An award for not killing

23 June 2010

I have to confess: I’m usually charmed by stories about the military. And Rolling Stone’s famous profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the com­man­der of the forces fight­ing against the Taliban in Afghanistan, is no different. It’s news­wor­thy for a few choice quotes, but the bulk of it is a profile of Mc­Chrys­tal himself, who appears to be brilliant, brave, driven, and able. (As well as a man of poor judgement.)

A small part of the profile dis­cusses McChrystal’s efforts to reduce civil­ian casualties, and briefly men­tions a sug­ges­tion for a tan­ta­lis­ing new mil­i­tary medal: a medal for “courageous restraint” to be awarded, I suppose, to sol­diers who could’ve opened fire, but chose not to. It seems weird for an award to be given out in such circumstances, but this thought puzzles me, since of such an act of omis­sion could of course be a moment of great valour. Does any mil­i­tary make such awards? To in­di­vid­u­als taking on per­sonal danger, in order to lessen the risk to others?