The realisation that the Navy SEALs had not gotten their target in Somalia swept through the media like a tsunami in the days following the raid.
Largely the headlines or subsequent body text made use of the word “failed” to describe the mission.
Yes, the group of SEALs were noticed by a lucky militant taking a smoke break, who walked back inside without showing that he had seen them, before coming out with reinforcements and guns blazing, forcing the SEALs to retreat without killing their target.
But this is the kind of thing that happens in combat, and how the SEALs reacted was nearly flawless. What many reporting on the story might not fully understand is that the raid showed astounding accuracy of military intelligence and the moral quality of some SEALs on the ground. All of that sends a message to America’s enemies.
First of all, the SEALs showed restraint by withdrawing once several “noncombatants,” women and children, had entered the kill zone between them and the target. This stands in contrast to menacing terms like “assassination squads” which get bandied about in the press, with or without cause.
“Apparently,” writes Dr. Daniel Goure, of the Lexington Institute, “the operation was being conducted under restrictive rules of engagement (ROEs) that called for ‘near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed’ if lethal force was employed. The presence of a number of women and children in the compound was the determining factor.”
Second, the SEALs were able to withdraw without mishap or injury, despite being blanketed by gunfire and grenades from as many as hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters.
According to Matthew Cole and Jim Miklaszewski of NBC, the SEALs were “amazed” no one was injured.
Third, the mission sent a powerful message about U.S. intelligence and reach. The SEALs were able to locate a terrorist leader and — with permission from the local government (unlike in the recent “successful” raid in Libya) — launch a precise. attack that came just seconds away from killing him.
All said and done though, to reach out and touch the enemy while he’s resting and relaxing in his beach side villa sends a clear message: you’re not on vacation. Withdrawing without casualties or collateral damage shows not only military prowess, but restraint: there’s no doubt that SEAL Team 6 wields scorched earth power.
Failure is a one dimensional word in this regard, and should be used sparingly outside the SEALs own debrief room, if it’s used at all.
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