May 13th, 2010
10:58 AM ET

Military proposes medal for troops showing restraint

U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan could someday be awarded medals for restraint that prevents civilian casualties in combat.

The possibility is under consideration by the staff of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, according to Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, McChrystal's spokesman.

The idea of rewarding battlefield restraint was proposed by British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, who is in charge of the international forces in southern Afghanistan. Sholtis said the idea is still in its "conceptual stage."

"Although no decisions have been made on the award itself, the idea is consistent with our strategic approach," Sholtis said. "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 combat actions that merit awards for valor."

Sholtis said troops would still have the right of self defense.

"Let me be clear. We absolutely support the right of our forces to defend themselves. 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."

McChrystal has placed a priority on reducing civilian casualties as a means of gaining support of the Afghan people. A number of recent high-profile incidents in which civilians have been killed have given the Taliban a propaganda tool against the coalition, U.S. officials said.

McChrystal has instituted other rules to help minimize civilian deaths, including restricting the use of airstrikes in areas where there may be civilians, and limiting nighttime raids by U.S. forces.

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. IraqVet1

    The idea for a medal under the bases of choosing not to engage an enemy at the cost of causing considerable civilian casualties makes sense. If you're getting small arms fire from one guy when you're in an up-armored vehicle, are you really in danger? The answer is no. In order to defeat an insurgency you need to fight for the civilians in that country. Once you win over the population (not an easy thing to do) then insurgents lose support and their ability to effectively fight.
    You don't always have to engage the enemy. I bet we would like to tell stories of how we destroyed a single armed shooter. There's just not a need to engage an enemy, surrounded by civilians, when no one is in any real danger. If you're a foot patrol, then you're in danger and need to react accordingly. If you're mounted, just wave the guy the finger and drive on.

    October 15, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. cpl steeley

    War is not meant to be humanitarian. Courageous restraint is for the diplomats..Marines and soldiers are not intended to be diplomats – they are meant to kill people and break things.


    Use us rarely – we'd rather not do it, but if we must, take off the velvet handcuffs..

    After we devistate, it makes the diplomat's jobs a hell of a lot more credible and effective..

    "Negotiate for a common goal, or you will assuredly experience a miserable demise."

    The more credible that reality is, the more effective the negotiation.

    This "Couragoeus Restraint Medal" will probably be the most "awarded post-humanously" recognition (never mind the most despised) ever devised, and the most counter-productive.

    Let's keep our roles clear and unfettered. You negotiate, you deal, I make your consequences for not negotiating credible.

    I'm a reluctant but dedicated warrior. I kill and destroy. If you want to make deals, you need me to be as nasty and terrible as I can be.

    If the choice is between working with you or dealing with me, I want "them" so scared of me that working with you is the only credible option for them.

    Take your courageous restraint medal and stuff it up your assinine view of the world.

    July 3, 2010 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. Army, CSM (Retired)

    This is how it goes, “Attention to Orders, Private First Class Smith is awarded the Army Shows Restraint Medal. Private First Class Smith displayed impenetrable restraint during combat operations when 6 insurgents attacked his location. Private First Class Smith did not return fire because the Rules Of Engagement forbid him from doing so if Civilian Casualties were probable. The armed insurgents used AK47 and RPG’s to attack Private First Class Smith, and out of fear of reprisal Private First Class Smith did not return fire and therefore demonstrated the restraint expected from all serving in the like capacity, his inactions reflect great credit upon him, the United States Military Leadership, and the President of the United Stated of America.

    General's Wake up! This is the wrong message to our Troops!!!

    June 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Meateee

    How does one determine who is "showing restraint" and who just doesn't have the balls to pull the trigger when the need arises? Good luck sorting the "heroes" from the cowards.

    May 18, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Patriot in West(by God) Virginia

    The taliban will have us right where they want us, IN THIER CROSSHAIRS.

    May 18, 2010 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ding Dang

    This is something that all the high leadership in the military should be relieved of duty for. Our military commanders rather see our troops come home in body bags, than see a civilian accidently wounded or killed. Most of the ones in the area are involved someway or another. Our troops talk to a civilian and is told the taliban does not come around. I is a place were they get shot at from on a daily basis. There is alot in innocent civilians and I'm sorry to hear about there casualties. But this is a way, and I rather see them die overall of service men and woman.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Richard

    Could we get a few of these medals to the military in Bangkok, ASAP!!

    May 17, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Peyote

    Medal for not doing anything. Wonder why we are having such a hard time in afghanistan? These so called military leaders need a horse and a sword and ride in with the men and women they are so enthusiastically trying to get killed. The problem with war started when the generals stopped fighting and started pushing buttons. A hero from half a world away. Cowardice politicians the whole lot of them

    May 16, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kickserv

    If I was to receive this award I would tell the First Coward in Chief to kiss my butt. And if the Joint Chiefs had any guts they would walk into The Coward in Chiefs office and put their Stars on his desk and just say we are done with this. Great young men are dying because they are not being aloud to fight. These young men are the best trained Military in the World and if they decide to lock on to something and fire on someone it is time we back them up not take them to court.

    May 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    thanks for the medal for not doing my job? that would be the most confusing awards presentation. does the world forget in war people die? that is just making a joke out of every other ribbon i have hanging from my chest.

    May 15, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Buck

    Is Barbara Starr doing a good job with the facts, or is she just taking a cheap shot at the military?

    May 15, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. dsd

    Hey D to the 2 and all you others in favor of this...... wanna talk to my son and his Marine brothers there in Marjah? Do you F******** realize how much RESTRAINT HAS BEEN USED BY OUR MILITARY ALREADY SINCE THIS ALL BEGAN IN FEB? Do you know how many Marines/soldiers have been SHOT, BLOW UP, AMBUSHED by the Taliban. People they reach out to one day, plant the bombs and kill our men the next. I'M SICK TO DEATH OF ALL THIS CRAP! They've tied their hands at even taking suspected Taliban into custody for questioning.... let them go..... so they can turn around and kill more of our Marines (and soldiers). Our Marines have so many restrictions tying their hands so as it is. I've NEVER ONCE HEARD ANY OF THEM SAY THEY JUST WANT TO SHOOT ANYBODY/EVERYBODY OVER THERE. Why the hell are our Marines, soldiers over there then. SEND IN THE POLITICIANS, DIPLOMATS AND PEACE CORPS TO REACH OUT AND TOUCH THE LIVES OF THE AFGHANI'S, GIVE THEM MORE OF OUR $$$, MAKE THEM FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES SO THEY DON'T SIDE WITH THE TALIBAN!!!!! We don't need military there, we need COIN specialists. I've completely lost faith in our government's ability to see straight. I've never had one ounce of confidence in our "president". WHAT A CRYING SHAME!
    No, there can NEVER be a medal for restraint..... our men show it and do it every freakin day over there. If you want to look at it from another angle, let's give every serviceman who COMMITS SUICIDE, the Medal of Honor or Valour, for what they endured. Talk about extreme duress..... let's put our $ into helping curb that tide.

    May 14, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Soldier

    Don't approve!! Why would I recieve a medal for abiding by the convention that the U.S. is signature and Soldiers are required to comply with?
    "...all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, religion or political opinion. However, the Parties to the conflict may take such measures of control and security in regard to protected persons as may be necessary as a result of the war. ”
    —- Article 27, Fourth Geneva Convention

    May 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Justin

    This is a ridiculous idea. A medal for not killing innocent civilians is insulting. Why should a Soldier need a medal for being a decent human being and making the correct decisions. Medals are for recognizing Service members that did an exceptional job taking it to the enemy. Not injuring innocents is a default position.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. us marine

    they got to be out of their minds,to put a policy like that in place is absurd,we are at war,not a peace keeping mission.if they put this in place,the body bag count will soar,is mcchrystal a relative of general westmoreland,seems like the same mind set.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  16. michael

    the taliban and their al qaeda allies deliberately have been involving civilians in their battles and hiding amongst them and recruiting them. but how effective have our forces been in afghanistan and how effective have pakistan been in their offensive? their finally standing up to the taliban on their home soil has made a tremendous difference so far but more needs to be done

    May 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  17. bernie

    ... "Let me be clear. We absolutely support the right of our forces to defend themselves. 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."

    If we are there to defend ourselves, why are we there???

    May 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Robert Lee Bauer

    No, do not have a medal for restraint. It is hard enough to get some soldiers to shoot and protect themselves as it is. Do NOT put any ideas of restraint in their heads and cause them to delay protecting themselves or you'll get them killed. DO NOT DO THIS MEDAL!!!
    Dr. Robert Lee Bauer

    May 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Amanda

    Of course we want our troops safe, and to come home. They deserve this kind of recognition receiving a medal for their service. We have to show them our appreciation for their service. And Jerry, those women and children overseas, may be innocent people......or enemies to us. My husband, who's been overseas, has told me that he's seen childen and women with guns in their hands shooting at our troops. So let's not jump to conclusions defending the women and children overseas like they have no part with the war we're dealing with.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Maritta

    The nerve of the politicians!!!! For my money, there's not a lot of difference between the politicians and the upper command of the military; they're sounding the same. They are not face to face with the insurgents with their lives or their loved one's lives on the line. I have a son over there, and I feel that his life is worth so much more than a potentially hostile local. He and all his comrades should in no way be restrained from using deadly force when they feel threatened. I wish that the families of all our servicemen and servicewomen would unite and tell this crappy administration that this crap has got to stop. Our lousy President has no first hand experience with the military or combat, and it shows! We need to bring our troops home in one piece as soon as possible. Maybe we could rotate Congress and the President in for a 6 month tour.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travis Pawlikowski

      I am here right now. And this might be hard for you to accept, and I understand...but the only way to win this war is not through firepower. I wish it was, we all do. But the only way to win a war of this nature is to earn the faith of the people. The only way to do that in the starkly black and white Afghan mind is to establish two things: You're the most powerful "tribe", and you're in their best interests.

      May 16, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • Lisa

        Travis...THANK YOU:) Intelect over arms....

        May 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • WeaponX

        Hey man, spent some time over there myself. You've been told that " the only way to win a war of this nature is to earn the faith of the people" and that seems to make sense. You're are correct in saying that winning that aspect of the war requires establishing dominance and showing the people you have their best interests in mind. However, this "Hearts and Minds" crap has NEVER been proven effective. In fact, take a look at all the international conflicts between 1950 and present day... you will find that all the "wars" of this nature, in which "Hearts and Minds" needed to be won were LOST. Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans are just a few, but there are dozens more, many of which don't involve the United States that are also prime examples of how this type of "war" (which isn't even really a war) cannot be "won." There will always be a resistance, there will always be natives who want nothing more than for us invaders, an occupying force, to be gone for good. Thanks for your service brother, just take some time and think about that if you get a chance. Stay safe, Semper Fi.

        May 18, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  21. jerrystroud

    This is a joke , right? WE need to give medals for killing the enemy. Not killing innocent people os already a standard policy and always has been. I guess someone thinks our service guys just like to randomly unload thier ammo into crowds of women and children?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Tom in Pa

    Great. Restraint. Our military are already showing extreme restraint and to make them more sensitive to the issue will truely reduce civilian casualties....and increase the body bags coming home.

    Tom V
    USMC – Vietnam

    May 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |