I was watching the news this morning, as I typically do, when I heard a journalist talking about the U.S. military involvement in Yemen. In an offhand comment, the reporter described the extent of the United States’ involvement as providing refueling support to Saudi aircraft operating in the skies over Yemen. That was it.
Immediately, I wanted to shout at the television, ‘what about special operations forces operating in Yemen?’ As soon as the thought entered my mind, I realized that therein lies a problematic phenomenon. Most Americans, including apparently those elected to oversee worldwide U.S. military operations, do not really grasp, or think much about, U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) missions happening across the globe. When they do, it is usually in the wake of an American having been killed in the course of one of those operations.
Such was the case back in January 2017, when Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed in Yemen. It was as if you could hear a collective exclamation from the American press and public: “We have SEALs in Yemen?” The same occurred when four U.S. Special Forces personnel were killed in Niger back in October. “I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger,” stated U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, when discussing the operation on “Meet the Press.”
Part of the problem is that America has been at war for so long now — since October 2001 — that we have collectively relegated the details of that long war to our subconscious. As a society, we tend not to think about it until an American dies in a war zone, or unless it is Memorial Day or Veterans Day.