Originally Posted by x129
Yep reduced causality rate. You can decide if relative or absolute numbers matter more to you. You can also decide if escalating the war was worth it. Personally I think any time you have been fighting for 10+ years, you are doing something wrong.
Why couldn't they engage? What part of the ROE prevented them? If I had to guess it is the one that stated that you don't engage when it will result in civilian deaths. As I said you can decide where on the fence you sit with regard to that. And as I said, it leads to sucky no win situations. Other than avoiding these wars, there isn't much you can do about it.
Being relatively nice didn't work for the british but alternatives don't work a lot better. Vietnam wasn't a smashing success. On the other hand being brutual worked pretty well for the Romans. I am guessing though that not many of us have the heart to kill every male over 12 in a village that attacks us though.
My personal opinion always has been that we should not have gone into Iraq in the first place. When it became apparent we were going to do so, I told my wife I had a bad feeling about it. That said, once the decision was made to go in, I was (and am) in favor of doing what it takes to win. I would also agree that anytime you are at war for 10 years, you need to reassess what you are doing and make some adjustments.
As to why they could not engage, according to him (and I can only rely on what he is telling me, since I was not there) it had nothing to do with potential civilian casualties. They knew where the enemy was, had clear shots at them and (again, according to him) no civilians in the area but orders given by their General said they could not engage. The why of that order was not explained and as you can imagine, led to frustration on the part of the soldiers being attacked. That frustration is still with him today, a full year + since he returned.
"Total war" typically works because the brutality of it destroys the morale of the enemy's civilian population. Once the folks back home are no longer behind it, the army in the field cannot win. Vietnam was a glaring example of that as well. But you are right, I doubt we (or any civilized nation) have the stomach to conduct "total war" in this day and age and with a situation like this one, I am not sure it would work, even if we tried it. That said, given the results we have seen so far, I am not sure we can call "COIN" a successful strategy either. In one variant or another, we have been using it since 2006 and the results are dubious at best.
Regarding Obama's level of responsibility, I don't blame him directly for the strategies being employed. He is not a military guy, so he has to rely on his military advisors. His decisions on military actions are (I hope) based on advice given to him by those advisors. But ultimately, as Commander in Chief, he has to assume the responsibility for every military failure, just as he claims credit for every military success (such as the killing of Bin Laden).