Shortly before he left office, former defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved the Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM), which would honor members of the military for achievements off the battlefield.
This is a great idea. It signifies that the American Military Complex realizes it no longer needs to put a squad’s life in danger for the soul purpose of detaining or killing individuals. Granted, high priority targets such as Osama Bin Laden and other leading terrorist operatives who pose a threat to both the United States and its allies abroad, sometimes need the extra assurance that a special operations team brings to the table.
What outrages me, and perhaps I say this because my grandfather received medals in World War II, is the fact that a DWM would outrank those given for combat heroism and gallantry.
In a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, 22 Senators expressed concerns:
“As cyber warfare has become one of the most dangerous threats to our nation, it’s appropriate for us to recognize the hard work of those who defend us against such attacks. At the same time, I strongly believe that this new award should not receive precedence over combat medals. The courage and selflessness of the men and women who serve overseas, away from loved ones, while putting their lives on the line to fight against our enemies is unmatched. The medals for such service are for exceptional heroism in the face of all odds, and they should be treated that way.”
Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Assistant Majority Whip and one of only a few members of Congress to serve on both the Foreign Affairs Committee and Armed Service Committee, wrote a similar House bipartisan letter with 48 signatures attached:
“While we applaud the intent of this medal, we do not agree with placing the DWM above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the order of precedent.”
I couldn’t agree more with the bipartisan backlash highlighted in both of these letters. While drone warfare may perpetuate terrorism; it’s effective, it’s efficient, and most importantly, it puts less of our armed forces at risk by shifting the battle behind a series of joysticks. The men and women responsible for successful operations should be rewarded, just not with a medal that can be awarded by putting yourself in the line of fire.