September 6, 2014

"Inside the Failed Raid to Save Foley and Sotloff."

Nicholas Schmidle at The New Yorker.
The special-operations officer, who has extensive experience with special-mission units, said that he was generally wary of “hostage scenarios,” because, “once you start chasing that merry-go-round, you’re never going to get off.” He listed other Americans who were thought to be held hostage by various groups around the world; though he was sympathetic to their plight, he didn’t believe that each one warranted a rescue attempt. The bid to free Foley and Sotloff was different: it had a double purpose, he said, “an ability to go get the hostages and also to send a message to ISIS.”... After saying this, however, he observed that it might be a folly to treat members of ISIS as rational political actors: “They are lunatics.”

34 comments:

Mark O said...

"That evening, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser revealed that a failed rescue mission had taken place."

Horseshit. Poor little man. Kept in the dark. Obama knew. If he didn't, he should be impeached for exquisite laziness and inattention.

PB said...

Yes we taught them a lesson. They learned.

They also really didn't need much in the way of Snowden's disclosure to avoid US intelligence. All it took was to read the NY Times and watch a few movies the government was so helpful with in discussing methods and technologies (Zero Dark Thirty...)

David said...

I like the article. Simple and factual with no snark and speculation.

Schmidle wrote the New Yorker article on the Bin Laden raid, which article is still controversial for its sourcing and accuracy.He graduated James Madison University 2001 and American University. Not of the Ivy League elite.

But he's the child of a different elite. His father, an army general, is head of USA Cyber Command.

He has a book based on his two years in Pakistan on a fellowship. I think I'll buy and read the book.

madAsHell said...

I'm not convinced there was a failed rescue attempt....except the one to salvage Obama's legacy.

traditionalguy said...

A Caliph is not insane. He is the successor leader of the Arab Armies in Mohammed's place. He is both a diplomat ( i.e., liar) and a Warrior of conquest.

The loot from his conquests are what support the Arab Armies. This new Caliph is doing everything by the book.

He conquers lands, exterminating other peoples who once lived there, or selling them as slaves, and taking the oil and other loot to pay his military forces. Therefore a caliph's method must expand, and expand, and expand.

When unbelievers in the Dar El Harb say mean things about him, that is what he expects, until he kills us all.

Michael K said...

The mullahs of Iran are insane, also. They fit well with Obama.

Achilles said...

I can't believe they released this information. He has gotten so many people killed releasing information like this. The entire jsoc group truly hates him.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm with Achilles. They are elements of that article that reveal sources and methods.

not helpful to us, very helpful to Tangos.

tim maguire said...

They are not insane, they are perfectly rational political actors (obviously they would not have been so successful if not), they simply have motivations that our secular leaders can't understand.

rhhardin said...

Has anybody considered offering them poisoned pawns.

Wilbur said...

The rational manner of dealing with hostage situations is to consider them dead, and then deal with the extorters from that vantage point.

For example, if in 1979 Carter had told the Iranians "you've got 48 hours to deliver the hostages safely to us or we will reduce Tehran to a parking lot", which unfortunately but necessarily includes killing the hostages, we would have gotten them back quickly and saved ourselves a lot of trouble later.

But this approach is considered politically impossible.

The Drill SGT said...

@wilbur,

Or as the good Roosevelt said:

Pedecaris alive or Rassouli dead

cubanbob said...

"This process took some time, in part because the United States was not employing surveillance drones in Syria. Eventually, a building was pinpointed using satellite surveillance."

Well there you have it. What would be the point of launching a rescue raid without real time intelligence?How would they know the hostages were still there?

As noted by MadAsHell the real rescue attempt was to rescue Obama's legacy and the Democrat's chances in November.

Anonymous said...

Horseshit. Poor little man. Kept in the dark. Obama knew. If he didn't, he should be impeached for exquisite laziness and inattention.

You think that's bad? Our governor in WI swore in a deposition that he had no idea of what was happening in his own office.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"You think that's bad? Our governor in WI swore in a deposition that he had no idea of what was happening in his own office."

If he said "shit" that's okay, but "fuck" or "cunt" are totally out of bounds.

Robert Cook said...

"...if in 1979 Carter had told the Iranians 'you've got 48 hours to deliver the hostages safely to us or we will reduce Tehran to a parking lot,' which unfortunately but necessarily includes killing the hostages, we would have gotten them back quickly and saved ourselves a lot of trouble later.

"But this approach is considered politically impossible."


"Politically impossible?" It's morally indefensible. You assume the threat would have resulted in the release of the hostages. What would have been the result of our making such a threat and not following up on it if the hostages hadn't been released? Or do you suggest it would have been worth it do actually make good on the threat?

If we had "reduce(d) Tehran to a parking lot," we would not only "unfortunately" have killed the hostages, but also the millions of other people in Tehran. What was so pressing that such an act of unprovoked mass murder would have been necessary...or considered anything less than insane? In the end, the hostages did come home alive. Sometimes, waiting out a difficult situation is the better course of action. In fact, more often than not it is probably the better choice.

The Drill SGT said...

I agree with Cookie that making Tehran a glass bowl might be counterproductive.

On the other hand, the KGB Beirut Kidnapping approach of mailing back pieces of the kidnappers families instead of the demanded ransom has a certain 'Je ne sais quoi'

chillblaine said...

Drill Sgt and Achilles have already said this, but it bears repeating. This administration should pay more attention to operational security.

Jupiter said...

Cookie sez;

"If we had "reduce(d) Tehran to a parking lot," we would not only "unfortunately" have killed the hostages, but also the millions of other people in Tehran. What was so pressing that such an act of unprovoked mass murder would have been necessary...or considered anything less than insane? In the end, the hostages did come home alive. Sometimes, waiting out a difficult situation is the better course of action. In fact, more often than not it is probably the better choice."

Let's hope the Iranian mullahs, who will soon have the ability to make parking lots themselves, are as squeamish about using that long-sought capability as we are. We appear to have settled upon a strategy for dealing with the Muslim World; our strategy is Hope.

Robert Cook said...

Jupiter,

You seem to think the mullahs of Iran are as interested in destroying us as we, them. This has never been shown to be true. Neither has it been shown to be true that they now or soon will have a nuclear weapon, much less sufficient stocks of them to destroy us.

If the world is eventually engulfed in nuclear devastation, you can be sure we will be as responsible for it as any other parties.

khesanh0802 said...

@ Robert Cook

Do you really doubt that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons? I try to treat what you say with a certain amount of respect as well as healthy dose of skepticism, but in this case I find it hard to believe you are as naive as you appear.

Regarding the "parking lot" threat. If an opponent believes that you just might have enough determination to level a few blocks there is a pretty good chance you will not be tested. That kind of determination is not much in evidence today.

Jupiter said...

"Neither has it been shown to be true that they now or soon will have a nuclear weapon, much less sufficient stocks of them to destroy us."

A single nuke, mounted on a SCUD fired from a boat off the coast and detonated at 400 km over Kansas, would wipe out our electrical grid. The Iranians have announced that they are working on ICBM's.


"If the world is eventually engulfed in nuclear devastation, you can be sure we will be as responsible for it as any other parties."

Arguably, more responsible, as it was Americans who developed the first atomic bombs, and used them on our enemies. So what? Are you suggesting that I should be OK with my kids dying in a nuclear wasteland, because by your moral reasoning, it serves them right?

Jupiter said...

"Jupiter,

You seem to think the mullahs of Iran are as interested in destroying us as we, them. This has never been shown to be true."

It seems fairly clear that they are a good deal more interested in destroying us than we them, since we have the means and have not employed it, while they are working feverishly to obtain it. Cookie, what do you think they mean when they say that we are the Great Satan? I will grant that their determination to destroy us has not been proven beyond refutation. I can think of only one way in which it could be.

chillblaine said...

"You seem to think the mullahs of Iran are as interested in destroying us as we, them. This has never been shown to be true."

Credulity this unqualified requires suspension of discernment of both the Iranian regime's rhetoric and previous behavior. It must be nice to live in a world where pure evil doesn't exist. I guess it is comforting to believe that as long as we don't provoke them, they won't try to destroy us.

holdfast said...

Tehran would have been overkill. Qom would have been a better choice.

It's also a great word for Scrabble.

Revenant said...

Credulity this unqualified requires suspension of discernment of both the Iranian regime's rhetoric and previous behavior.

It requires recognition that talk is cheap, and that the one and only REAL priority of Iran's ruling class is the continuation of their own rule.

"America must be destroyed!!!" is like "overturn Roe v. Wade!!!" or "protect Roe v. Wade!!!": empty rhetoric to keep the rubes on board.

Revenant said...

A single nuke, mounted on a SCUD fired from a boat off the coast and detonated at 400 km over Kansas, would wipe out our electrical grid.

Perhaps we should invest in hardening our electrical grid instead of pissing away trillions of dollars on an oversized military, then.

Jupiter said...

"Perhaps we should invest in hardening our electrical grid instead of pissing away trillions of dollars on an oversized military, then."

I would agree that this is merely prudent. But that same single nuke could also be sailed into the East River and detonated at the end of Wall Street. Maybe we should harden Manhattan? And then there are those ICBM's.

Revenant said...

But that same single nuke could also be sailed into the East River and detonated at the end of Wall Street. Maybe we should harden Manhattan? And then there are those ICBM's.

ICBM's are just big fat targets. They can't move and we'll know exactly where they are.

As for sailing a bomb into the East River and detonating it -- heh, no. A sufficiently-motivated country MIGHT be willing to be annihilated in exchange for crippling the United States' entire infrastructure, but nobody is going to do it just to kill a few hundred thousand Americans.

In any case, the idea that Iran's willing to take either option is silly. Ask yourself this: why aren't there daily suicide bombings in America? Smuggling people and explosives into the USA is easy, and we see that there are thousands of people willing to die for Allah.

The answer, of course, is that the #1 priority of the Iranian ruling class is... continuing to rule Iran. Which kind of requires that Iran not get curb-stomped by the United States. We could cut our military expenditures by half, at *least*, and still be able to easily crush Iran.

Known Unknown said...

Has anybody considered offering them poisoned pawns.

Hmmm. Find terminally-ill people, feed them something that will spread, then offload them as 'hostages.'

I'm working on the logline and the treatment to this movie script pronto!

Robert Cook said...

"Are you suggesting that I should be OK with my kids dying in a nuclear wasteland, because by your moral reasoning, it serves them right?"

No. Are you really that obtuse?

I am suggesting that we have more to fear from our own government and what it may do with its stock of nukes than from any hypothetical Iranian nuke attack.

Bad Lieutenant said...


ICBM's are just big fat targets. They can't move and we'll know exactly where they are.


Midgetman. Topol. The Chinese are working on one. SLBMs are in reality mobile ICBM's and we've had them since the 60s.I'm not even going to insult you, I'm going to wait for you to insult yourself.

Cook, the power play would have been to roll back the entire Iranian Revolution, not just to get the hostages back. I understand that according to you, the United States is not allowed to have any interests or defend them, but consider the systemic instability that has grown like a cancer in the Middle East since the Iranian Revolution.

In fact, it's possible that even a nuclear strike on a large Iranian city might not have been the worst or most evil option. Supposedly, more people died in Iraq while we were there than died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Certainly many more died in the Iran-Iraq war. I think they're ahead in Syria. There's a lot of killing going on over there and, wrap your mind around this, the US is not wholly responsible.

If the history of 1979 and after could be rolled back and Iran was a sound US client, that is probably also the best for the world, which you would admit if you were capable of it.

Robert Cook said...

"...consider the systemic instability that has grown like a cancer in the Middle East since the Iranian Revolution."

How does this instability derive specifically from the Iranian revolution?

Our invasion of Afghanistan and, particularly, Iraq, and our extension of our terror war into Pakistan and surrounding areas, have done far more to destabilize the middle east (and radicalize aggrieved Muslims in the region) than the Iranian revolution. (This is not to suggest our actions are the only causes of instability in the middle east. The intertwined social ills of rampant social and econmoic inequality, ignorance, religious fundamentalism, and poverty certainly play their part.)

We can go back farther, to 1953, when the CIA helped overthrow elected Prime Minister Mossadegh, a result of his decision to nationalize the Iranian oil resources and throw out the British oil interests. After Mossadegh's overthrow, we helped reinstall the despotic Shah. This was a festering sore point in Iran for decades, and the takeover of the American Embassy and capture of the embassy employees was driven, in part, at least, by fury over the asylum granted to the ailing Shah when Carter allowed him to flee Iran and come to America for medical treatment.

The Iranians wanted the Shah extradited to face justice and we would not return him to Iran.

Without debating here whether we were in the right or in the wrong to provide asylum to a man the Iranians hated as any people would hate a tyrant who had escaped justice, the events of 1979 and later were the end game of actions by western interests dating back to the early 50s.

Robert Cook said...

"In fact, it's possible that even a nuclear strike on a large Iranian city might not have been the worst or most evil option."

Uh, yes...it would have been.