Last week President Obama ordered three hundred Green Berets to Iraq. Why? The Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL — take your pick) has taken over western Iraq, gleefully lopping heads as they go. It’s feared that they’re headed down the road to Baghdad, driving purloined, made-in-America Humvees chasing the fleeing Iraqi Army that our country trained with billions of dollars. Can three hundred save the day?
I’m proud to say that I was Green Beret. My contribution was insignificant in the light of my fellow Green Berets who sacrificed so much more than I did. I served in various parts of South East Asia in the early 1960s. One of our missions was to train the South Vietnamese Army in tactics, weapons, communications, field medical procedures, plus other skills to help them combat the insurgent Viet Cong supported by North Vietnam. We read CIA area reports; studied French, the language of Vietnam's departed colonialists, but still spoken by educated Vietnamese in positions of authority, but unfortunately, in my opinion, we didn't study the Vietnamese of rural villages where the war would eventually be fought.
When I first went in-country I wore civilian clothes and carried a passport that said I worked for the American Embassy in Tokyo. I had never been to Tokyo. In those days, it was President Kennedy’s secret war and he liked the Green Berets. Before Kennedy, the Army forbade the Special Forces from wearing their green berets. We were considered a marginalized group with NCO misfits left over from Ranger companies who fought in Korea led by officers enthralled with the guerilla exploits of T.E. Lawrence and his Seven Pillars of Wisdom or the exploits of William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan who founded the OSS at Roosevelt’s behest..
In the early 1960s the Cold War army was focused on tank battalions, massed artillery and mechanized infantry divisions that would combat the Soviet Union on the plains of Europe. The Green Berets were mostly seen as a small group of warrior romantics. J.F.K changed all of that. The day after Kennedy’s election I recall standing in morning formation and the first order of the day was: “Gentlemen, henceforth, you will wear your green berets wherever you go.” Prior to that morning we only wore our berets on base or in our compounds. We were Kennedy’s boys, and perhaps he was a visionary, because so many wars since Kennedy’s time have been fought with or against insurgents folded into regional populations. Of course, Kennedy’s vision was terribly distorted as was that of his successor Lyndon Johnson when it came to Vietnam. One morning in French class, I recall a major, who headed up a B team, stating: “We can never win a war in Vietnam; too many places to hide; too many troops in the north.” That was in 1961 and that major was prophetic, but he was representative of the intelligent class of men and officers attracted to the Green Berets.
So, what about Obama? Why is he sending 300 Green Berets to Iraq after he pulled our troops out in 2011? What do Green Berets do? Anything they’re asked to, is the short answer. However, the primary mission of Green Berets is to train and lead unconventional warfare forces or a clandestine guerrilla force in an occupied nation. De Oppresso Liber is the motto: “To free the oppressed.” Green Berets go “in country” and organize resistance. Witness the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan when Special Forces were inserted into the Northern Coalition, which at that time was in stalemate with the Taliban. Result: the Taliban was driven out as a government and those who were left alive fled to Tora-Bora.
But, what could the current mission of Green Berets be in Iraq where the unconventional forces are already on the wrong side? In Iraq, the unconventional forces are the Islamic head-choppers of ISIS that have surged out of Syria. Will the Green Berets help train the Iraqi Army? Hardly. The Iraqi Army is already a trained Army and it’s cost our country about $41 billion bucks to do it. Courage is untrainable. Obama has promised that the three hundred “won’t be engaged in combat.” That’s nice. So he’s sending some of the most combat-capable operators in the world to a combat zone to do what? Place one-way signs along the highways for the fast-retreating Iraqi Army?
After six years of teleprompting, it’s clear that President Obama is not a man who makes a clear distinction between talk and action. He’s the smartest liberal in the faculty lounge, and that’s about it. When he drew his “red line” in Syria and that red line was crossed, he did nothing except put his head in that sand. Bad men of action read him well. Putin took the Crimea, and now threatens the rest of the Ukraine. ISIS blossomed in Syria; spilled across the border and currently controls one half of Iraq on its way to taking Baghdad to turn the American embassy into a mosque. NPR pundits, Nancy Pelosi, and neo-progs (neo-progressives) at the New York Times may pound their chests claiming that it’s all George Bush’s fault, but what they’ve conveniently ignored is geography and time. ISIS was spawned in Syria during the past three years; three years in which President Obama did nothing to stop them from becoming what they are. This brings us back to the question: Why three hundred Green Berets? Why not four hundred? How about five? What’s so significant about three?
It was done for the appearance of action. While ISIS lined up captured Iraqi soldiers in Mosul and murdered them while shouting “God is great,” Obama spent that weekend at exclusive resorts in Palm Springs playing golf. As Iraq began to implode, he was on his thirtieth (30th!) fund-raising trip since April, dining with billionaire Democrats. Even David Brooks at the New York Times, a long standing Obama shoe-shiner at the apex of the media-political complex, wrote: “Before the country (Iraq) was close to ready, the Obama administration took off the training wheels by not seriously negotiating the NATO status of forces agreement that would have maintained some smaller American presence.”
The first rat was off the ship. Panicked, Obama had to do something other than play a nine iron off the green. Is that when the number three hundred popped into Valerie Jarret’s head or some other White House advisor crafting President Obama’s decisions based solely on domestic, political consumption? “300! Yes that’s it!”
Americans have seen the movie. Remember the brave three hundred Spartans who stood hopelessly fast at Thermopylae against ten thousand ugly Persians?” And, who better to cast as Spartans than the Army’s Green Berets? They be sent to fight, because Obama has already nixed that. However, the three hundred will have symbolic resonance in the mind of America’s popcorn eaters. Thus, the three hundred are off to Iraq to play their part as extras and stage props in President Obama’s latest, symbolic pretense to give the appearance of action after all action is too late.