Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Seals Get OBL

I just finished Mark Owen's No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden.  It's a pretty quick read. The first half of the book is a condensed autobiographical sketch of Owen's (not his real name) Seal training and missions.  He doesn't reveal much detail, just very general outlines.  Enough to drive you crazy.  This is one of the major disappointments I have with books about Special Ops units and missions.  They don't give you the really interesting stuff.  I want to know about their training, especially with firearms. I want to know just how accurate and fast they are with the weapons they use.  I want to know times and statistics and all the stuff that remains classified.  Arrggghhh!

The same can be said about the account of the mission that killed OBL.  It's great to have a first-hand account that clears up so much of the speculation that was splashed all over the cable news networks last year.  But I want more pictures and video!  You know they've got it.  Someday maybe we'll see it.  Maybe.

Thankfully, President Obama is not glorified in the account. He's not denigrated, but there's a lot of honesty about D.C.'s incompetence.  One of the most political pages in the book has to do with the way Washington changed the way the war was being fought.  Here's an example:

Everything in Afghanistan was getting harder. It seemed with every rotation we had new requirements or restrictions.  It took pages of PowerPoint slides to get a mission approved. Lawyers and staff officers poured over the details on each page, making sure our plan was acceptable to the Afghan government. 
We noticed there were fewer assaulters on missions and more "straphangers," each of whom preformed a very limited duty. We now took conventional Army solders with us on operations as observers so they could refute any false accusations. 
Policy makers were asking us to ignore all of the lessons we had learned, especially the lessons learned in blood, for political solutions.  For years, we had been sneaking into compounds, catching fighters be surprise. 
Not anymore. 
On the last deployment, we were slapped with a new requirement to call them out.  After surrounding a building, an interpreter had to get on a bullhorn and yell for the fighters to come out with their hands raised.  It was similar to what the police did in the United States. After the fighters came out, we cleared the house.  If we found guns, we arrested the fighters, only to see them go free a few months later.  Often we recaptured the same guy multiple times during a single deployment. 
It felt like we were fighting the war with one hand and filling out paperwork with the other.  When we brought back detainees, there was an additional two or three hours of paperwork.  The first question to the detainee at the base was always, "Were you abused?"  An affirmative answer meant and investigation and more paperwork. 
And the enemy had figured out the rules.  Their tactics evolved as fast as ours.  On my earlier deployments, they stood and fought.  One more recent deployments, they started hiding their weapons, knowing we couldn't shoot them if they weren't armed. The fighters knew the rules of engagement and figured they'd just work their way through the system and be back in their village in a few days.
Fortunately, these stupid RsOE were not enforced during the raid that killed OBL.


Anonymous said...

Any interest in this book? http://fearlessnavyseal.com/

Jeff Meyers said...

I've read most of Fearless. It was okay. More the story of the family life and struggles of Brown that an account of Seal missions.