In an NYT Op-Ed, an ex-Army officer named Jonathan Vaccaro trashes the civilian protection mechanism the military uses, and he has some reason to do so.
In my experience, decisions move through the process of risk mitigation like molasses. When the Taliban arrive in a village, I discovered, it takes 96 hours for an Army commander to obtain necessary approvals to act. In the first half of 2009, the Army Special Forces company I was with repeatedly tried to interdict Taliban. By our informal count, however, we (and the Afghan commandos we worked with) were stopped on 70 percent of our attempts because we could not achieve the requisite 11 approvals in time.
The problem with this isn't that Mr Vaccaro doesn't have a legitimate gripe. He does. The problem is that the mechanism that's driving him crazy came from unconscionable behavior on the part of the military and civilian commanders who came before him. This maddening process evolved because in both Iraq and Afghanistan millions of innocent civilians were murdered because of hasty military actions based on faulty intelligence and hair-trigger responses. Has everyone forgotten the wedding party where dozens of civilians were bombed out of existence and dozens more maimed because of a report that there were Taliban in the village that was neither vetted nor confirmed? Or the attack on a Taliban unit that turned out to be not Taliban but Afghan Army?
The Cowboyism that infected our military in the gung-ho days of Bush-Cheney led to arrogant and destructive excesses in the name of striking hard and fast - the modern military equivalent of "We're gonna give you a fair trial and then hang you." We were, in fact, fighting the Viet Nam War all over again, trying to eliminate the so-called "mistakes" the right-wing believes we made then. The result wasn't pretty and, predictably, didn't work. But that didn't stop the militarist chicken-hawks of the Bush Admin, none of whom had ever been closer to a real war than they tv sets, from "taking the handcuffs off" the military so they could "do their job".
Much to their chagrin, it turns out that John Wayne is dead and the Wild West exists mostly only on the back lot of Warner Bros and in the imaginations of the 101st Keyboard Brigade. Mr Vaccaro may be right about the deleterious effect of what he calls "battlefield red tape" on our ability to fight in countries like Afghanistan but the alternative - free rein for irresponsible military cowboys - is even worse.