Rules of Engagement Roe Essay

Pages: 6 (2151 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Military

Rules of Engagement

What are the rules of engagement in war zones and how do the military rules of engagement relate to civilians in dangerous zones of conflict where the United States is involved militarily? This paper will review those rules, the justifications for them, and will also review the controversy surrounding mass shooting incident involving the U.S. private contractor Blackwater.

Rules of Engagement (ROE)

CICS INSTRUCTIONS 312101B: The U.S. Naval War College issued "Standing Rules of Engagement for U.S. Forces" on 13 June, 2005, with a number of important particulars. When operating with multinational forces, U.S. forces do have the right of "self-defense" when attacked. Also, there must be a "reasonable" effort to develop "common ROE" so that all nations' forces working together can observe the same guidelines. If Navy personnel should not remain in an area where hostilities -- that do not involve the U.S. -- are "imminent or occurring between foreign forces." Ships and aircraft do have the right to enter foreign territorial sea or "archipelagic waters and corresponding airspace" without permission if rending "emergency assistance" to those in danger from "perils of the sea." An important set of rules applies to piracy on the high seas.

Piracy: Self-defense does include the authority to "pursue and engage forces" that have committed a hostile act "…or demonstrated hostile intent" and "U.S.

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warships and aircraft have an obligation to repress piracy on or over international waters directed against any vessel or aircraft, whether U.S. Or foreign flagged. For ship and aircraft commanders repressing an act of piracy, the right and obligation of unit self-defense extend to the persons, vessels or aircraft assisted."

Essay on Rules of Engagement Roe Assignment

BLUE FORCE STANDING RULES of ENGAGEMENT: The U.S. Naval War College (March 4, 2004) issued ROE to all Blue Force Commanders. A Commander has the "authority and the obligation to use all necessary means" to defend his unit along with other Blue Forces in the area, against hostile acts or threats of a hostile act. That said, "civilian leaders of Blue forces must have approved some "actions and weapons" in advance" the rules assert. A "hostile force" is defined as any civilian, paramilitary or "terrorist (s)" that has committed a hostile act or has indicated a hostile intent qualifies as a hostile force.

Whose responsibility is it to determine if it is a hostile force or not? "An appropriate authority" must gather intelligence, must know the status of international relationships, and prior to using force must (if time and circumstances allow) attempt to "de-escalate" the situation. As in the ROE issued June, 2005, Blue Forces have "…an obligation to repress piracy" on or over international waters.

SELF-DEFENSE in the MARITIME ENVIRONMENT UNDER the NEW STANDING RULES of ENGAGEMENT/STANDING RULES for the USE of FORCE: The U.S. Naval War College ("Joint Military Operations Department") issued clarification for the SROE and SRUF (Standard Rules for the Use of Force). The SRUF apply for the most part to U.S. territorial waters and SROE apply outside U.S. territorial seas. Commander Sean P. Henseler, JAGC, USN, recounts his experience on September 11, 2001, when his ship, the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, was leaving port in Florida for at-sea exercises. The confusion on that fateful day showed Henseler how important it is to update ROE and to "standardize Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (at/FP)." And moreover, there was a need to streamline the new ROE so it was user-friendly and didn't require a commander in the field to check back with civilian authorities for specifics.

In a way, nothing has changed, only clarified. For example, sailors aboard a ship in a foreign port certainly to have the right to "…exercise individual self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent"; individual self-defense is considered a "subset of unit self-defense" so "all necessary means available…" may be used when threatened, Henseler writes (p. 215). As to the question of whether a sailor should use a knife to fend off a knife attack the answer is "no." Whatever force is necessary in order to respond "decisively" and to "dissuade further hostile acts" should be used. As to the maritime environment it is not always easy to determine if that small craft -- "jet ski, motor boat, light aircraft…" coming near a Navy vessel is indeed hostile. And what constitutes a "demonstration of hostile intent" in an era of terrorism?

Henseler admits that determining "hostile intent" is "…the single most difficult decision that a commander has to make during peacetime" (p. 217). "Hope is not a plan," he states, and hence the at/FP watchers don't need to sit back and wonder if a "low slow flyer (LSF)" is about to crash into the Navy vessel. There are proactive measures, Henseler asserts. First of all there are visual clues that a commander can give to an approaching aircraft or small craft in the water.

Flares, colored smoke, lights, barriers, and signs are all effective at warning against coming too close, Henseler writes (p. 218). Inflatable boats and helicopters are also effective at warning potential terrorists that they are in jeopardy. Warning shots are also effective and recommended, he stressed. Henseler warns against taking an action that might not be strong enough just because the commander worries about the aftermath investigation into his use of force. The commander concludes his essay with a reminder that the SRUF (within U.S. territorial waters) calls for the threatening force to "be warned and given the opportunity to withdraw or cease threatening actions" (p. 220). One of the key differences between SRUF and SROE is that force is to be used "as a last resort" outside the U.S. waters (SRUF) and if used force should be "the minimum necessary," Henseler asserts, and it can be "non-deadly." But within U.S. waters (SROE) or within U.S. territory, deadly force is to be used; homeland security brings with it a responsibility to respond quickly and firmly to hostile acts or threats of hostile acts.

All those rules and concepts having been said, Henseler concludes his essay (p. 227) with this: "The ultimate goal of self-defense training should be to ensure that every person in the unit has the same understanding of when and how their commander expects them to use force in self-defense."


Direct participation in hostilities means that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should have the right to access to hostile zones under the rules set down by the International Humanitarian Law (IHL). That said, this document (2009) clearly puts forward the danger that members of the ICRC face due to "erroneous, unnecessary or arbitrary attacks" because they were mistaken for combatants, or they just become targets.

"All persons who are not members of State armed forces" and are not members of "organized armed groups belonging to a party to an armed conflict" are protected against attacks -- unless, of course, they become directly involved in the hostilities (p. 2). What is considered direct participation in hostilities? "Direct" suggests causing injury to another party, supporting a party to the conflict, capturing or wounding military personnel or attacking the computer networks of the enemy. Part of the answer includes a long list of actions that are considered to be direct involvement ("transmitting tactical targeting intelligence for specific attacks"; using "time delayed weapons such as mines…") (p. 3).

What is the status of the ICRC's Interpretive Guidance document? It is a "non-binding" document but it makes plain to states that the ICRC, an independent and respected humanitarian organization, should be protected in hostile theaters under the IHL.


The U.S. military intervention in Haiti (1994) created a need to fine-tune ROE during the delicate interventions called "Operation Uphold Democracy" (Stephen Rose). What were the ROE for this exercise? Troops were given the order to "intervene to prevent death or serious injury" to Haitians. Another ROE stated to "…Use only non-deadly force to detain civilians" who are suspected of criminal activity; and defend yourself and your unit by using "necessary force" when it is called for. The difficulty in establishing just what a soldier and do and what he cannot do is delicate, and this article clearly shows the challenges inherent in this kind of operation. Rose admits that there can be "…no universal recipe" for ROE, since the rules must be crafted "to a specific context" (Rose, 234).


Rules of engagement become blurred when the United States hires a private security agency like Blackwater to enter into a war zone. Blackwater's role was to provide "personal security to U.S. officials working in Iraq," according to RTE news. The hiring of Blackwater by the George W. Bush Administration was in line with Bush's desire to privatize the war in certain aspects.

Blackwater was founded in 1996, and after the U.S.S. Cole was bombed in Yemen in October 2000, Blackwater received a large federal contract to train sailors in the art of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Rules of Engagement Roe.  (2010, November 9).  Retrieved May 11, 2021, from

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"Rules of Engagement Roe."  November 9, 2010.  Accessed May 11, 2021.