In Counterinsurgency, Does Restraint Deserve Its Own Reward?

Friday, June 25, 2010

In April, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, who commands NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, proposed creating an award for "courageous restraint." As avoiding the loss of civilian life is a cornerstone of the coalition's counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, does rewarding restraint makes sense?  Is restraint a courageous act of discipline under fire or does it put our troops in danger? 

On Facebook, Takeaway listener, Rusty Roy wrote:

No. Our soldiers should not be placed where they have to practice restraint. That 'may' be what police are for, but certainly not out military.

We look deeper at the issue of the rules of engagement and this award with an American veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Greg Papadatos is a sergeant in the Army National Guard, and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both men think rewarding restraint represents somewhat circular logic.

"How can you award someone for not pulling a trigger?", Papadatos asks. "There's nothing that would make someone deliberately kill a civilian, so what would they be rewarding?"


Greg Papadatos

Produced by:

Noel King

Comments [5]

Greg Papadatos from New York City

"latelifeanticapitalist from tampa" refers to me and says "he's speaking as a NG NCO-- precisely the sort of fella in green who should NOT be overseas serving in internecine warfare; his mission should have remained stateside."

Well excu-u-u-use me for being a National Guard NCO! And excuse me for going to combat zones TWICE when our national government called upon me.

If you have a problem with the National Guard, sir, please spell it out. If you have a problem with National Guard soldiers being sent overseas, take it up with the President and the Governor of my state.

Long before I was a National Guard NCO, I was a full-time professional active duty soldier for 4.5 years. When I got to Iraq, I had more active duty experience than most of my chain of command. The same was true when I went to Afghanistan. with the additional fact that I had more combat experience than most of them, too.

The producers of that radio show asked me to comment because I had some knowledge of the topic at hand, and my credentials could be verified. What are your credentials, sir? Do you know what you're talking about? How so?

May. 02 2013 05:29 AM
latelifeanticapitalist from tampa

sorry Jeff, i disagree- i think the illusion of understanding and clarity is precisley what has put guys in green in situations that are far more gray than B&W.

i don't think that your buddy is "wrong"-- he's speaking as a NG NCO-- precisely the sort of fella in green who should NOT be overseas serving in internecine warfare; his mission should have remained stateside.

without condoning the US presence in Central Asia [i don't], if the COIN strategy is to work then it needs to be administered by the very sort of professional military men who conceived it-- again, COIN has in the past been part of SF's portfolio, not that of the citizen soldier.

they are the ones who have been trained to parse the COIN risk/ reward ratio and are paid to exercise tactical 'restraint' in pursuit of the strategic objective

and if the US COIN's strategic objective is to make the case to the Afghans that the US is on their side and that the AQ/ Talib are the bad guys, then lighting up innocents in perceived self-defense is playing precisely into the bad guys' hands.

BTW-- as to being 'threatened'?

whose country is it anyway?

Jun. 26 2010 01:42 PM
Jeff Stache from NYC

This was a very clear, understandable explanation. Obviously, American soldiers want to avoid unneccessary injury to anyone. (I've heard this is not neccessarily true with the private security firms out there). However, when directly threatened, it's only common sense to repond in an appropriate manner. To do otherwise is not only unfair to expect of the soldiers, but also reflects badly on the authority of the American forces, and encourages further aggresion against the soldier.

Jun. 25 2010 12:55 PM
latelifeanticapitalist from tampa

as their mission is currently COIN, winning hearts and minds are possibly THE most important key to that mission.

and restraint is exactly what is needed.

perhaps COIN is contraindicated for Infantry troopies-- it is more of a classic SF task-- but if every dead innocent means another AQ/ Tal fighter recruited, then restraint serves the mission if only by NOT INCREASING THE OPPOSITION FORCES

perhaps we can agree that it is a bit more complicated than a video game?

Jun. 25 2010 09:54 AM

Your teaser misspelled the word - it's medal, not metal. But putting that aside, let me express my disagreement. Soldiers, Marines and, to a lesser degree, sailors, are trained to fight. In an ideal world, there would be no civilian casaulties and only the "bad guys" would be killed. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. It would be terrific if our fighting forces didn't have to kill civilians but in many cases, the bad guys use civilians as traps. So please - no talk about medals (not metals) for restraint. These are FIGHTERS, not LOVERS.

Jun. 25 2010 08:08 AM

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