Cheryl Mac Duff
Limited War Rules of Engagement
The rules of engagement (ROE) used during the war in Southeast Asia continue to be one of the most controversial aspects of that conflict. ROE are intended to reduce the chance of friendly fire incidents and recognize international law regarding the conduct of war, particularly the need to protect civilians, but in Vietnam they became a political tool as well. The restrictions these rules placed on commanders and individual fighting men became a frustrating and costly example of micromanagement taken to the highest level. (, 1995, p. 1) Individual Soldiers in the Field
There was not a problem with individual soldiers understanding what the rules of engagement were in Vietnam. The problem for soldiers in Vietnam was accepting these rules. The restrictions placed on the military by the rules of engagement tended to be one of the factors that lowered morale in the military. The rules of engagement lowered morale because they seemed to force the military to fight with one hand tied behind its back. This seemed to individual soldiers as if they were being asked to risk their lives more than necessary (because they couldn't fight back freely) simply for the sake of some rules imposed for political reasons. The Rules of Engagement got increasingly restrictive as the war went on, and politicians and military leaders began to try and "Vietnamize" the war by putting American troops in less offensive operations. From 1970 on, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army, with notable exceptions, were mostly content to simply wait us out. (, 1995, p. 2) Towards the end of the war they were not allowed to shoot unless fired upon. They would deliberately make their aircraft vulnerable to ground fire so they could report being shot at and counterattack. In some cases they were forced to call in for approval to fire on suspected Vietcong, then watch as they escaped while...