Although we claim to be silent professionals, none of us is so pure of heart and conviction that we don’t give into our own ego at times. We can hem and haw at the SEALs for being in the spotlight but in those deep recesses of the human spirit, where Freud’s theories take shape, we all long for some form of recognition. The unmatched public appeal of Navy SEALs has certainly garnered some positive effects for NSW and USSOCOM but with the recent ST6 mission in Somalia, I’ve noticed an unfortunate consequence to the limelight.
To your average American, Navy SEALs have been the golden gods of SOF for quite some time. With each press conference acknowledging another successful, high-speed mission, the masses are conditioned to expect nothing less than perfection-as they perceive it. The steady stream of sexy, Navy SEAL movies engenders a false sense of intimacy between our elite amphibious warriors and John Q. Public.
I would argue that never before has the inner sanctum of NSW, and by extension our SOF culture, been so accessible to the common man. In the same vein that men gather around the workplace coffeemaker, to discuss Monday’s night’s football game, so too they gather to discuss the latest Tier 1 mission. And it’s not just the bloggers and airsofters who feel at ease armchair-quarterbacking the role of SOF warriors anymore. We now see that the mainstream media and public figures feel comfortable criticizing the tactical decisions of SEALs in combat.
Kerry Patton and Brandon Webb have both penned passionate denunciations of the media’s handling of the ST6 raid on Al-Shabaab’s 3rd world, seaside villa. It’s not just the “fair and balanced” assclowns at Fox News who are guilty of stepping out of their lane as journalists and trying on the hat of military debriefers. John McCain is an all-American hero of the highest caliber, and it pains me to speak ill of him in any way whatsoever but the Republican Senator from Arizona also felt righteous in his disparaging remarks toward the East Africa mission
Sen. McCain was quoted during an official hearing expressing his opinion of the mission, “The fact is that it was a failure,” he went on to say. “The fact is that it was an intelligence failure there, otherwise the mission would have been completed.”
McCain’s associate, Sen. Jeff Flake, likewise, commented on his perception of the mission,”…what challenges does that present to us to have another failed raid into the country? Does that embolden al Shabaab?”
The question I find myself asking is, what emboldens journalists, elected officials or even the average Joe to criticize the performance of any SOF warrior and not feel like a complete douchebag?
Should we blame Call of Duty, Act of Valor or maybe the official press conferences, acknowledging the details of successful missions?
In the case of my warrior brothers from another SOF amphibious mother, I think we need to take a closer look at the potential fallout from official and unofficial publicity. I’ll contend that NSW’s position as the All-American personification of Special Operations has turned the image of a Navy SEAL into a twisted , quasi reality TV star. Joe Nobody sitting on his couch playing Rainbow Six, reading No Easy Day and playing airsoft on the weekends has developed a sick bond with you, the unknown SEAL diligently performing your thankless duty. The millions of Americans who have latched on to the celebrity of your hijacked image can comment on your chosen path without spilling their frappafuckinchino.
I just caught myself succumbing to flash-rage. Let me dial it back…
I guess what I’m trying to say is, fame is a motherfucker. Ever since Charlie Sheen dawned the black watch cap of an US Navy Frogman-Assassin, SEALs have become a household name. And now the perilous, risky business of professional combat is just another full-contact sport to too many Americans. I don’t know what the right answer is but the beautiful inhabitants of this glorious nation need to be reminded that combat isn’t American Idol and SEALs along with all the other SOF warriors out there should be granted the dignity of not having their good name dragged through the Sunday morning muck of your stupid cable news program.