Inside the Air War: 60 Minutes gets the first-ever look inside the U.S. command center for the air war against ISIS
The United States and its allies have been bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria for more than a year now and all we've seen of it is a handful of videos released by the Pentagon. So 60 Minutes asked for permission to witness the air campaign first hand. And we were allowed into the war's $60 million command center located in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar. There we followed -- from start to finish -- an American bombing mission against what had been identified as an ISIS bomb factory. More at 60 Minutes.
Once again a television show takes you inside a military command post, ostensibly to demonstrate that our government’s elected civilian leadership and our professional military commanders are effectively and efficiently prosecuting the war against our enemies. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth given:
- In many instances the civilian leadership is more concerned with domestic politics and the optics/results of a mission than they are in killing people and breaking things to bring about a real change in the actions of our enemies. Thus we find a civilian political adviser telling the President of the United States, acting as Commander-in-Chief, to scrub a mission to capture or kill Osama bin Ladin because failure would reflect poorly on the administration at that particular point in time.
- In many cases, high-ranking military officers cease to be an effective leadership force as they have become demi-politicians worrying more about the career, budgets, and their fiefdom, than actual results. Knowingly accepting inferior and costly weaponry lest in upset the industrial-military complex and the defense contractors who are likely to give them cushy post-retirement board assignments.
- Much of what you see is tactical, rather than strategic, and is edited to present a particular editorial point of view.
- And, allowing our enemies to see into our facilities, systems, procedures, and identify key personnel on television is never a good thing given the terrorist’s exhortation of “lone wolf attacks.”
So why is this staged dog and pony show?
It is no secret that President Obama and his cadre of progressive socialist democrats appear to be anti-America; disparaging and disadvantaging our allies while rewarding our enemies.
It is also true that the much of the morass in the Middle East is not individual conflicts, but a theatre-wide sectarian war, including ethnic cleansing, between the majority Sunnis and the minority Shia. A war that has been going on for centuries. A truth that apparently cannot be accepted and countered by the Obama Administration.
Even worse, much of the chaos and confusion in the Middle East has been caused by President Obama, a seemingly ineffectual and incompetent, some say cowardly, Commander-in-Chief who would rather make good on his domestic campaign promises to remove U.S. troops from Middle Eastern battlefields and “lead from behind” than take a leadership position to protect our allies in the region. It is amazing that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emerates are more trusting of a former enemy, Israel, than of the United States. Many in the region courting Iran and Russia to fill the money and power vacuum left by the abdication of American military power in the region.
President Obama assures us that he has assembled an anti-Isis coalition of 60 member states. And one wonders exactly what is actually being contributed by such countries as: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Ukraine. Let’s face it, in any conflict it is the United States doing the heavy lifting, losing soldiers, and financing the effort. This is not to say that our major allies, the British, Australians, and Canadians do not provide well-equipped, well-trained, people when necessary – and bear some of the sacrifice when it comes to a shooting war.
But, if you look at many of the sorties flown against ISIS, they are few in number and most of the aircraft prosecuting the attack are simply engaging in a well-orchestrated photo-op. In some cases, hitting miscellaneous, non-strategic targets lest they actually engage the enemy or heaven forbid, produce collateral damage.
Rules of Engagement designed by lawyers do disadvantage American soldiers …
American aircraft no longer look for targets of opportunity or prosecute attacks on their own. The command and control structures are rigid and designed to convey significant advantage to our enemies lest our political and military leaders be excoriated by the media for killing or injuring civilians. In many cases, the administration is willing to accept the death of Americans lest no media propaganda piece be used to tarnish the carefully-crafted image of our current leadership. Our fighters check-in with controllers by giving a summary of their weaponry and an estimate of their time in their area based on ordnance and fuel status. Known as “playtime,” our people hang-out, refueling by aerial tanker, and if no targets are found, may simply return to base.
“With or without the Russians, the number of strikes is limited by the need to avoid civilian casualties. So far there have been two confirmed cases in which a total of 5-7 civilians were killed by the bombing. But there are 15 other incidents still under investigation.
Charles Brown: Our goal is to have-- minimize any civilian casualties. And if there's any doubt then we're probably not gonna drop on that particular target. We'll come back another day.
David Martin: To what extent is that inhibiting your operations?
Charles Brown: Well, in every, every air campaign there is some type of guidance that we have to live by.
David Martin: And the guidance is zero civilian casualties?
Charles Brown: The goal is zero.
The goal is also to hit lucrative targets like that car-bomb factory which is as close as a low-tech enemy like ISIS comes to an industrial base. But sometimes the target can be as small as one man with a gun. On the day we watched the B-1 strike, that same bomber was sent to check out a report of a single ISIS sniper firing from the top of a building.
The idea that a B-1 can be tasked to checkout a sniper firing from the top of a building is absolutely insane. And, if there are no Americans on the ground, just who are we protecting and how can we be sure?
Can you just imagine General George Patton’s response to any Commander-in-Chief that demanded zero civilian casualties? After all, the truth is that civilian casualties drive the political winds of change and when the civilians have had enough, the leadership changes.
While deconfliction to avoid friendly-fire incidents is a necessity, but we should not be granting our enemies an advantage by using overly-restrictive rules of engagement or embedding critical media within military operations. There are some things that should be kept secret to protect our country, its citizens, and the members of the military – including our allies.
And, while flight simulators and large-screen battlefield displays are great amusements, let us not forget that they can also be used to train our enemies and to provide attack vectors in battle.
I am not happy with 60 Minutes’ program because while they claim that they did not reveal classified information or use names, it is bad enough that this information is available overseas where people can match faces and target our facilities.
And the story’s concluding lines were ironic …
“Some 25,000 American bombs have been dropped so far. All the firepower and technology of a superpower -- even supersonic stealth aircraft -- directed against an enemy in pickup trucks intent on dragging the Middle East back to the Middle Ages.”
The example used for the program was a three building cluster being surveiled by a drone and believed to be hiding explosives. A perfect stationary target for stand-off cruise missiles rather than a very expensive B-1 bomber strike. That is, unless you factor-in the publicity value of a dog-and-pony show. It appears that the first planes to attack the target are a pair of “Dutch” F-16s (To reinforce the “coalition” standing?) who appeared to decimate the building. And, then the B-1 rolls in to drop its bombs on an already destroyed building. A great show – but an incompetent way to prosecute an attack.
Bottom line …
Actions speak louder than words and staged dog-and-pony shows will not shore up Barack Obama’s image as the worst President in modern history. A
We should also remember, all of the firepower in our arsenal will not do one whit to suppress the toxicity of the religion that drives these sectarian attacks. feckless, incompetent, empty-suit who couldn’t lead a Boy Scout troop, let alone the American military.
We are so screwed.
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius