In one of his final actions, last month outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta instituted a new award that troops can earn, called the Distinguished Warfare Medal. (Warfare. Not “Peacefare” or “Defense” or some such euphemism. Panetta is not a man to mince words.) It’s formal criterion is that the act of the recipient “must have a direct impact, through any domain, on combat or other military operations,” take place after September 11 2001, and not itself be an “act of valor.” In practice this is widely understood to mean a drone strike or strikes (some think it could also be a cyber-attack) that affects normal warfare in a positive way.
So for instance, I suppose it could mean taking out the mourners at the funeral of an Islamist leader, under the logic that the children killed would not grow up to be terrorists, thereby reducing the ranks of the enemy that regular soldiers fight.
However, it seems Panetta erred in the eyes of the Guardians of Our Nation by ranking the new award higher than little items like the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. As is reviewed in an article by Amanda Terkel in HuffPo, the VFW immediately got on the case with a protest letter to incoming Secretary Chuck Hagel, as did 22 Senators, some of whom also introduced legislation against the ranking. According to a subsequent article, Hagel has now ordered a review of the issue, and production of the medals has been halted pending the outcome.
An interesting sidelight is that, according to the first HufPo article in some cases the medal would have to be given in secret, “because the actions taken by the recipients may be classified.”
Beyond that, words fail me.