Here’s yet another case of trying to solve a problem the lack of integrity of a few people by setting up useless, mandatory mechanisms that won’t solve the original problem (aforementioned lack of integrity). In this case it’s the military’s response to the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire.

An op-ed by a retired general in the New York Times notes:

Sadly, Corporal Tillman’s death comes with another unhappy legacy: a ludicrous change in the Army regulation that deals with reporting casualties. With this change, the Army now requires a formal, independent investigation into the death of every American in a hostile area.

f this provision had been in place when we began our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, there would have been about 3,700 investigations by now. The American losses in Vietnam would have required more than 58,000 inquiries. And if the regulation had existed in World War II, we would have conducted 400,000 investigations, requiring perhaps as many investigating officers as we now have troops in Iraq.

In theory, the rule sounds commendable. Life is precious, and if one is cut short in combat then we owe the soldier and his family as full a report as possible. Having experienced more than enough combat, I understand this sentiment. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s the motivating force behind the revised regulation. In my view, the provision is there for one reason and one reason alone: to put in place a protocol to prevent commanders from lying about the cause of their soldiers’ deaths.

What’s the problem with that? Well, it’s beyond insidious because it is an admission that the Army has determined it can’t trust anyone in the combat chain of command and that the actions of General Kensinger are the rule, not the exception, and that this kind of malfeasance among soldiers is expected to be so common that it requires regular policing. This is a catastrophic message to be sending our military, in large measure because it is wrong.

In many walks of life, legislating against unacceptable behavior is used as a barrier against potential misdeeds, but in most cases such laws and rules are really just substitutes for good leadership.  It will also be almost impossible (make that impossible) to conduct any meaningful investigation of every death in combat. Read the whole piece.