Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Yemen Edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He tried, without much success, to get past the aftermath of the botched Yemen raid that claimed the life of an American servicemember, an 8-year-old girl who was an American citizen, and dozens of non-combatant Yemeni civilians. Tuesday night's speech before Congress was meant to be the emotional capstone, as members cheered the widow of the fallen American Navy SEAL. Trump basked in the lengthy standing ovation that Carryn Owens received on her husband's behalf, before proclaiming that Ryan Owens was "very happy" at having just "broken a record" for such applause.

But that one moment of good TV aside, the Yemen raid and Trump's handling of continued to dog him this week. Military intelligence officials confirmed that the raid had yielded no significant intelligence. Trump had begun emphasizing the supposed intelligence gains as soon as it became clear that the mission's real objective, capture of suspected al-Qaeda member Qassim al-Rimi, had failed. Al-Rimi escaped and proceeded to mock Trump in an audio recording released shortly afterward.   

Owens' grieving father, Bill Owens, also struck out at Trump personally. "Don't hide behind my son's death" was his message for Trump, he told reporters, noting that he'd refused to meet with Trump at the memorial service. Owens' family had requested a private ceremony; Trump tweeted about his attendance with his daughter Ivanka the same day. 

There will be at least three investigations into how and why the raid went wrong, but Trump, who ate his supper while the raid unfolded rather than follow it in the Situation Room, seems determined to make sure the buck stops somewhere else. He said that it was mostly "enemies" who didn't want the raid to go forward, but also made sure to emphasize that most of the planning had happened while President Obama was still in office. (Obama declined to order the raid; Trump decided otherwise once he took office.) 

Finally, in a jarring contrast to his praise for Owens the following day, Trump declared on Monday that American soldiers "don't fight to win." In remarks before the National Governor's Association, Trump said:
We have to win. We have to start winning wars again. I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say that we never lost a war. 'We never lost a war.' You remember. And now we never win a war. We never win. And we don't fight to win. We don’t fight to win.
Trump, a college athlete, received a deferment from the Vietnam draft after graduation because of bone spurs, and so could not help show the United States how to win that war. 

Why should I care about all this?

  • A president who cannot totally and unambiguously take responsibility for the consequences of military actions he orders is not fit to command.
  • A president who views every aspect of military operations through the lens of politics is likely to get a lot of American soldiers killed.
  • Presidents who suffer from heel spurs should take care not to aggravate them with too much exercise.