The seizing of two heavily armed navy patrol boats and ten sailors by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Forces in the Persian Gulf on January 12, raises a number of troubling questions about the state of readiness of our armed forces in hostile areas of the world.
The incident causes me to wonder about the Rules of Engagement for our armed forces when approached by potential hostiles? Surrender? Bargain? Ask for mercy? Wait for further orders? Seek a legal opinion on the proper response?
This entire episode brings to the front a serious weakness in our nation’s tactical and strategic thinking. Just how do we prepare our men and women to fight? Is the rule: fight only after a proper legal opinion has been given?
The site of our navy surrendering their boats and equipment to hostile forces and then being made to kneel with their hands behind their heads before being taken into custody and held in captivity, is unsettling and gut-wrenching to those of us who served in the military before political correctness poisoned the chain-of-command and the Rules of Engagement mandated approval from White House lawyers before responding to such provocative challengers.
Keep in mind, the two naval vessels seized were heavily armed, state-of-the-art military patrol vessels, manned by, presumably, qualified and professional naval personnel familiar with the defensive and offensive capabilities their crafts.
We just surrendered these vessels?
What the hell happened?
This is very serious stuff. It sets a dangerous precedent and invites others to do likewise. Our inept Secretary-of-State, John Kerry, might take credit, which he has, that the incident was resolved without further escalation, and it may be so, but at what cost? The world was watching. China and Russia, two nations that have their eyes on expansion and retaking Islands in dispute, might view this indecisiveness as a sign of weakness. And weakness always invites challenge.
The only conclusion that can be drawn is this: Our naval forces are neither ready nor prepared to take decisive action to defend that which is ours. It’s not that they are incapable of action, rather they are cautioned against taking decisive action in such situations and so they don’t. It’s almost as if military minds have been dulled by procedures that caution against confrontation and discourage the very thing a U.S. naval presence is supposed to convey.
If a naval presence in the Persian Gulf is supposed to project strength and influence, this incident betrayed its stated goal and showed, instead, troubling indecisiveness and paralysis.
Somehow I sense that the old Navy would have had a rule: you never surrender your vessel to enemy forces without a fight, or at least a warning to stand back from approaching a U.S. Naval vessel. Rather it’s almost as if the crews acted as if they were sent on a leisurely cruise to transport two boats from one port to another, you know, like from Nantucket to Newport, nothing more. Nothing less. And if confronted along the way . . . well, nobody really told them about that every happening, or how to act if it did.
To add insult to injury, the Iranians took some SIMS cards from the sailors’ phones that may or may not contain information considered sensitive, confidential, classified or secret. And they don’t appear to be too willing to return what they took. This whole incident is disgraceful and somebody has to answer for it.
Maybe the next president will change the Rules of Engagement and be a little more clear about the mission of our military in hostile areas of the world.