LATELY — 23 June 2010

An award for not killing

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?