Hamilton: Surrender at sea: Why?
March 24, 2016
Drip-by-drip, the Pentagon is providing a few more details about how two of our Navy's well-armed Riverine Command Boats (RCBs) were captured on January 12, 2016, by far lesser-armed Iranian patrol boats. It now appears the two relatively short-ranged RCBs were dispatched to transit a route across the Persian Gulf that would require at least one at-sea refueling. Before departure from Kuwait for Bahrain, a third RCB had to be cannibalized to "fix" the engine of the RCB that would, reportedly, fail en route. It was also known that the radios and the navigation gear on one of the RCBs were "giving problems." So, what little we know suggests a failure of command above the ten sailors and the junior officer on the RCBs.
Yet few members of Congress have shown an interest in learning the details about how two U.S. Navy vessels were surrendered without a fight to the patrol boats of a nation which, since 1979, has professed to be our sworn enemy. Historically, most military failures, and this was one of the most humiliating naval disasters since the USS George Washington was surrendered to the bashaw of Tripoli in 1800, result from a failure to adhere to the Principles of War. All our military service schools teach the Nine Principles of War. (For the Army version see: Army Field Manual FM-3 Military Operations.)
Applying the Principles one-by-one, what was the "Objective" in dispatching two mechanically suspect RCBs down the length of the disputed waters of the Persian Gulf? Was the junior officer in command instructed to observe the principle of "Offensive," thereby, seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative at all times? Were communications security measures in place to retain the element of "Surprise?" Was enough force allocated to the primary "Objective" so that "Economy of Force" could be applied to any secondary objectives? Was the route down the Persian Gulf selected so that the principle of "Maneuver" favored the two RCBs? Were the command arrangements made clear so that, in case of trouble, the principle of "Unity of Command" would be in effect? Were back-up forces — submarine, air, and surface — in place to insure the "Security" of the operation? And what about the principle of "Simplicity?" Was a clear, uncomplicated plan issued to the skipper and his sailors? Was the plan communicated to that junior officer in a clear, concise way to insure his thorough understanding?
Or, did the Obama White House issue yet another "stand down" order, meaning that the "Objective" for our military world-wide was to do nothing that might interfere with the conclusion of a nuclear agreement, allowing the release of over $100 billion dollars to the government of Iran in exchange for an agreement about which the Iranians have shown, to this day, no intention of honoring. In fact, Iran's recent ballistic-missile tests have already broken the so-called agreement.
The long delay in getting answers from the Pentagon as to how and why two U.S. Navy vessels were surrendered without a fight has caused former Hanoi Hilton POW, Senator John McCain, to threaten the Pentagon that McCain may subpoena that junior officer and his crew members to testify before Congress. We report. You decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the Infantry School, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.