First, the Navy SEALs and Colorado National Guard are mourning their losses after a Chinook was shot down in Afghanistan this weekend. It frustrates me to learn that the SEALs were part of SEAL Team Six and were being exfiltrated after assisting a Ranger unit. This same scenario happened in Somalia in 1993. Why was a very high-value asset like SEAL Team Six being used to back up the Rangers? We have close air support, attack helicopters, Reapers, Predators, and good old fashioned artillery. We won't know the real details but on the surface we used to wrong asset for the wrong job and a bunch of special operators got killed.
Helicopter air assault hasn't changed much since Vietnam. On the inbound or infiltration you may get in fast enough that the enemy doesn't have time to coordinate an attack. On the exit or exfiltration you run the risk that the enemy knows a team is on the ground and is looking for the helicopters. They can radio each other to set-up a quick cross-fire with RPGs, shoulder launched SAMs or simply automatic rifles. A helicopter lifting off is easy to hit and with concentrated firepower you can bring it down (see Vietnam, Afghanistan in the 1980s, Somalia in 1993, and most recently the helicopter extracting the SEAL team to hit Osama bin Laden).
SEAL Team Six has been well documented since killing Osama bin Laden. It takes years of training to ready for that team. We lost the lives of some of the most highly trained men in the world. In addition to the loss to their family and friends, the US lost 20 of the most highly trained special operators in the world. Their use in this mission suggests either desperation or a complete lack of understanding of how to use Special Operations. In either event. this is not going unnoticed by the enemy.
At the same time, a seemingly unconnected event occurred this weekend. The US lost its AAA rating in the S&P for the first time in history. That means the US has a lower rating (AA+) than Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
In another spectacular move of either ignorance or desperation, President Obama keeps Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. No, the lower rating in the S&P was not Geithner fault however keeping him (when he was talking about leaving) means President Obama does not see anything wrong with US economic policies.
The Tea Party is blaming the President and Democrats. The President is blaming the Tea Part and Republicans. We are now in crisis mode, the question is not how we got here but how are we going to get back to a AAA rating. Keeping Geithner is symbolic in that the US does not see where it had made an errors. Geithner is already calling S&P essentially ignorant in their downgrading of the US.
So how are these two events connected? Both the downing of the Chinook and US bond rating show the rest of world that the US is vulnerable. We are militarily vulnerable as 10 years of continuous operations has stressed our forces and reduced the lifecycles of our weapons systems. The new F-22s have been grounded so long that pilots have lost their proficiency (MR) and to recertify. The bond market shows a decided lack of confidence in the US economy contrary to what President Obama may say. China has already suggested that other countries dump the dollar. The Chinese economy continues to be a juggernaut that is now set to become the largest world economy by 2016!
Russia is watching the US continue to slip in its influence with China ascending to dominancy. Putin does not Russia to take a backseat but has been unable to turn his oil fields into the gold equivalent to the Middle East. Iraq has demanded the US completely remove forces by the end of 2011.
I really don't subscribe to the theory that 2012 is the end of the world. However, I do recognize that with a bond rating that has dropped, a depleted military, and problems such as riots in London, many will believe the world is ending and will act accordingly.