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A Tactical Ethic: Moral Conduct in the Insurgent Battlespaceby Dick Couch
Synopses & Reviews
Following the success of The Sheriff of Ramadi, which detailed the heroic actions of the Navy SEALs in Iraq's al-Anbar Province, Couch now examines the importance of battlefield ethics in effectively combating terrorists without losing the battle for the hearts of the local population.
In his preface to this important new work on the ethical rules of engagement for the insurgent battlespace, highly regarded combat veteran, Dick Couch, warns that:
"It may at times seem like I'm speaking from my ethical high horse-some kind of a born-again, moral academic who has lost touch with the contemporary battlefield...but I believe the same mistakes we are making in Iraq and Afghanistan are the same mistakes we made forty years ago in Vietnam. This I know from firsthand experience. I was there and I made some of those mistakes. But Vietnam was a sideshow in the Cold War; we lost that battle but we won the war. If Iraq and Afghanistan slip away, these battles will put us on the brink of losing a war we dare not to lose."
A Tactical Ethic is a critical look at the battlefield conduct of our ground-combat units--Marines, Army infantrymen, and Special Forces--fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. From his unique and qualified perspective, Couch focuses on the sources and issues that can lead to wrong conduct on the battlefield, how it comes about, and what can be done to correct it. He examines the roles of command intent and rules of engagement, but his primary focus is on ethical conduct at the squad and platoon level. While A Tactical Ethic is a harsh critique of morally wrong combat tactics, Couch offers realistic measures to correct these potentially devastating errors.
Tactical ethics, according to Couch's definition, is the moral and ethical armor that should accompany our warriors into battle. It applies to the engaged unit as well as the individual. While the military's official Rules of Land Warfare and theater-specific Rules of Engagement define the legal combat boundaries with which American troops must operate, Couch's tactical ethics are designed to augment these legal constraints. Together they define the limits - the permissions and prohibitions - that govern the lethal work of combat. This ethical armor is designed to protect the humanity of our warriors as they go into battle. Proceeding with an attitude that we can kill them all and let God sort them out is not an option on the insurgent battlefield. Since the prize of the fight on this modern battlefield is the people, every death has a consequence. In the context of our warriors every killing has both strategic and moral significance.
Couch argues that as a nation, we must do all we can to see that our soldiers' humanity is protected. This is for our sake as a people as well and our standing in the world as well as for the sake of our warriors, so that they return from their service with honor.
Book News Annotation:
The "moral and spiritual condition of our warriors has not kept pace with the technological advances and operational capabilities of our armed forces," writes Couch (ethics, U.S. Naval Academy), arguing that consequent moral lapses have harmed mission success in the insurgent battlespace. He believes that the solution to this problem is the integration of tactical training with ethical training and awareness and explores how such an integration can take place, an integration that needs to take place with close attention to small-unit leadership and small-unit culture and needs to go beyond classroom lectures in basic training in order to become ongoing and integrated with tactical considerations and the operational environment. He also stresses that the promotion of ethical awareness needs to become part of military culture in the same manner as the intolerance for abandoning a "brother warrior to the enemy," because immoral acts and moral neutrality on the part of those who witness immoral acts serve to undermine the mission just as much as failing to protect one's fellow soldiers. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Following the success of his recent book on Navy SEALs in Iraq, The Sheriff of Ramadi, bestselling author and combat veteran Dick Couch now examines the importance of battlefield ethics in effectively combating terrorists without losing the battle for the hearts of the local population. A former SEAL who led one of the only successful POW rescue operations in Vietnam, Couch warns that the mistakes made in Vietnam forty years ago are being repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the stakes are even higher now. His book takes a critical look at the battlefield conduct of U.S. ground-combat units fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the prize of the fight on the modern battlefield is the people, he warns every death has a consequence. Every killing has both strategic and moral significance for U.S. warriors.
From his unique and qualified perspective, Couch examines the sources and issues that can lead to wrong conduct on the battlefield, and explains how it comes about and what can be done to correct it. He considers the roles of command intent and the official rules of engagement, but his primary focus is on ethical conduct at the squad and platoon level. Tactical ethics, according to the author's definition, is the moral and ethical armor that should accompany every American warrior into battle, and these standards apply to the engaged unit as well as to the individual. A harsh critic of immoral combat tactics, Couch offers realistic measures to correct these potentially devastating errors. He argues that as a nation, we must do all we can to protect our soldiers' humanity, for their sake, so they can return from service with honor, and for our sake as a people and for our standing in the world.
About the Author
Dick Couch was born in Mississippi and raised in Southern Indiana. He is a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served with the Navy Underwater Demolition and SEAL Teams. While a platoon leader with SEAL Team One in 1970, he led one of the only successful POW rescue operations of the Vietnam War. On release from active duty in 1972, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency where he served as a Maritime Operations Officer. He retired from the Naval Reserve in 1997 with the rank of captain.
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History and Social Science » Military » Afghan War (2001-)