It has become rather obvious to the world that the latest events in Yemen are yet another illustration of the phenomenal inability of US foreign policy to get anything done. For a quick primer on this topic, see this excellent Cross Talk show or this article of mine. Today I want to comment on something usually less discussed: the mind boggling cowardice of the US military.
The US military has been using Yemen for a long time now as a base for its so called “anti-terrorist” operations. For this purpose, US special forces and other units were deployed in what was then a friendly environment. In military terms this, by definition, means that the entry conditions were ideal and that the US military had all the time and resources to establish a solid presence in Yemen. And yet, as soon as the proverbial bovine excreta hit the fan, all these “tough” super-dooper, secret and oh so “special” forces ran for their lives. The US diplomats at the local Embassy also ran for their lives. Which would have been fine, had they not left 4000 US citizens in the country under the pretext (official – from the Pentagon!) that it would be “too dangerous” to evacuate them! In a bizarre twist, three human rights organizations in the USA are now suing (what else?) the Obama Administration and the Pentagon over such a cowardly decision.
Think of it: the US Special Forces ran first and the civilians were simply abandoned! Is this how a self-respective empire behaves?
Compare that to the Chinese who without asking anybody’s permission send their own (real) special forces in and evacuated their citizens without suffering a single casualty. Then came the Russians who did the same and who even evacuated a large group of foreign nationals from 19 different countries in the process (including 18 US nationals).
Even the usually spineless and incompetent Europeans have evacuated their nationals in numerous occasions, especially from conflict zones in Africa, sometimes in very dangerous conditions (as in Rwanda for example).
Lest that somebody think that Russia had an easy time because the locals were pro-Russian I want to remind everybody here that the insurgents overran the local Russian embassy and used it as a command post. As for the local al-Qaeda franchise, it is no less anti-Russian than it is anti-American.
Finally, Russian and Chinese forces had to act alone without any hope of support from their national militaries. The US forces could have counted on the full power of CENTCOM including air support from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, USN vessels, electronic warfare and intelligence, etc. In Yemen the US truly “had it all”. And yet they ran abandoning 4’000 of their own nationals because evacuating them would have been “too dangerous”. And this is the single biggest difference between the (regular) Russian and Chinese soliders and the US forces (including the “special” ones!): Both the Russian and the Chinese commanders know that they can give the following order to their troops and that they will be obeyed: “enter the conflict area, evacuate all our nationals at any cost, including your own lives, even if all of you have to die in the process”.
I want to share with you a Russian “demotivator” which illustrates the very little respect or credibility the US solider has in Russia (and, I would argue, in most other countries).
This demotivator shows on the left a very “cool” looking US solider and, on the right, a rather simple looking Russian solider. The text under both photos is exactly the same. It says: ” a private from the US/Russian armed forces, a professional solider, during an operation in a combat zone“. The text below says “one has to be fed, clothed, armed, paid, etc. The other one just needs the order “there” and he will execute his mission. At any cost“.
I think that there is a lot of truth to this.
Check out the excellent article “Why the Russians cannot be defeated” on our brother (well, in this case, sister) in arms at the Fort Russ website. This article shows the famous case of a single Russian solider solider stopping a full column of Georgian soldiers (and reporters who saw it all). Please read the article, it is very good. I just want to add the following to try explain why the Russian and US soldiers are so dramatically different. I will offer just a few bullet points up for discussion:
- The US culture is primarily a commercial culture. The Russian is a military one.
- The US solider replies on his superior technology. The Russian on his willpower.
- The US society in individualistic. The Russian is collectivistic.
- US weapon systems are designed by engineers. Russian ones by military men.
- For the American death is the worst case. For the Russian it is surrender.
- The US solider seems himself as a killer. The Russian one sees himself as a protector.
- The US society is casualty adverse. The Russian one is defeat adverse.
- The USA today is run by a lawyer. Russia by by an intelligence officer.
- The US President represents the 1%. The Russian one the 85%+
These are just examples, sketches to a much more complex reality, but I think that these factors are all too often overlooked even though they are crucial.
Simply put, neither the shameful Mogadishu debacle (aka “Operation Gothic Serpent”) nor the pathetic invasion of Grenada (aka “Operation Urgent Fury”) would have happened even to a small, say battalion size, Russian direct action force (say Naval Infantry or Airborne). As for Russian special forces, they have shown what they are capable of in Crimea.
To be honest, given the choice I would much prefer having a British or a French force evacuating my citizens as in both of these countries there are still very capable forces left even if the overall condition of the military is either poor (UK) or terrible (France).
The US armed forces suffer from what I call the “Israeli military syndrome”: they used to be much tougher in the past (the US fought very well in the Pacific or in Korea), but they truly lost their edge in innumerable petty wars with a much weaker enemy (in the Israeli case including civilians, women and children) and they became infinitely arrogant. They lost the single most important component of the mind of the fighting man: willpower.
In conclusion I want to say that I don’t blame the US solider for any of that. The reality is that for many years already the US military has been commanded by arrogant non-entities like Generals Petraeus (aka “an ass-kissing little chickenshit“ and “General Betray Us“) or Clark (who almost started WWIII). That happened in Russia too, by the way, anybody remember “Pasha” Grachev (who promised to take Grozny in 72 hours with just one Airborne regiment!)? The Pentagon is probably the most corrupt organization on the planet and the US regime is run by politicians with no honor or integrity. This will destroy any military.
But the fact is that the US armed forces are huge and generally unable to accomplish much than striking at a vastly inferior adversary. Confronted with even rather primitive but determined foe – they run. The latest debacle in Yemen just provides the latest example in a long string of most embarrassing military failures which all point to the same conclusion: the Empire’s military is a shell, a paper-tiger, not a force capable of taking on, much less so defeating, a sophisticated, powerful and determined enemy.