Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The emperor at war

Wreckage of the downed Osprey (had a "hard landing"), after the crew destroyed it, via Defence-Blog.

That US bombing raid in Yemen on Sunday, first military action of the Trump presidency, killing at least 14 people including an 8-year-old girl who happens to be an American citizen, not that I care what kind of passport she was carrying (or who her father was), and a US commando as well, made me wonder if we were already seeing some kind of collapse in our military's ability to do anything right, akin to what happened to it when George W. Bush was president. It just seemed like a much worse cock-up than anything they'd perpetrated in recent months or years, correct me if I'm wrong. Central Command denies that any civilians were killed.

Sure enough, reporting in the Guardian (Spencer Ackerman, Jason Burke, and Julian Borger) makes it clear that it was an action the Obama administration had refused to approve, for whatever reasons:

according to Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command. Planning for the raid “started months before”, under Barack Obama’s administration, but was “not previously approved”, he said.
Thomas said he did not know why the prior administration did not authorize the operation, but said the Obama administration had effectively exercised a “pocket veto” over it.
I can think of a couple of good reasons, one being that although it was supposed to "gather intelligence on suspected operations by al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP)", AQAP wasn't there:
The elder Awlaki, a former government minister, said the village in which his granddaughter was staying was not an AQAP hotbed, but rather home to her uncles, tribal sheikhs who were actually fighting with the legal government of Yemen, which the ruling Iran-backed Houthi movement ousted in a coup.
(Unless the allies of our Saudi allies are also allies of Qa'eda, which isn't all that improbable come to think of it.)

And another being the danger of civilian deaths, which Obama's defense department has been striving with some success to minimize for the past eight years.

It seems obvious that as the DOD's share in the effort to make a display of heroic Trumpian activity in the administration's first weeks, old Flynn (former intelligence chief of the JSOC, which carried out the raid, and crazy enough himself to push for anything) asked for some splashy action, and the generals dusted off this abandoned plan and ordered it up. Then, when it turned out to be a large-scale pointless blunder (as Obama and Brennan and company had evidently feared it would be), Trump and his minions cancelled their own plans for a triumphant announcement (instead, Trump had to say, "A life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism," without explaining what took it—not enemy fire but a helicopter crash) and bumped the Supreme Court announcement ahead by a couple of days to have some other triumph to talk about.

“This is one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide,“ Central Command said in a statement.

So that's your Trumpian defense policy: fatuous imperial posing, incompetent execution, and rapid coverup when things go wrong, like the Bush II regime but possibly worse and a lot quicker to get into gear (zero to sixty in 3.5 and backwards). And your casual disregard for human life, at least the postborn kind.

But then in 2011 Muammar al-Qadhafi was captured and killed by Libyan insurgents as an indirect consequence of some French-British bombing raids (that may or may not have saved some tens of thousands of civilian lives), and secretary of state Hillary Clinton played a role in those, so it's a good thing she didn't get elected.

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