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I’m going to exercise restraint and let you all comment on this one, via the Navy Times:
U.S. troops in Afghanistan could soon be awarded a medal for not doing something, a precedent-setting award that would be given for “courageous restraint” for holding fire to save civilian lives.
The proposal is now circulating in the Kabul headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, a command spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
“The idea is consistent with our approach,” explained Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis. “Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan, that restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions.”
Soldiers are often recognized for non-combat achievement with decorations such as their service’s commendation medal. But most of the highest U.S. military decorations are for valor in combat. A medal to recognize a conscious effort to avoid a combat action would be unique.
Consideration of such an award, first reported by an Associated Press reporter in Afghanistan, doesn’t mean that, if approved, troops would be pressured to prevent such casualties at risk to themselves, Sholtis said.
“We absolutely support the right of our forces to defend themselves,” Sholtis said. “Valuing restraint in a potentially dangerous situation is not the same thing as denying troops the right to employ lethal force when they determine that it is necessary.”
A spokesman for the 2.2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s largest group of combat veterans, thinks the award would cause confusion among the ranks and send a bad signal.
The American Legion has also weighed in:
Calling a proposal to award U.S. troops medals for holding fire in a war zone “misguided,” the head of the nation’s largest veterans organization voiced concern that overly restrictive rules of engagement would ultimately cost lives.
“Nobody likes to see innocent civilians killed in a war zone but the blame for these tragedies lies with the terrorists who caused the war in the first place,” American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill said. “The proposal to award medals for holding fire is troubling because it is symptomatic of a growing culture in the military that will punish troops for making split-second decisions while they are expected to defend themselves and their comrades. This proposal is an insult to our men and women in combat who already do an extraordinary job of exercising restraint. Too much restraint will get our own people killed.”
Hill also worried that rewarding those who don’t use force sends the wrong message to those that do. “Vietnam veterans were outrageously slandered as ‘babykillers,’” he said. “This was tragic because the overwhelming majority of those who served there tried to prevent innocent casualties. Now, by awarding those who supposedly practice restraint, we would be implying that our heroes who have to fire their weapons are somehow failing in their mission or coming up short. It’s a bad idea and the Pentagon should kill it.”
Rush calls it the “Yellow Heart” medal.
Armitageblogger tweets: “It will need to be awarded posthumously almost 90% of the time.”
Diana West: “Meanwhile, where are the Purple Hearts for the jihad-war dead at Ft Hood and the Little Rock recruiting station?”