Correlate the understanding of the rules of engagement with the limited war ideology and its assumptions as seen through the perspective and experiences of a battalion commander and division commander in Vietnam.
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Soldiers at these kinds of levels were among the most conflicted (along with the officers at the lower levels) in the Vietnam War. They were high enough in the hierarchy, and removed enough from the actual battlefield, to be very aware of the importance of the limited war ideology. At the same time, however, they were low enough in the hierarchy to feel a greater connection to the men who were fighting and a greater desire to preserve their lives than was felt at the higher levels.
Officers at this level were high enough to understand the “big picture.” They knew that the war could not be prosecuted in an “all-out” fashion. This made them feel that the rules of engagement had some legitimacy. They were not like the soldiers at the lowest levels who were more likely to care only about survival.
On the other hand, these officers had generally been in combat units themselves not too long before. They still felt the needs of the combat officers more viscerally than their higher ups likely did. This led them to have more sympathy for the combat troops’ desire for unlimited rules of engagement. In addition, they felt the need for military victories to enhance their career prospects. These forces pulled them toward wanting less restrictive rules of engagement.
Thus, these officers understood the need for a limited war, but still felt the desire to have less restrictive rules of engagement.
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