The raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, is rapidly acquiring tar baby status as it is sticking to everyone it touches and leaves no one looking particularly good.
Let’s do a quick run down.
President Trump. For whatever reason you were in the loop on this decision — my infantry soul just shivers at the thought of the president of the United States or any elected official in the decision loop on any combat operation, nothing good ever comes of that — and because you were, to a certain extent you own it. Others planned it. led it, supported it, and participated in it but you were the guy who, when briefed, said okay. That may be unfair but that’s life in the big city. What you can’t do is this:
“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said. “This was something that was, you know, just — they wanted to do. They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I would — I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
Literally every thing in there was true and yet, Mister President, you look like a whiner and a sniveler. You look like you’re trying to throw your subordinates under the bus and not only will it not work, they are watching you, taking your measure, and deciding they had better cover their ass because you won’t. Not an auspicious beginning.
Leakers at CENTCOM. Various unnamed officials at CENTCOM were out early trying to blame Trump personally for the loss of a man on a high risk raid half a world away. And now they are at it again.
Last month’s deadly commando raid in Yemen, which cost the lives of a U.S. Navy SEAL and a number of children, has so far yielded no significant intelligence, U.S. officials told NBC News.
Although Pentagon officials have said the raid produced “actionable intelligence,” senior officials who spoke to NBC News said they were unaware of any, even as the father of the dead SEAL questioned the premise of the raid in an interview with the Miami Herald published Sunday.
That, whoever you are, is just douchebaggery. You need to mail your manhood back to Sears along with your commission. That is not how professional officers operate. Creating dissention and trying to damage your direct commander at CENTCOM and the Secretary of Defense in order to take a cheap shot at a president you don’t like is what they do in Third World armies. We are better than that even if you aren’t.
William Owens, father of the dead SEAL. I can’t imagine your grief at losing a son. But I’d hope that along with that grief there would be a sense of pride in who he was and what he did. I didn’t know your son but I’ve served with a lot of tough guys. None of them thought the job was risk free. None of them blamed others when things went to crap. Your son was a Navy SEAL. He was a volunteer several times over. I can’t imagine he’d be terribly proud of what you’re doing in his name.
Somehow we have developed the idea that war is just like playing Ghost Recon. If things go bad, you just go back to your last save. The bad guys don’t really mind getting killed. You have unlimited ammo. It isn’t. Landing at night, in an enemy area, and trying to defend yourself, kill the bad guys, not kill the bystanders, gather the intel you were sent in for, and getting out with your ass intact is not for the squeamish and uncertain. That’s why we need guys like CPO Owens who self-select and go through multiple weeding-out courses. And that’s why we shouldn’t be surprised when we lose some of them.
The raid CPO Owens was on was high risk. The purpose was to grab intel material for later exploitation. The mission and the nature of the target, nearby civilians, ruled out the use of drones and missiles. Things went wrong. It happens.
The Yemen raid is being turned into some kind test for the Trump administration. It shouldn’t be. And it didn’t have to be. But it is. And the way everyone is handling this not only is the administration going to come away damaged and diminished but it is also going to maintain the do-nothing passivity that characterized the last eight years because it is going to be afraid to take risks and so will the combat commanders.