Streetwise Professor

October 11, 2016

Why Waste US Special Operators in Battles That Make Game of Thrones Look Simple and Civilized?

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:43 pm

A week ago, a US Special Forces soldier was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. In its disgusting fashion, the administration denied that this truly fine soldier had perished in combat, but said he was in a “combat situation.” This post-modern word weaseling for political purposes is an insult to those who are putting their lives on the line.

I have long been deeply disturbed by the overuse of special operations troops, for no apparent strategic purpose. To Obama, they are the human equivalent of drones, a way of employing military power in the shadows.

Things are likely to get worse. Special operators are on the ground in northern Syria. (Do they wear boots? Or do they levitate? Obama promised no boots on the ground, after all.) For their troubles, they are routinely insulted by Turkish-backed Salafist rebels, who call them Christian pigs and Crusaders.

But it will likely get even worse. After months of glacial preparation, an attack on Mosul appears if not imminent, on the verge of being imminent. Why do I say worse? Not just because the battle for Mosul is likely to be something akin to Fallujah I and Fallujah II, but because even if ISIS is defeated the aftermath is likely to be extremely messy, and the conditions will likely create fertile conditions for the emergence of another radical Sunni group.

Things were already complicated, with the Kurds and the Shia-dominated Iraqi government sharing the goal of ejecting ISIS, but having incompatible purposes once that happens. But things are getting even more convoluted and conflicted, with Turkey’s Erdogan asserting that his nation will participate in the campaign. Erdogan doesn’t want to see the Kurds in control. He also wants to gain power in northern Iraq, which is oil rich. He also has sectarian motives.

So glad that Obama thought that Erdo was one of his five best friends among world leaders. With friends such as these . . . . Another example of Obama’s incredibly flawed judgment.

Erdogan’s agenda is an anathema to the government of Iraq, so there is now a war of words going on between Erdogan and the Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Adabi.

All this means that post-“victory” Mosul will be a seething cockpit of competing forces, each one worse than the other (with the Kurds being the best of the lot, but thoroughly hated by all the rest). Kurds fighting Turks fighting Iraqi government forces and Shia militias. The Iranians will get involved, likely through their intelligence forces working hand-in-glove with the militias. Local Sunnis will be abused by the Iraqis and will fight back. The situation will make Game of Thrones look simple, ordered, and civilized.

The US will be everyone’s enemy, but every one of these factions will attempt to manipulate the US to do its bidding. And who will be at the center of this mess? US special operations forces. Who will have to keep their heads on a swivel. They will inevitably be targeted by everyone, and will not be able to do anything more than furiously spin the hamster wheel from hell. It will be Afghanistan, only worse. They will exhibit exceptional heroism and unmatched operational skill, and kill a lot of horrible people, but the ultimate result will be indecisive.

What could be our objective? What outcomes are even possible, and what would it cost in lives and treasure to achieve them? I find it hard to conceive of any outcome that would be worth the cost.

And US special operations troops would bear the brunt of those costs. They are too special, in many senses of the word, to fritter away in incipient fiascos like Mosul promises to be.

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  1. Military special operations men for the last year have been Obama’s cannon fodder. Hillary also has no middle east objective and thus no strategy, so look for much more cannon fodder deployed and used up over the next four years for naught. I grieve for their mothers.

    Comment by Kim Peyser — October 12, 2016 @ 3:43 pm

  2. Flip-flops on the ground?

    Bad jokes aside, maybe a solution is a Kurdistan. But given that these people were nomadic herdsmen until a few generations ago, I don’t suppose that will be acceptable.

    To the millions of diverse peoples who co-existed for thousands of years before the British and the Americans poked their sticks into the ant hill. It’s a strange situation when commerce and communication have never been easier to find genocides when all economic theory suggests otherwise.

    Comment by bloke in france — October 12, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

  3. They certainly didn’t coexist peacefully for thousands of years in the middle east…..

    Comment by Andrew — October 13, 2016 @ 1:43 am

  4. They certainly didn’t coexist peacefully for thousands of years in the middle east…..

    Indeed. We can thank the Ottomans for keeping whatever peace existed, using the approved techniques of the day.

    Comment by Tim Newman — October 13, 2016 @ 3:48 am

  5. I didn’t say they co-existed peacefully. I said they co-existed.
    The Ottoman Empire ruled the ME for less than 1,000 years, while the natives no doubt bickered, murdered each other from time to time but also traded.
    Now there are more Zoroastrians in Minnesota than in Persia. Is that a good thing? And the Yadizis (there for x thousand years) are being wiped out.
    I cannot think how we have improved the situation in the Middle East by any of our interventions, whether the WW1 invasion at Basra, the BP oil monopoly, the defenestration of Mossadeq, the “line in the sand” of the Sykes-Picot mandates… Nearly everything we’ve touched has gone to rat shit.

    Comment by bloke in france — October 13, 2016 @ 3:32 pm

  6. RE: “Combat Situation”:
    In the words of George Carlin: “We know it’s a situation… EVERYTHING is a situation”. Seems like just the one word would have been enough…

    Comment by Hiberno Frog — October 20, 2016 @ 3:39 am

  7. @Hiberno Frog. Exactly.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 20, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  8. @Hiberno Frog. It’s become even more absurd. The Pentagon has said that 2 Americans killed in Afghanistan died of “wounds received from encountering hostile enemy forces.” Situations. Encounters. What’s next? “A date gone bad”?

    And “hostile enemy” is a redundancy. Are there friendly enemies? Hostile friends? It’s appalling how the Pentagon has debased itself in order to save Obama’s armour propre.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 21, 2016 @ 4:14 pm

  9. Meanwhile, the famous tugboat battle group is making another attempt to reach Syria, scaring the shit out of environmentalists all along the way

    Comment by Ivan — October 22, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

  10. Another major innovation: they are hauling real fire trucks on board the ostensible aircraft carrier

    Comment by Ivan — October 22, 2016 @ 5:36 pm

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