Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Breaking the Rules of Engagement

In the comments on one of our recent Denmark posts, Charro99 said:

I’ll never forget the Danish tank commander who was sent home from Yugoslavia in the 1990’s by the UN when the UN concluded he was “too aggressive in returning fire”. (I’ll never forget that phrase.) His platoon of white UN tanks was ambushed by Serbs, and the Danes destroyed all of the Serb tanks, suffering no losses on their part. I realized then that Danes were different than most Europeans.

His story piqued my interest, so I did a careful internet search and finally found an account of the plucky Danish tank commander. The incident occurred in Bosnia in 1994, near the town of Tuzla. There is very little information available about it on the web — the few entries I found were on military forums, and seem to be re-posting material taken out of the print copy of a Newsweek story.

There were two separate accounts on a Danish forum, one credited to Newsweek, and the other uncredited; I’ll quote from them both.

First, from Newsweek:

Frustrated Danish Tank Crews Punch Back

It was late at night when the Bosnian Serbs began to shell a United Nations observation post called Tango Two in the Sapna Finger, a Muslim-held salient near Tuzla. Danish Lt. Col. Lars Moller of the Nordic Battalion ordered two platoons of his Leopard tanks to charge to the rescue, which was just what the Serbs expected. As the seven tanks reached the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain, the Serbs opened fire with antitank missiles, artillery and machine guns.

“It was an ambush, and a damn good one,” Colonel Moller said. “Tango Two was the cheese, and we were the mouse. But this time the mouse ate the cat.”

One Danish platoon took cover behind buildings; the other maneuvered to high ground and counterambushed. When it was over, nine Serb soldiers were dead.

The “Nordbat” suffered no casualties. More important, it had done what no other U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia had done before: strike back at the Serbs with force.

The April 30 battle of the Sapna Finger does not signal a change in U.N. strategy; in fact, U.N. officials in Sarajevo later played down its significance and hinted that Moller’s troops had overreacted.

Don’t you just love the UN? If you shoot back at the enemy, you’re “overreacting.” Things haven’t changed much in the last twelve years.

There’s more in the second account:

“Things were getting out of hand,” Moller said. He and [tank commander Maj. Carsten] Rasmussen agreed to hold their fire and ensure that Serb shelling of Tango 2 had ceased. After 30 minutes of quiet, the forward tanks began moving back to Saraci — but the Serbs began attacking them again.

Moller said he “began to get [ticked] off.”

The officers ordered the tanks in Saraci to reopen fire. Continuously. For 15 minutes.

One round plowed into a Serb ammunition dump, igniting a massive, concussive blast. Not since a 1943 battle against the Nazis — and before that an 1864 clash with invading Prussians — had Danish forces been in such a fight, the Danes reckoned.

The trouble had begun when the UN representative allowed the Serbs to move tanks into the area from which they had previously been banned.

The tanks reportedly were redeployed on the Serbs’ southern front. Incensed, Bosnian government authorities demanded [UN special representative, Yasushi] Akashi’s resignation as the top U.N. official in the former Yugoslavia.

Other U.N. officials in Sarajevo tried to cover up the continued presence of 100 Serb soldiers within three kilometers of Gorazde and some heavy weapons within the no-go zone around that city, too, despite NATO’s orders that they withdraw or face airstrikes.

In contrast, the Nordic Battalion, drawing on a long history of peacekeeping work by its Danish, Swedish and Norwegian troops, has showed how a tough stance can work in Bosnia.

No wonder Lt. Col. Moller had to be sent home — the last thing the UN wants is somebody displaying a tough stance.

And Lars Moller does sound like the kind of guy you want watching your back:

Lars MollerMoller, 40, the battalion’s deputy commander and its top tank officer, is a past karate champion; his father was a Danish Resistance fighter in World War II, and his brother is also a U.N. soldier in Croatia.

He speaks English sprinkled with American slang he picked up on NATO maneuvers, but with an English officer’s accent that seems to match his walking stick. “Turning your cheek is the wrong way down here,” he says. “There’s a lot of macho bulls**t down here and you have to adapt your behavior accordingly.”


“The ambush was bad juju on their part. We are not here to take incoming,” Moller said. “Fortunately for them, we are not here to get involved either. We could have destroyed all of them and been in Zvornik by morning.”

Here’s the part that I like best, from the second account:

Moller said the Danes spared three Serb T-55 tanks because, while the Leopards’ infrared detectors found the Serbs’ aiming systems turned on, they also determined that the enemy tanks’ barrels were cold. Under the restrictive U.N. rules of engagement, only guns actually caught in act of firing may be hit. [my emphasis]

That’s the way the UN fights a war. No wonder the United States is loath to get sucked into the “peacekeeping” tar baby. A peacekeeping mission always assumes that fighting has stopped, and that new fighting is to be avoided at almost any cost. Even if the UN were not an inherently corrupt and ineffective bureaucratic organization, “peacekeeping” contains a structural imperative that all but guarantees that UN forces will cover up, ignore, and explain away any breaches of the peace.

The Danes experienced a problem that would have been familiar to the US Army Rangers in Somalia:

Although the Serb attacks have grown intense, the U.N. political command in Zagreb, Croatia — directed by special envoy Yasushi Akashi — has rejected at least four of the battalion’s requests for NATO planes to fly close air support for U.N. troops here, Moller said.

Boy, I’ll bet that was good for troop morale…

Most U.N. troops on peacekeeping duty in Bosnia have been neither as aggressive nor as successful as Nordbat. Although last week U.N. commander General Sir Michael Rose praised the tank action during a visit to Copenhagen, many U.N. officials privately have criticized the Scandinavian troops.

It’s obvious that the Nordic Battalion deserved the criticism. An aggressive response defeats the purpose of the UN and goes against its mission statement. When your imperative is to have peace at any price, the aggressor holds the trump card, and must be appeased, rather than defeated.

But Lt. Col. Moller didn’t see it that way:

“The U.N. should not bow its head to any of these people,” he said. “Once you do that, you lose your dignity and, even worse, the other guy will keep walking over you. In the Balkans, you’ve gotta stand tall.”

Fast-forward to February 2006, and reissue these words on behalf of the Danish people in the face of the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis: Denmark should not bow its head to any of these people. Once you do that, you lose your dignity and, even worse, the other guy will keep walking over you.

It’s worth remembering that the Nordic Battalion was defending the Bosnian Muslims back in 1994. Their efforts on behalf of the Prophet’s followers didn’t bank them much credit twelve years later, did it?


Zerosumgame said...

If the Danish military can show a similar toughness today, I think I have a job for them....Darfur -- only this time, NOT under UN auspicies...but jointly perhaps with the USA, Australia, and Poland.

Any thoughts from our Danish contingent?

hank_F_M said...


Remeber the Danes invented the Danegeld -- they know better.


The guy was forced the issue and was court marshalled. The UN aspect is irrelevant, it was a legal and lawful order from his US commanders. I believe he got a very light punishment. Just enough a slap on the wrist to establish that orders will be followed.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

"It’s worth remembering that the Nordic Battalion was defending the Bosnian Muslims back in 1994. Their efforts on behalf of the Prophet’s followers didn’t bank them much credit twelve years later, did it?"

The original UN intervention in Bosnia was to keep peace between the Bosniacs (muslim), Serbs and Croats. Since the Bosniacs were losing you can say they were being defended. The IFOR/SFOR mission actually did the job the UN couldn't in Bosnia. Thats a 10 year mission now been handed over to EU forces. Then came the short AFOR (humanitarian mission to muslim Albania which had fallen into anarchy).

Next KFOR in Kosovo. Muslim Albanians, who had taken over historically majority Serb lands (as recently as the early 20th century) by offensive demographics (6-8 children per Kosovo Albanian family AVERAGE). After we launched a war of dubious legality to force Serbia to terms, then marched in with KFOR, we installed the biggest band of terorists,murdereres, bandits and robbers as the new local government (the so called UCK or Kosovo Liberation Army). The province has since been largely cleansed of Christian Serbs, and Christian churches and monasteries (mostly centuries old) have been destroyed wherever they are not guarded by KFOR.

On the other hand, in the March 2004 riots in Kosovo, when Albanian rioters were overrunning KFOR defended sites and villiages, the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians were again prominent with their resolve and use of force, while French, German and Italian KFOR were hamstrung by national rules of engagement with UN style prohibitions.

Regardless, all those missions were/are essentially de facto pro-Muslim. The Danes were active in all the above missions. Muslim gratitude in action.

kepiblanc said...

zerosumgame --

Any thoughts from our Danish contingent?

I guess most Americans are unaware of the fact that Denmark - although an EU member - has 4 official reservations written into the EU treaty. For example we're outside the EU military arm with no participation whatsoever. Our armed forces answer to NATO exclusively and to the UN only insofar NATO does. Two days ago Mr. Kofi Annan (father to Kojo) visited Denmark in order to criticise us for our islamofobia (sic) and beg for even more soldiers to various UN missions, including Darfur. Our government responded positively to his requesty, but under conditions : a clear mandate from the Security Council.

Personally, I find it somewhat far-fetched that one of the smallest, but most islamofobic countries on the planet, hated by every Muslim alive, is expected to contribute even more soldiers to yet another, inheritly insoluble, Islamic mess-up.

anti-uffe said...

While I am infinitely flattered by the reputation of Denmark as the little country that stands up against the Muslim threat, reality at grassroots level is far more dhimmified denial than most of you probably realize.

My guess is that maybe 30-50% of Danes are dhimmified to some extent. Most believe, or want to believe, that whatever problems exist with our Muslim minority can be solved by ensuring that they get educated and a job when they graduate, and that we show our respect by talking nicely about them.

The discourse on this blog would be taken as right-wing extremism by far the most Danes. Talking about long term disaster for Europe would make you a boring party pooper and an alarmist, prone to paranoia. Almost everybody assume, I believe, that our way of life will be passed on to our descendants, give or take a terrorist attack or two. The MSM do not want to know about demographics or jihad. The role of the imams in the cartoon rage will have no consequences at all.

The question that nobody can answer is what it would take to shift this lethargy towards a more realistic, if bleak, appraisal of the future. More terrorist attacks on European soil, more 'green shirt' intimidation of critics of the religion of death, extended rioting by the always so angry 'youth', and cities becoming under de facto sharia rule - all this would undoubtedly force many dhimmis to reevaluate their groundless optimism vis-a-vis the happy multicultural melting pot. My guess some will stick with their deeply felt self hatred and keep on directing any blame back on ourselves.

Don't believe Danes are significantly less dhimmified than the rest of the world. The next election may well put the dhimmis back in power, although opinion polls at the moment favour the incumbent government.

Zerosumgame said...


Thank you for your candor. I suspected that Denmark was farther along the road to dhimmitude than most of the conservative Danes here are willing to admit, even to themselves.

Mad Fiddler said...

The United Nations Mission came AFTER the United States was committed by William Dhimmerson... I mean... oh, ferget it..

Clinton "sold" the war to the American Public as an intervention of a coalition of NATO members to PREVENT ETHNIC CLEANSING— i.e., "genocide"— which was described as being done by Serb orthodox Christians to Muslims. The UN came in quite a long time after NATO forces had been engaged.

Of course, Clinton was determined to make the gesture in a way that minimized any chance of embarrassing him with pesky U.S. casualties, so the order for U.S. pilots was to fly at altitudes beyond the range of anti-aircraft fire. This made it extremely difficult for pilots to differentiate friend from foe on the ground, even with the fancy technology we have. This in turn resulted in some pretty sorry mix-ups, killing people we had declared we were there to defend.

Ya gotta hand it to Clinton... When he gets the urge, someone is going to get screwed.

moif said...

Well, bar a miracle, I shall like as not be voting against my former socialist tendencies and instead, for the nationalists in the next election. My tolerance has been worn down to nothing.

Like most Danes I am fairly easy going, but the last year has seen my attitudes harden to the point of aggression. As things stand now, I would not like to see Danish soldiers, peace keeping in Darfur. Let the Muslims deal with their own problems.

My youngest brother was one of the UN troops shelled by the Serbs and I won't support any further move to protect people who would gladly see us forced under the yoke of sharia.

I would like to see more Danes being “too aggressive in returning fire”.

Captain USpace said...

Another excellent analysis!

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
let your enemies shoot first

give them a chance to kill you
before blowing their brains out

Anonymous said...

Good luck with Moslems :) you will need it.

A Serb