Diana West

Anyone who believes that Gen. David H. Petraeus plans to overhaul the rules of engagement (ROEs) in Afghanistan due to the critical mass of ROE-caused casualties finally catching American's attention just wasn't listening to the general at his Senate confirmation hearing this week. But judging by both senatorial deference on the topic (Petraeus was confirmed 99-0) and a practically MIA media, that describes a lot of people.

Here's the first ROE question, submitted to the general prior to the hearing: "If confirmed, what general changes, if any, would you make to the current ROEs?" In response, Petraeus wrote: "One of my highest priorities, should I be confirmed as Commander of USFOR-A, will be to assess the effect of our ROE on the safety of our forces and the successful conduct of our mission."

"Assess," he said, not "change." But that was just the beginning. Yes, he declared there was a "moral imperative" to ensure that his "troopers" had the "enablers" (back-up firepower) they needed when they "got into a tough spot." More to the main point -- that restrictive ROEs are in fact the lynchpin of the disastrous counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) that Petraeus, like Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, stands for -- were Petraeus' unequivocal statements indicating that the ROE issue was "more about executing than redesign," that his overall policy review would "see if there are tweaks needed."

Tweaks?

Or, as he stated in response to one senator's question, "It's really about the implementation of the rules of engagement and the tactical directive, both of which I think are fundamentally sound."

Fundamentally sound?

"I don't see any reason to change them in significant ways," he continued. "Rather, what we do need to do is make sure that the intent behind those, the intent being to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life in the course of military operations to an absolute minimum -- that's an imperative for any (counterinsurgency). We must achieve that. I have pledged to continue to do that, to continue the great work that General McChrystal did in that regard."

There's your headline: Petraeus Pledges to Continue McChrystal's "Great Work." COINdinistas rule.

Most Americans don't know what the ascendance of counterinsurgency doctrine in the US military means. Judging by the failure of the senators to raise the topic with the most famous contemporary COIN author seated before them, neither do our elected representatives. Some senators were obviously distressed by restrictive battle rules, but they didn't seem to regard them as a crucial means to COIN's fantasy-end: winning so-called hearts and minds.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).