Regarding the “Rules” of War

There has been a lot of noise made over the past few days about how the Iraqi forces are disregarding the “rules” of war. Last night on CBS, I heard a Marine whine (yes, I’ll use that word) about how they’ve encountered enemy soldiers who don’t “fight like men”—in other words, don’t wear fatigues and shoot when expected to.

I won’t argue that the summary execution of prisoners of war is justified; it’s not. It’s disgusting. But throughout history, the underdogs in armed conflict have always resorted to tactics that fall outside the generally-accepted rules of engagement. Our country is no exception. Let’s think back to 1776 for a minute. Back then, the accepted way to go into battle was to don colorful uniforms (they didn’t call the British “red coats” for nothing) and march down the road with fife and drum making plenty of racket. But the American Minutemen hid in the bushes and picked off the Brits with their muskets. Not fair!

So if we’re going to fight this damn war, how about we shut up about the actions of our enemy and just fight the war? I thought we’d decided that the time for talking was over.