'A War' shows the complexities of ROE while trying to win hearts and minds

‘A War’ is an Oscar-nominated Danish film that deals with what happens in the field and on the homefront when warfighters are made to fight with restrictive rules of engagement. As much as the film is a story about one officer’s experience (and how his choices under fire potentially affect his family) it is also a commentary on the nature of the limited wars that members of NATO and ISAF have found themselves involved in since 2001.

The war in Afghanistan has been specifically challenging with respect to ROE. The enemy isn’t another nation-state. Some areas are more secure than others, but overall there are no front lines. Add to that the overall mission of convincing the local populace that modernity and following a western model of rule of law is the better choice over the savage and unmerciful nature of Sharia law and the draconian elements that come with it. The ability to win “hearts and minds” is heavily leveraged against avoiding collateral damage while attacking the enemy.

All of that distills down into an ROE matrix that requires the warfighter in the field to accept risk. This primary mission is keep the locals safe; it’s not keep your troops safe. And it’s not kill the enemy at all costs.

Scene from the Danish film 'A War.'

Scene from the Danish film ‘A War.’

In all-out warfare unflinching ROE can be established, stuff like “if it flies it dies” and “everything east of this longitude is hostile.” In limited war the steps are complex and nuanced, almost like trying to build a case in a courtroom. Only a battlefield is no courtroom.

In limited war the fact your unit is under attack doesn’t give you carte blanche to defend yourself. “Positive ID” must be established. You have to be able to prove you know where the bullets are coming from before returning fire rather than destroying whole city blocks. You have to be able to tell “the pepper from the fly shit,” as they say.

Complying with this PID methodology gets harder when troops start dying around you. At that point you’re apt to do whatever it takes to make it stop.

And once the shooting does stop and you’re back in the antiseptic light of day, you will be judged on your conduct. You’ll be judged by those who weren’t there, and who probably never have been or ever will be there.

Such is the essence of the Post-9/11 conflicts. The harm into which we’ve sent our most recent generation of warriors is distinct from those who fought before them, and the respect they’re due is unique and equal.

TOP ARTICLES
This vehicle is bristling with weapons to shoot down Kim Jong-un's aerial menace

Whether the plane is carrying bombs, rockets, missiles, or some of Kim Jong-un's goons, the Hybrid BIHO will make sure they never get through.

That time two luxurious ocean liners fought an intense old-time naval battle

The German ship Cap Trafalgar disguised itself as the HMS Carmania to lure and destroy British merchant ships. Its first victim was the real HMS Carmania.

This is the dummy's guide to the rail gun

Designed to double the muzzle velocity of all naval artillery weapons to hypersonic speeds up to Mach 6, the Navy's rail gun system uses advanced technology that is a pain in the butt to understand

This is what Sikorsky thinks should replace the Blackhawk

The Defiant is fast, it can carry a lot of troops, and it's armed to the teeth.

How one vet learned to actually appreciate his deployment to Iraq

This veteran believes God used the Iraq war to fulfill Biblical prophesies, and he's written a four part series to explain it.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter was awarded the Air Force Cross Oct. 17 for actions during an eight-hour firefight in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.

This is what Iran will do if the US pulls out of the nuke deal

President Trump is threatening to back out of the Iran nuclear deal — in direct opposition of the other five countries involved. Here is what Iran thinks.

5 military movies you should look out for in 2018

These are some of the handful of military-related movies hitting the screens next year that look like they could be worth the price of admission.

Why Hollywood prescribes pot to its veteran characters with PTS

A new Netflix comedy takes a lighthearted look at the growing use of medical marijuana to treat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress.

Does this picture show the US covertly moving SEALs into Korea?

The USS Michigan stopped in Busan for a "routine port visit," but pictures of the event suggest a more clandestine purpose that may involve US Navy SEALs.