When a combat mission ends in failure, the last thing you want to do is to punish the soldiers who were executing it.
There are hundreds of possible reasons for failed missions and therefore your first priority should always be to determine what went wrong, why and how it can be fixed.
A missing piece of intelligence, bad timing, small human errors or simply bad luck can have catastrophic consequences. Even if you can trace the cause of failure to an individual, there are still many things to consider:
Has the individual (or group) intentionally caused the mistakes that led to the failure or were they not properly trained and prepared for the mission? Sending an unprepared or unfit soldier on a combat mission is a leadership mistake.
Most often, a failed combat mission is not the soldiers’ fault. And even when they are to blame, they are usually the ones that will punish themselves the hardest for the flop. This is a matter of pride for a professional soldier: they will work hard and do anything to avoid that the same thing will happen again.
This should be enough! Further punishing them with disciplinary measures will only demotivate them and it will also cause a lack of solidarity and trust between them and their leadership.
If your mission was successful, it was everybody’s success and when you fail, it should be the same. Pointing the finger at someone and punishing individuals after failed missions seldom does any good.
Photo: A crashed and burned US RH-53 D helicopter during the failed “Operation Eagle Claw” mission, near Tabas, Iran, April 1980. Eagle Claw “was a United States Armed Forces operation ordered by US President Jimmy Carter to attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 embassy staff held captive at the Embassy of the United States, Tehran on 24 April 1980. Its failure, and the humiliating public debacle that ensued, damaged US prestige worldwide. Carter himself blamed his loss in the 1980 US presidential election mainly on his failure to win the release of U.S. hostages held captive in Iran.” (cited from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Eagle_Claw). Photo Credits by موسسه مطالعات و پژوهش های سیاسی [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.