values.” But nobody is suggesting that this is necessary because American troops routinely violate the norms of civilized warfare. Instead, this seems to be an effort to sanitize something that is inherently messy (“War is heck”). This is a classic peacenik proposition: the whole world can be tamed, and not only that, so too can the means by which it is tamed.

The overlawyering of our armed forces is not new—it has been growing steadily since the post-Vietnam era. It’s part of a general trend to officialize and bureaucratize American life. Ask any doctor how much time she spends filling out paperwork.

The proliferation of legalese and formalism in American institutions generally is one of the forces undermining our national spirit and slowing our economic growth. But it’s particularly nasty and dangerous when it comes to the business of war. Our politicians keep heaping new burdens on the armed forces, sending them on muddled missions with impossible orders, forcing them to jump through various hoops for the sake of political correctness, and hampering them at every turn with threats of prosecution by bloodless bureaucrats who’ve never known or seen war.

Accountability is important, but increasingly in our society accountability is for the little people. The powerful and the well connected hire lawyers; the ordinary person gets monitored by them. We don’t have policy malpractice lawyers investigating the geniuses who invaded Libya and abandoned Iraq, but the poor kids trying to carry out the crazy orders that come down from on high will get dinged if they put a foot wrong. No doubt there are some lawyers checking to see that those 3,000 Americans sent into the Ebola hot zone don’t break any rules—but there aren’t any lawyers and there isn’t any law to make sure that the people who sent them there knew or really even cared what they were doing.

 

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Charles Hurst

    Hampered? No. Incapable of winning would be a better assessment. We cannot win a war of any consequence. If we fought WW II as we engaged today we would be speaking German now.

    It seems that every time an article comes up about the “war on terror,” since the
    initial Iraq invasion in 2003, I sit absolutely stunned at our severe lack of resolve
    in the United States military to actually engage the enemy. And I’m pointing
    the finger directly at the Officer Corps, especially the senior officers, who
    have shown nothing but complete cowardice during this entire fiasco. Note it is
    not every single one of you but it is most of you.

    So no we shouldn’t go with boots on the ground. We can’t win a conflict now. We are
    more interested in gays in the military and the illusion women can fight just
    like men than the reality of war.

    Let’s make this perfectly clear. We have not “defeated” the enemy. Not in Iraq
    or Afghanistan. Senior level officers mouthing off on CNN and FOX news that we
    have does not make it so. Using phrases like “stabilization of the Middle East
    through Iraq” does not make it so. We have done nothing but show the entire
    world that we are not really interested in engaging the enemy. We are
    interested in not offending the enemy. We are interested in cultural
    sensitivity. My heart bleeds for the young men and women who signed on with
    good patriotic intentions and had to be put in the middle of this. I was one of
    those young soldiers once. I had intended on making the military a career. I
    left after three and a half years of active duty with prior reserve time of two
    years. This was in 1994 and I saw what was coming. I have no regrets of that
    fact. Our military is broken. If we fought WW II with this military we would be
    speaking German today.

    And let’s look at our track record in this war with Islam. Oh that’s right we
    never even declared Islam our enemy. Because that isn’t politically correct.

    1) We charged a Navy SEAL for punching a terrorist. He was vindicated. My
    question is what moronic officer went through with the proceedings?

    2) We don’t want to shoot at mosques because they are sacred to the Arab Muslim

    3) My ex team member was told for those Arabs engaging in confirmed
    surveillance to only shoot at their tires. True account.

    4) A Captain I know personally states he was almost brought up on charges for
    using an anti tank weapon on a building where the enemy was engaging in a
    firefight with his men. He left the Army shortly afterward.

    5) An Air Force Master Sergeant is facing charges for not stating he is in
    agreement with homosexuality and offended his commanding lesbian officer.

    6) The Rules of Engagement that put our men and women at risk to protect the
    enemy.

    7) A Marine Colonel chastised for stating the terrorists are fun to kill.

    Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane. I want you to picture this sort of
    asinine mentality when battling the Third Reich. As said, if today’s military
    had fought back then we’d be speaking German now. Anyone read about Dresden? It
    was a German city that was key in harboring the Nazis. And we bombed the living
    hell out of it. We vaporized their children in the street. German citizenry
    supported the Third Reich. Whether out of patriotism or fear they paid the
    price. The result? Germany surrendered in the end. Japan stated they would
    fight to the last child. We leveled two of their cities. Killed everyone down
    to that child. The result? Japan surrendered. Patton screamed in his infamous
    speech that if you were out of ammo to bash the enemy’s head in with your
    helmet. He would be relieved of command for that speech today.

    So you can’t win a war. That is a simple fact. And all of you Colonels
    and ex-Colonels chanting the rah, rah party line doesn’t change that fact. You
    can’t win. You don’t have the intestinal fortitude to win. You don’t have the
    courage to engage the enemy. You don’t have the fortitude to say NO, I WILL NOT
    FOLLOW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT THAT PUT MY MEN IN DANGER. You don’t have the sand to say NO, HOMOSEXUALITY IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN THE MILITARY. You don’t have the guts to say NO, WOMEN SHOULDN’T BE STANDING IN COMBAT WITH MEN. You don’t have the fabric to say OUR OFFICERS’ JUDGEMENT OVERRULES THE APPEASEMENT OF THE MUSLIM. You don’t have the integrity to refuse immoral orders that place your own people at risk. You don’t have the honor. Period.

    So stop pretending we have a viable force.

    Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And
    creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE

    • Arkeygeezer

      Senior officers are only mouthing the company line dictated by the White House. The responsibility for this war is that of the Commander-in-chief, Barak Hussain Obama.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Well, you spelled one of the president’s names correctly.

    • Sibir_RUS

      war with Islam? Just another crazy.
      Islam in the United States is growing at the fastest rate in the world today (primarily, among African Americans).

      • FriendlyGoat

        Don’t imagine that America is going Islamic. We’re not.

        • Sibir_RUS

          «Freedom is never granted; it is won»
          Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979), a leader in the African-American civil rights movement
          Black Jubilee of White America on Horizon
          Not much time is left till the jubilee – 400 years since the first black man in chains, the patriarch of the contemporary Afro-Americans, stepped on the North American soil. Some Afro-Americans see the date of 2019 as something destined from above, the date of real freedom when black Muslims will establish a state of their own on the continent. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of US citizens believe it was by God’s will their predecessors went to America by sea as slaves.
          Cassius Clay was the most well-known advocate of the Nation of Islam. Winning the heavy weight boxing title in 1964, he declared himself a member of the organization and got a new name – Muhammed Ali. His example inspired many black Americans.
          http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2013/03/07/black-jubilee-of-white-america-on-horizon.html

          • iconoclast

            Contempory African-Americans are immigrants from Africa. Characterizing the descendants of Africans who came to America hundreds of years ago as African-Americans is laughable nonsense.

            No Muslim “nation” will ever be established in North America. Only deluded fools believe that will come to pass.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You are totally discounting secularism in the United States, as bolstered by our constitution. Nobody is establishing a Muslim state of their own on the North American continent, regardless of what you read.

            It’s true that Muhammad Ali is highly regarded in this country. That’s because of his skill as a boxer, his calls for peace and his unique way of saying thoughtful things. It is NOT because of his embrace of Islam. Most people here like him in spite of his religion, not because of it.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You are completely discounting the power of secularism in America, as supported by our Constitution. Nobody is establishing a Muslim state on the North American Continent now, in 2019, or any other time—-regardless of what you read or hear.

            As for Muhammad Ali, he is admired by many people in America in spite of his religion, not because of it. Yes, he was a great boxer. Yes, he was right about Vietnam. Yes, he has said many thoughtful things. And, no, he has not converted all the American blacks to Islam, as you may imagine.

          • Sibir_RUS

            “You are completely discounting the power of secularism in America”
            You need to cancel the End of the text of the military oath and to delete the word “God” to 1 dollar.
            http://mediaanarchist.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/masonicdollar1.jpg

    • Sibir_RUS

      Islam is a peaceful religion. Terrorism has no religion.
      In my country, Islam is the second religion in a number of believers.

      • FriendlyGoat

        You may know some peaceful Muslims, but don’t let their niceness define your view of the religion. ISIL, Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and others of the jihad persuasion are the actual practitioners. Your nicer friends are simply practicing kindness rooted in human nature with a veneer of frequent prayer, not rooted in the preposterous whole of what Mohammad’s sayings actually demand.

      • Despiser_of_Libs

        Muslims are Muslim… They all believe the words of the Moon God loving Child Molester Moh… Moh was a NASTY POS loser that has and will cause the World endless pain forever until GOOD wipes out the EVIL that is Islam..

        • Sibir_RUS

          Americans(US) should support traditional forms of Islam within the United States and to prevent radical manifestations.
          Instead, your country has sheltered the “Muslim brotherhood”.
          Decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of February 14, 2003 the “Muslim Brotherhood” is recognized as a terrorist and it is prohibited in the territory of the Russian Federation
          http://www.religare.ru/print5347.htm

        • Sibir_RUS

          In 1991 he was created “The Foundation Of The Holy Land” as a legitimate form of presence “brothers” in the U.S.
          And what do they do? you ask me. In one of its documents in 1991, the Foundation reported that the purpose of the presence in America – “settlement”, which is part of Jihad to destroy Western civilization from within
          http://www.currenttrends.org/docLib/20090411_Merley.USBROTHERHOOD.pdf

    • lhfry

      “We can’t win a conflict now. We are more interested in gays in the military and the illusion women can fight just like men than the reality of war.” And don’t forget the “transgendered” in this mix.
      Clearly, finishing the 60s sexual revolution is a primary goal of the Obama administration. This is true in the civilian as well as the military sphere. Everything else takes second place.

    • Despiser_of_Libs

      All part of the Progressive Plans… Make the Military a Politically Correct Gay military filled with men that think they are women and women that think they are men…

      History is not going to look kindly upon modern Liberalism…

      • georgedixon1

        Providing History does not get written by liberals… again

  • bannedforselfcensorship

    “We don’t have policy malpractice lawyers investigating the geniuses who invaded Libya and abandoned Iraq”

    This is now endemic in all of government. See Lisa Jackson for the prime example of someone who broke a ton of rules, and walked right into a prestigious job with Apple.

    Apple apparently approves of people hiding data from employers and using fake email addressed.

    Press yawned.

  • http://warped-mirror.com/ Petra Marquardt-Bigman

    Welcome to Israel’s reality — we’ve been forced to defend ourselves like this for a long time, thanks to the UN and its many passionate “human rights” advocates, esp. those in the Muslim and Arab world, who never fail to take time out from hanging or beheading their own citizens for being gay or not religious enough to get yet another condemnation and yet another investigation against us going…

  • Arkeygeezer

    Welcome to the American, politically correct. humane and intelligent way of waging war. We don’t want to wage war against IS. We want to contain them. Let the locals wage the war for real.

    This may not the way it is intended by this Administration, but it is the way it is working out. Lord help us if IS wants to wage war against the U.S. for real.

    • FriendlyGoat

      If the Ku Klux Klan or the skinheads were ravaging rural Missouri in the manner that ISIL (“issul”, like rhymes with missile) is ravaging Iraq and Syria, would we expect China, Russia, Europe or Africa to wage the war of routing those characters? OF COURSE the locals have to wage the war for real.

      I know we are “the” superpower, but Islamic people have to get sick enough of Ridiculous Islam to fix it. Us western infidels simply cannot do that on a house to house basis in foreign lands.

      • Sibir_RUS

        A Кu Кluх Klan GrоuрСlаims It Is Around Ferguson and Fundraising for Darren Wilson
        “A Klan group based in South Carolina recently announced that its Missouri chapter would be holding a fundraiser this weekend for Darren Wilson, the police officer accused of shooting and killing Brown. The location is supposed to be somewhere in Sullivan, a town about an hour outside of Ferguson.”
        https://news.vice.com/article/a-ku-klux-klan-group-claims-it-is-around-ferguson-and-fundraising-for-darren-wilson
        These clowns should be put in prison or in a psychiatric hospital.
        It is strange that it is a raсist organization still exists in the United States legally, openly preparing a provocation, and no one takes the laws to close for them oxygen
        http://imgur.com/nLBoCbq.jpg

        • Despiser_of_Libs

          Democrats lost America’s first Civil War because they enslaved Black people. Democrats are going to lose America’s second Civil War because they attempted to enslave everyone else…

          Not every Democrat was a KuKluxKlan member, but every KuKluxKlan member was a democrat.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Key word “was”. Today, KKK members are Republican-leaning conservatives——-BECAUSE, the Democrats of 2014 do not want them, AND they do not want to embrace the platform of modern Democrats.

            Do you really think we’re all the morons you suppose?

          • FriendlyGoat

            Key word “was” in that last sentence. Do you really believe we don’t know that KKK members switched parties?

        • FriendlyGoat

          Inconvenient as it sometimes seems, almost ANY organization can “legally” exist in the USA, regardless of its purpose or views. When and if an organization moves into violence, America’s secular society does whatever is necessary to round up the individuals committing the violence and lock them away. Yes, America still has a KKK. It is merely a bunch of nutcases who are not going to “do” anything of any national consequence.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Almost ANY organization can exist in the United States.
          If its members go violent, we round them up and put them in jail for the violence, NOT for their opinions—-no matter how stinky their opinions might be.

      • Despiser_of_Libs

        You meant to say DEMOCRAT KKK members…

        • FriendlyGoat

          No, I actually didn’t mean to say that. You may be a despiser of Libs, and/or Democrats, but I’m not.

        • FriendlyGoat

          No, I actually didn’t mean to say that. In the first place, you’re the “despiser of Libs”, but I’m not. Secondly, one would have to be woefully ignorant to believe you can find any 2014 KKK members who are not conservatives. Modern Democrats are liberal. KKK members are not.

          Times changed. Names changed. You just got stuck in a warp.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Doctors spend time filling out paperwork in order to get paid. They also fill out paperwork in order to build a firewall against lawsuits—–aka a written record of the patient’s condition and the doctor’s response. This has nothing whatsoever to do with why military units might practice their procedures for not killing innocent civilians.

  • Sibir_RUS

    Russia intends to provide additional assistance to countries in West Africa, the victims of the Ebola epidemic, said Deputy permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Dmitry Maksimychev. According to him, it is planned to send medical equipment, specialists and humanitarian aid. Speaking at the session of the General Assembly, devoted to the development of Africa, the diplomat said that Russia supports the Central role of the UN in global efforts to combat the disease.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Good.

  • Sibir_RUS

    Paul Craig Roberts: “Washington’s response is itself peculiar. The Obama regime sent 4,000 US soldiers to West Africa to fight ebola. Soldiers don’t have training or equipment with which to combat ebola. Why expose 4,000 Americans to an epidemic? This seemingly pointless decision has raised suspicions that Washington is exposing troops to ebola so that vaccines or treatments can be tested on the troops.
    The US government has a history of using unsuspecting humans for tests. Blacks in Alabama and Guatemalan soldiers and prisoners were infected with syphilis and gonorrhea in order to study the effects of the diseases and to experiment with cures”

    Paul Craig Roberts – the Assistant United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan. Professor of Economics, former Deputy Minister of Finance of the United States, Deputy Editor of the “Wall Street Journal”, “Business Week”.
    http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/10/17/obama-fights-ebola-czar-soldiers-paul-craig-roberts/

  • Corlyss

    Absolutely. The civil rights pimps have been busy turning the greatest fighting force in the world into local police forces and environmental stewards. IMO the ACLU, HRW, AI, the UN, the entire cast of ankle-biters has done more damage to the US fighters than even the Dim party could.

  • Despiser_of_Libs

    If our founding fathers could have seen us today, they would have packed up, went back to England and apologized to the king.

    • PubliusII

      Actually, they would have turned the Minutemen and local militias loose on us for tolerating such abuses of power by a tyrannical central government.

  • Diane Kalpakidis

    “No doubt there are some lawyers checking to see that those 3,000 Americans sent into the Ebola hot zone don’t break any rules…”
    Made me think of the “Political Officer” assigned to the Red October….

  • 11B40

    Greetings:

    Didn’t Josef Stalin call his “political commissars” ???

  • Gregale

    Meanwhile, the new “Ebola Czar” reports to…Susan Rice.

  • RickCaird

    A rational Commander in Chief would ban lawyers from combat. I wonder where we can find one of those rational commanders.

  • InklingBooks

    One objection to these lawyers is that many of them will insist that we follow the Geneva Convention even when our foes don’t. That’s ridiculous. Avoiding being treated nastily is often the only reason one side in many wars is willing to agree to play by those rules. Remove that incentive and the fighting gets worse rather than better.

    To give a particularly chillingly illustration, when one side tries to follow Geneva and limit civilian casualties whenever possible that provides an enormous incentive for the other side to put civilians in danger as possible. Civilians become, for them, just another weapon to be used at every opportunity.

    That’s precisely what happens with Israel is forced to deal with terrorist attacks from Gaza. Were I the Israeli PM, I’d announce before the next necessary incursion that, when Gaza uses civilian shields, every one of their soldiers captured with a certain radius of that event would be shot as soon as captured.

    What Obama likes to consider “world opinion” would scream, but it would highlight Gaza’s abuse of their children.

    –Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War

  • mhjhnsn

    Reminds me of the Soviet system with political commisars sharing command with, and able to over-rule, the nominal unit commanders. Except that in the Red Army, they were both trying to win, which is emphatically not the case here.

  • iconoclast

    The purpose of “combat lawyers” is to, of course, cripple America’s ability to fight wars. As long as progressives are allowed to remain in government we will have to fight these attempts at destroying the USA. Sheep-like acquiesence to progressive’s 1984-like redefinition of language and culture will ensure their success.

  • georgedixon1

    And this differs from Commissars accompanying the Red Army how?

  • Californio

    Just saw the movie “Fury” about WW2 – imagine the most effective warfighters arrested and taken out of the action due to violation of legalisms during….COMBAT. Not a sunday walk at home, but in active combat wherein the enemy will think nothing of hanging their own civilians.

    We MUST let the Jacksonians run the military. After all, they are the ones who are serving in it.

  • massjim

    We as a nation will never, ever again win a war as long as this continues. Can anyone even imagine Gen Patton consulting with a lawyer before doing everything?

  • Fred

    This is just a symptom. Within living memory, this nation defeated the combined might of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. Now we can’t even summon up the will to defeat a bunch of stone age savages with IEDs. To paraphrase Joseph de Maistre, every nation gets the culture it deserves.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service