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Accepting Losing Options - My Opinion
Many people are unaware of the fact that during my younger years I was a member of the US
military. The reason no one knows is that unlike most people who have been in the military I dont
talk much about what I did or did not do. I spent a year in Vietnam, but you'll never hear me make
any claims about it. We are all aware of the painful fact that the United States failed to win the war
in Vietnam. And this brings me to the real reason why I am writing this article: Our failure to win
wars after we helped win World War II. It seems that we are in need of guidance on how to stop
accepting losing options.
A Little Background
Since the end of World War II the US has participated in a few conflicts but has failed to win, or at
least failed to win decisively. Our first example of accepting losing options was our failure to stick
to plan and win the Korean War in the early 1950s. After Korea we went to Vietnam and again
accepted failure as an option. Next we had a little fiasco in the island of Grenada in the
Caribbean. And lately we had partial victories in Iraq and Afghanistan but not convincing success.
Why We Don't Win
So I have been doing some thinking on the subject because it appears that we should be
invincible but we dont seem to be able to win any more. So I started by trying to figure out what
was different from World War II and now. Back in World War II we had a unified Army and Air
Force and the Navy. Then it dawned on me that united we succeeded, while divided we fail and
just seem to go from accepting losing options after each failure to accepting more losing options.
This leads us to consider how we keep on splitting our armed forces more and more each day.
And with so much parting none of the services appear to be effective any more.
Lack of Unity
In the early 1960s then US President John F. Kennedy authorized the formation of an Army
Special Forces team. This new Special Forces team, which later became known as the Green
Berets, was in addition to the already existing US Army Rangers. It was a great idea at the time.
It would have made a lot of sense for the Navy and the Air Force to send some of their best to
become part of this Special Forces Team and operate as one. However, no sooner the Army
formed its Green Berets than the US Navy decided they now needed a team of their own, the
Navy Seals, which in essence are Navy Green Berets. The Air Force followed the Navys example
and now they also had a need for a Para Rescue Team, or the Air Force Green Berets.
Now lets jump ahead to the late 1970s to continue our demonstration of how easy it is to get used
to accepting losing options. Towards the end of the 1970s decade the US Army saw the need for
a specialized team to slow down the advance of terrorist groups around the globe and to rescue
Americans held hostage by those groups. The Army answered this need by forming the Special
Forces Detachment D which has come to be more commonly known as Delta Force. Once again
the other services could have united as one team and supply some of their best to become
members of a joint services Delta Force. However, once again inter-service jealousy won out over
any common sense and the US Navy decided that they had to form their own version of the Delta
Force which they called Navy Seal Team 6.
Inter-service rivalry and jealousy turns even little jobs like the invasion of the tiny island of
Grenada into a formidable task. Let me give you an example of the silliness involved even at the
highest levels of our military hierarchy. During the Grenada invasion one of the US best military
minds, General Norman Schwarzkopf was operating from a US Navy aircraft carrier off the coast
of Grenada and needed to conduct the rescue of all US civilians and students from the island. He
told the ships captain to designate some helicopters to transport a team of US Army Rangers to
carry out the rescue mission. The Navy Commander replied that their helicopters were meant to
transport marines, not US Army Rangers. General Schwarzkopf had to remind the ships Captain
that he was being issued a legal order from a superior officer.
You may ask why I am being so harsh on the military services desire to be unique and have their
own elite forces? Well, for one thing, I see too much need for attention from some of our elite
forces. When was the last time you went to the book store and did not see three or four books
about Navy Seal Snipers, or some other type of Navy Seal soldiers?
Soldiers or Actors?
When Osama Bin Laden was captured in May 2011, the first thing that was announced to the
entire world was that Navy Seal Team 6 had carried the mission. Why such a huge need for
attention from teams that are supposed to perform as if they were invisible? With any careful
thinking credit for the job could have been given to the Pakistanis; or simply announce that Osama
Bin Laden had died of natural causes. Instead, Navy Seal Team 6 gladly accepted the credit.
It seems there was too much need for taking credit even if the mission was only to bring down a
man who was already down on his knees from a crippling disease that required him to drag a
dialysis machine around to every place he went just to stay alive. If I had been involved in such a
mission this fact alone would have made me feel ashamed to let anyone know I took any part in it.
I would have considered this as another way of accepting losing options. Of course, sometimes
these things are not up to the military especially if there is a weak link on the civilian side of the
command chain. But it appears like Navy Seal Team 6 did not try hard enough to shy away from
all the attention and was quite content to take the credit.
The need to attract attention by some of our military services and their lack of teamwork has
forced the hand of the US Congress to help our military services stop accepting losing options.
Congress had to force some things down the services throats like forming a unified Special
Operations Command to control all the US military elite forces. Of course this wont help much if
the commander of the Special Operations Command himself is not a true patriot. If this
commander is partial to his own branch of the service he will figure out ways to circumvent the
intentions of Congress in favor of his own branch of the military.
This inter-service lack of care causes problems like the failed attempt to rescue the prisoners from
the embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1981. You had a bunch of Air Force and Marine pilots whose
mission was to deliver a Delta Force team to rescue the Americans held hostage at the American
embassy in Tehran. Out of eight marine helicopters that were sent from the USS Nimitz to deliver
the Delta Force operatives to Tehran only one helicopter was even able to return back to the USS
Nimitz. The others either crashed or developed mechanical problems and could not even make it
back to the USS Nimitz. These mishaps caused the Delta Force team commander to recommend
to the President of the United States at the time, Jimmy Carter, that the mission be aborted and
thus once again our country was forced into accepting losing options.
One True Success
So at this point you may say, isnt there at least one good point to mention where the US armed
forces did not fail? Well, I can think of only one time since the end of World War II where we went
into a mission, kicked butt and came out victorious. The one and only real success we have had
since World War II was the invasion of Panama to depose then Dictator Manuel Noriega. I don't
know who did the plans for the Panama invasion but that person deserves a lot of credit for
planning our only truly successful mission since 1945. That time we did not settle for accepting
losing options, instead we created our own winning options.
In order to stop accepting losing options if we have hopes to ever again win, our services need to
be as one. They need to be united. You can send billions upon billions of dollar worth of bombs
from Navy ships and Air Force planes and never win a war. Adolph Hitler was the first one to
make the mistake of thinking a war could be won from the sky. No matter how much and for how
long England was bombed Germany did not make them surrender. When planes drop bombs
people simply learn to hide until the bombs stop falling. And if you do this hiding and not hiding
long enough you end up breaking the will of those who ordered the bombings as they fail to see
any discernible results. Therefore, air resources should be used in support of the troops fighting
ground wars. To try to win a war from the air is not only super expensive but history has proven
for over 60 years that it does not work.
Again, to avoid accepting losing options our armed forces need to perform as one. We cant have
all the bickering and trying to beat each other at every turn. If we continue in this path even the
smallest of enemies will force us to pack up and leave as the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet
Cong did to us in the middle 1970s.
Now is the time to stop accepting losing options and begin to create more winning scenarios.
History has proven that when we fight as one we win and when we fight as splintered groups,
regardless of how good each individual group is, we meet with failure and defeat. It is difficult to
conceive that with three military academies supposedly educating some of the best military minds
in the country that not even one of the leaders they have put out has figured these things out.
Maybe they have been too busy trying to outmaneuver each other to consider team work and
winning as best options. Or perhaps this is the first place where team building can start by
combining all the military academies into one where new leaders learn how to work together rather
than against each other. Maybe then we'll stop accepting losing options and begin building a real
winner of a team.
About the author: Carmelo Echevarria is a retired military currently dedicated to blogging on
several online sites. You can visit his primary site at http://www.ces1a.com
Read about CALENDAR REFORM and public service articles here.