My sympathies go out to the families of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. As I occasionally do with military issues, here is a good roundup of some of the stories related to the topic that I have found useful and/or of interest.
1. Sebastian Junger's above interview with CNN was one of the few dialogues on the topic that did not veer into histrionics ("My God! How could a helicopter in a war zone with our super soldiers on board actually get shot down!"), overreach sensationalism ("This event is a referendum of the whole Afghan war and every strategy therein"), partisanship (more proof that Obama sucks), or high tech war porn navel gazing by Monday morning quarterbacks ("Incompetents! I would have done xyz as opposed to abc").
Junger offers a key insight: what's going on in country where the strength of the insurgency is apparently so great that elite infantry, i.e. Rangers can be overwhelmed and need emergency relief from a backup force?
2. The Seals are getting all of the shine since the kill mission on Bin Laden. The media forgets that the Joint Special Operations Command consists of units from across the military. The families of the Air Force Combat Controllers, and the helicopter pilots and crew of the CH-47 (who were not members of the famed Nightstalkers as was previously reported), as well as the Afghans on board should also be acknowledged for their loss. And we had best not forget the military working dog, a four legged friend that lived to serve, who was also killed in the line of duty on Saturday.
3. The shoot down was apparently part of a "missile trap" of sorts, a coordinated effort by an insurgency that knows how to work PR. Don't forget that Al-Qaeda has been teaching its franchisees the RPG shoot down a helicopter trick for sometime, going at least back to Somalia.
4. Seal Team Six is a small group within a very tight community of special operators. This loss will impact recruitment, training, and promotion. If the numbers are accurate, Seal Team 6 lost at least 10 percent of its personnel in one incident. One hell of a hit by any count.
5. The special forces are quiet operators. I wonder how they and their families feel about all of this attention? This report from NPR explores the relative surprise felt by outsiders to that community's routine, day by day approach to the human losses that inevitably come from action in the line of duty.
6. Context: the late night raid which Seal Team Six was providing backup for is part of a highly secretive "Kill/Capture" program in which thousands of such missions have been completed in recent years.
Here is some great coverage of the program courtesy of Frontline.
7. In the classic Star Trek episode "Space Seed" Kirk and crew reflect back on the latter part of the 1990s, the era of World War 3 and The Eugenics Wars. Although, the Trek universe has retconned those events, i.e. tried to explain how said events did but also did not happen as originally recorded, with the Global War on Terror and U.S. special forces operating in at least 120 countries, was Star Trek onto something? When historians look back on these decades will they refer to them as World War 3? How will historians and political scientists frame the deepening ties between the CIA and the Department of Defense where the leadership of both agencies exchanged roles with one another a few months back?
8. This is a bonus. C.J. Chivers is a war correspondent whose book The Gun on the history of the AK-47 is just a great exploration of how one piece of material culture can be a lens through which to view the history(ies) of the 20th and early 21st centuries. No ifs, ands, or buts. A must read. This interview on his experiences in Libya, friendship with slain photojournalist Tim Hetherington, and how Chivers, a former Marine, balances his tactical knowledge of combat with a principled and critical distance from the events he covers as a reporter, is a powerful example of stalwart principle in action.