Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Soft Targets

 --the Jolly Roger 

 We kindle and char and inflame and ignite
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho
We burn up the city, we're really a fright
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho 
--A Pirate's Life for Me

 And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
from where we came 
--The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell

Terrorists -- our topic du jour and theme de l'annee, for the forseeable future -- habitually attack soft targets. Vis-a-vis this fact, let us look at the United State's Special Operations Command (SOCOM), a group of not-terrorists, and its historical tactics.

First some history. Your study assignments are the S'on Tay Raid in Vietnam and the Cabanatuan prison camp raid of World War II.

At S'on Tay, U.S. Special Forces led an incursion into a hard target, killing enemy soldiers and exfiltrating following the mission's completion. The Rangers breached another hard target at the Cabanatuan prison camp in the Philippines, deep in enemy terrain ("The Great Raid"). There, they sought to liberate allied prisoners of war and civilians. (In the European theatre, the Hammelburg raid was a similar operation, though with a more dire outcome.)

At both S'on Tay and Cabanatuan, there was a great possibility that the action could go South, which is exactly what happened to Task Force Baum, but those difficult actions characterized the Special Forces credo. The Special Forces of yore enlisted special men for challenging operations.

Today, the U.S. enlists its Special Forces to "take out" soft targets, crowing after the fact about the foregone conclusions. SEALs now kill such soft targets in their bedroom (= Osama bin Laden), or kill meaningless pathetic targets like the Somali pirates (the fictional Black Spot still inspiring fear.) The U.S. may as well paint targets on the foreheads before doing them the favor of releasing them from their miserable lives of poverty and desperation.

--Special Forces recruiting poster, ca. 1970

Now you have men like former SEAL Robert O'Neill bragging about being the triggerman in the OBL assassination, but not all soldiers in his community find his braggodocio endearing.

No one has the pirate's backs, and if the UBL raid went South the Pakistanis (stationed a short hop away) would not have moved to destroy the SEAL team; they love our money too much for such a dumb overreaction.

But what happens when the SEALs move against medium threat targets as in Robert's Ridge (Takur Ghar), the site of the Murphy Medal of Honor scenario? Well, they get blown out of the water.

Now to the current Islamic State (IS) - ISIL scenarios. Why don't the SEALs attempt hostage rescues against hard targets, like the British-speaking beheading specialist, for he is surely no less a target than the pirates. Do they lack the capability? Why not attack and destroy an IS command post? 

Word is, the SEALs who whacked UBL in his jammies received Silver Stars (SSM) for conducting their assassination. However, the Army regulations for bestowing such an award requires "close combat with the enemy", none of which was reported. Where is the heroism required to meet the bar of "conspicuous gallantry"? 

Special Operations has become specialized in "taking out" soft targets, much as the terror organizations against whom they are arrayed.

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Anonymous mike said...

Concur. Unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - casualty avoidance is now the general rule of politicians and therefore flag officers follow suit. I don't see any hard targets attcked by boots on the ground in the near future.

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 8:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ael said...

Personally, I would be in favor of attacking neither hard or soft targets. Taking on hard targets seems stupid and taking on soft targets is counter productive and blows up in your face.

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 9:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim hruska said...

if a nation will not attack hard targets , then
-why do we have spec ops
-and why do we have the chutzpah to call it a war?

Friday, December 5, 2014 at 12:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ael said...

Frankly, I have no idea why we have spec ops. They seem expensive and I am not sure how much they have helped. Maybe the government likes the snazzy hats they wear.

Speaking of hats, you should see the hats our ceremonial guard wears. PETA and the WWF are aghast. Need one bear per hat. Course, the guards are mostly college kids taking a summer job, so we don't have to pay them year round. That keeps the expense down.

Further, I don't know why it is called a war. I don't recall congress passing a declaration of war.

I guess I am not much help today.

Sorry. (which come to think of it, apologizing is a longstanding Canadian tic, maybe I should post an apology on the Chief's blog too!)

Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 1:21:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim hruska said...

if u r apologizing for being Canadian, then i accept.
BTW, HNY etc...seasons greetings yaddi, yaddi.

Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 10:48:00 AM GMT-5  

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