The Not-So-Great Raid

A sad reminder of how Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom earned his nickname, this time from the rescue of James Foley that was never ordered:

The operation was reminiscent of the 1970 mission to free American prisoners of war from North Vietnam’s Son Tay prison camp. It was flawlessly executed but the North Vietnamese had moved the prisoners a day earlier.

For President Barack Obama the decision to send in the Night Stalkers was an agonising one. The audacious bin Laden raid in Pakistan had been a success but also preying on his mind was the failed 1980 Delta Force operation to rescue American hostages in Tehran.

Sandstorms and mechanical troubles led the mission to be abandoned and eight American troops were killed when two aircraft collided. The debacle cast a shadow over Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

Pentagon sources said Foley and the others might well have been rescued but Obama, concerned about the ramifications of US troops being killed or captured in Syria, took too long to authorise the mission.


It was with thoughts of Son Tay in mind that I hadn’t criticized the President over the failed rescue op earlier this year. Sometimes the bad guys get wind of what’s up, and vacate the premises. Other times it’s just bad luck that the bad guys moved the prisoners for some other reason. And sometimes you give the go order at just the right time, but the op goes Tango Uniform anyway. We can’t expect prescience out of our President and we can’t expect perfection from even our Special Forces.

But this charge that Obama dithered until it was too late — well, it rings true, doesn’t it? We’ve read this story before, although not usually with such visibly gruesome results.


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