Rules of Engagement: Law, Strategy and Leadership


Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-168

31 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2011 Last revised: 6 Jun 2012

Date Written: June 25, 2011


This collection of scholarly works from both academia and uniformed service personnel provides PME institutions, the operating forces, and civilian academics a resource of thought-provoking material on the challenging ethical and legal considerations facing Marine leaders and encourage discussion of these issues in an open forum. The project stems directly from the Commandant of the Marine Corps' most recent planning guidance, directing the forces to focus on "better educat[ing] and train[ing] our Marines to succeed in distributed operations and increasingly complex environments."

This article will examine and refocus the debate about ROE to analyze the critical intersection of law, strategy and leadership that Rules of engagement (“ROE”) represent in during armed conflict. ROE are a key leadership tool. At the same time, leadership plays a critical role in communicating the direct relationship between the overall mission, the law of armed conflict, and the tactical needs on the ground. The top brass and senior commanders see the value of the ROE in their every day operations and relationships with local military and government officials, but many officers and enlisted soldiers complain about what they view as unreasonable restrictions on their ability to use force. When strategic counterinsurgency goals of minimizing civilian casualties are mistaken for legal rules that do not allow for civilian deaths in wartime, the differences between law and policy, between legal parameters governing the use of force and the targeting of persons and tactical considerations driven by strategic policy are being differentiated appropriately.

Keywords: rules of engagement, ROE, law of armed conflict, leadership, counterinsurgency, COIN, international law, Afghanistan, Marine Corps, law of war

Suggested Citation

Blank, Laurie R., Rules of Engagement: Law, Strategy and Leadership (June 25, 2011). ASPECTS OF LEADERSHIP: ETHICS, LAW AND SPIRITUALITY, Marine Corps University, 2012; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-168. Available at SSRN:

Laurie R. Blank (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-1711 (Phone)


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