We have all seen the news stories regarding the attacks on U.S. Embassies on September 11, 2012. According to various online sites, the U.S. Marines guarding the embassies were not provided with ammunition for their guns. If this rumor is true, it raises some interesting questions.

First, why would the government order a soldier to stand guard, and then fail to put ammunition in their chosen tool of protection? The answer lies in the 11 General Orders that all Marines on post swear to abide by.  In these general orders, Marines are instructed to:

1. Take charge of this post and all government property in view.

2. Walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.

3. Report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.

4. To repeat all calls more distant from the guardhouse than my own.

5. Quit my post only when properly relieved.

6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Officer of the Day, Officers, and Non-Commissioned Officers of the guard only.

7. Talk to no one except in the line of duty.

8. Give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.

9. To call the Corporal of the Guard in any case not covered by instructions.

10. Salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.

11. Be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority

All Marines will guard their post to the absolute best of their ability. Should a truck come careening down the street towards the embassy building, a Marine would have justification to shoot the driver to kill. That is a part of his duty while he is on post. However, this duty becomes a political nightmare. Think of the language and culture differences and the difficulties it would cause. There would almost definitely be a source of outrage among the host countries, if a food delivery truck driver were killed because he didn’t understand. Therefore, looking at the situation from a political perspective, the easiest way to avoid causing an international incident and yet allowing your men to fulfill their obligations, is to remove the ammunition from their weapons.

However, looking at this situation in light of the recent attacks, we have to ask ourselves: if this is true, what is the next action that needs to be taken, in order to protect our ambassadors, our Marines, and our international relationships?

Further reading here