Legal norms and political pressures will constrain all U.S. military operations. Competing concerns regarding force protection, collateral damage, and other political issues can severely restrict operational flexibility. Because urban environments are characterized by dense populations and mingled or shared military and civilian assets, the range of available options that satisfy competing political and legal pressures will often be narrow.
The immediate as well as the long-term implications of legal and political constraints on all military operations are best understood by viewing them as part of a larger system in which strategy, politics, and technology push and pull each other in a variety of ways. The last two chapters highlighted two important sets of dynamics constituting the system: Chapter Four explored the dynamic between politically and legally constrained U.S. military decisionmaking and adversary military decisionmaking; Chapter Five explored the dynamic between technological efforts to satisfy political and legal demands and the nature and intensity of those very demands.
Lacking an equivalent degree of commitment to international norms or facing very different strategic, political, and diplomatic pressures than the United States, adversaries are likely to exploit asymmetrical constraints to their advantage. Especially in urban environments, where the effects of U.S. constraints are magnified, some adversaries will have tremendous incentive to breach their own legal obligations, hoping to capitalize on the propaganda effects of collateral damage or to shield military targets from attack because of self-imposed restraints on U.S. targeting.