21 April 2010

Rewarding Failure

Mike Vickers, the assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict is one of the few Bush administration DOD holdovers.

His current agenda includes providing foreign advisers to the Yemeni government.

Vickers rose to his current post based upon his work in "Charlie Wilson’s War" (i.e. the U.S. sponsored insurgency in Afghanistan when the Soviets were in charge, and "his advisory experience in El Salvador during the 1980s."

Charlie Wilson's War helped precipitate the collapse of the Soviet regime that led first to anarchy and civil war, then to the Taliban and then to Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and then to 9-11, and then to U.S. constabulary involvement. This has success written all over it. It also put advanced anti-aircraft missiles in the hands of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists that proved to be a bane to U.S. anti-terrorism planners for decades.

U.S. involvement in El Salvador in the 1980s at a cost of about $6 billion supported a government that sponsored right-wing death squads that killed about 70,000+ people including half a dozen Jesuit priests whose government employee murders were identified but not prosecuted by the regime we supported. It didn't end until the U.S. pulled out. Investigation after the fact revealed that our side committed 85% of the atrocities in those twelve years. The turbulence of the 1980s also produced mass refugee and economic migrant relocation to the United States. The politicians we helped massacre en masse are now in charge in El Salvador anyway. What part of this is a good thing?

Obviously, Vickers didn't do this all by himself. He did it with the help of Ronald Reagan. But, he handled the details and knew what was going on and should have known better.

Vickers was also neck deep in parts of the Bush Administration anti-terrorism policy that we regret like a tolerance for extra-legal torture that didn't work and probably helped drum up opposition to the United States and made the terrorism threat face by the U.S. greater and harder to fight, while undermining U.S. support from our usual Western allies.

Success is not a prerequisite to promotion in the United States military, however, and politically the "indirect approach" that Cold Warrior Vickers favors has one big virtue: If you don't look like you're playing, you can't look like you're losing.

Still, I find it appalling that we have someone like Vickers with a record of catastrophic failure in U.S. Special Operations, in charge of Special Operations in the Obama administration.

I despair to see what will become of Yemen in a few decades, but with Vickers handling that part of the operation, it isn't likely to be good.

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