Accession Number:



"Just Cause" Up Close: A Light Infantryman's View of LIC

Descriptive Note:

Journal article

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Participating in a low-intensity conflict creates a unique challenge for the soldier on the ground. Practice in limiting the force exerted to gain the defeat of an enemy is not a training task often encountered during field exercises. For those who have been at the cutting edge of a low-intensity conflict, constraints and limitations placed upon soldiers Rules of Engagement seem to be, at times, dangerous restraints which can place the lives of soldiers at risk. These rules are a translation of the policy objectives passed down to the Army from the National Command Authorities. As an illustration of how this translation occurs, consider a policy for the U.S. presence in a foreign nation in which one aim is to avoid alienating the local populace. This might prompt the joint task force commander to issue a directive to his subordinates to avoid, at all costs, unnecessary civilian casualties or property damage during operations. This policy could eventually be translated to the soldier as an order not to chamber a round in his weapon unless he feels he is in imminent danger. The time it takes to chamber a round might well save the life of a civilian in a tense situation but it also might cost the soldier his life because he was not prepared to return fire instantly. My units participation in Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama in December 1989, gave me a personal perspective on such potential problems. As company commander of C Company, 2d Battalion, 9th Infantry, 7th Infantry Division Light, it was my responsibility to enforce the Rules of Engagement for our operations and justify these limitations to the soldiers. This article briefly reviews the experiences of C Company in operating within the Rules of Engagement during Operation Just Cause and recommends some changes in the training of U.S. Army units earmarked for low-intensity conflict. Such considerations are timely in view of present initiatives to revise current AirLand Battle doctrine.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement: