Military’s Mission: To Kill, or Protect?

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The Army's COIN manual

We can’t kill our way to victory.

— Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs

You can’t kill your way to victory.

— Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy

You just can’t kill your way to victory.

— Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., member of the armed services committee

British army veteran and military strategist William F. Owen takes issue with such talk in the latest issue of The British Army Review:

…the basic belief is that killing and capturing should not the focus of military effort. Such statements have undermined years of proven wisdom, and have created an environment that demonizes the logical mind, and demeans the discussion of military affairs into a self-serving sophistry, that falls short of providing clear and explicit guidance to officers and men.

Bloody good read. It’s particularly important as the U.S. feels its way ahead in Afghanistan, trying to balance a counter-insurgency strategy that calls for protecting civilians with a counter-terror approach focused on killing the bad guys.