Rules of engagement

Rules of engagement

In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where, and how force shall be used (for example, a submarine of country "A" cannot open fire on the shipping vessels of country "B" without an official declaration of war). Such rules are both general and specific, and there have been large variations between cultures throughout history. The rules may be made public, as in a martial law or curfew situation, but are typically only fully known to the force that intends to use them.


British Military ROE

The British Ministry of Defence officially defines ROE as:

:"Directives issued by competent military authority which delineate the circumstances and limitations under which UK forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered." []

The ROE deal with four issues:
* When military force may be used,
* Where military force may be used,
* Against whom force should be used in the circumstances described above, and
* How military force should be used to achieve the desired ends.

The ROE take two forms: Actions a soldier may take without consulting a higher authority, unless explicitly forbidden (sometimes called 'command by negation') and second, actions that may only be taken if explicitly ordered by a higher authority (sometimes called 'positive command'). Also, in the event that there is a clear and present danger.

In addition to a typically large set of standing orders, military personnel will be given additional rules of engagement before performing any mission or military operation. These can cover circumstances such as how to retaliate after an attack, how to treat captured targets, which territories the soldier is bound to fight into, and how the force should be used during the operation.

The ROE are extremely important:
# They provide a consistent, understandable and repeatable standard on how forces act. Typically they are carefully thought out in detail well in advance of an engagement and may cover a number of scenarios, with different rules for each.
# They assist in the synchronization of political-diplomatic and military components of a strategy by allowing political commanders to better understand, forecast and tailor the actions of a force.

The first rule of engagement for British Armed Forces is always the right to use force in self-defense.

U.S. Military ROE

The 1999 Marine Corps Close Combat Manual (MCRP 3-02B) presents a “Continuum of Force” the following breakdown:

*Level 1: Compliant (Cooperative). The subject responds and complies to verbal commands. Close combat techniques do not apply.
*Level 2: Resistant (Passive). The subject resists verbal commands but complies immediately to any contact controls. Close combat techniques do not apply.
*Level 3: Resistant (Active). The subject initially demonstrates physical resistance. Use compliance techniques to control the situation. Level three incorporates close combat techniques to physically force a subject to comply. Techniques include: Come-along holds, Soft-handed stunning blows, Pain compliance through the use of joint manipulation and the use of pressure points.
*Level 4: Assaultive (Bodily Harm). The subject may physically attack, but does not use a weapon. Use defensive tactics to neutralize the threat. Defensive tactics include: Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, Enhanced pain compliance procedures, Impact weapon blocks and blows.
*Level 5: Assaultive (Lethal Force). The subject usually has a weapon and will either kill or injure someone if he/she is not stopped immediately and brought under control. The subject must be controlled by the use of deadly force with or without a firearm or weapon.

ROE failures

In any engagement, the ROE need to balance two competing goals: The need to use force effectively to accomplish the mission objectives and the need to avoid unnecessary force. (Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Red Wing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10" is [ a critique] of America's rules of engagement for professional soldiers. [ [ Death by rules of engagement] by Diane West] ) This creates room for two types of error:
* Excessively tight ROE can constrain a commander from performing his mission effectively, called a Type I error. It is typical for the political leadership to constrain the actions of military commanders. This is often a source of tension between the political leaders, who are trying to accomplish a political or diplomatic objective, and the military commanders, who are trying to make the most effective use of their forces. Sagan [2] provides an excellent discussion of this topic. The UN Peacekeeper's ROE (see UNAMIR) during the Rwandan Genocide is a tragic example of too restrictive ROE.
* Excessively loose ROE can facilitate the escalation of a conflict which, while being tactically effective, negates the political objectives that the use of force was meant to achieve. This is a Type II error or "escalatory" error.

Current Issues

The late 1990s and early 2000s has seen an increase in the use of private military contractors particularly from United States and Britain. Such contractors are not bound by the same rules of engagement, standing orders, or levels of accountability as are members of a national military force.

See also

* The Moscow Rules, an example of the use of the ROE term in tradecraft.


# USDOD. [ DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms: NATO Only Terms] . United States of America: "Joint Doctrine Division, J-7, Joint Staff, Department of Defense". December 17, 2003.
# Sagan, Scott D., Rules of Engagement, pp 443 - 470 in: George, A., Avoiding War: Problems of Crisis Management, ISBN 0-8133-1232-9.
# Private Military Companies, Taljaard, R. Yale Global Online 9 December 2003. [ Modern Day Mercenaries] .

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