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Tue May 1, 2012, 08:07 PM

A reminder for Mitt Romney: President Carter DID give that order. [View all]

And doing so effectively cost him his presidency.

Officially it was known as Operation Eagle Claw, although today most Americans would probably recognize it by the name Desert One. In an effort to rescue the 52 American hostages taken prisoner at the US Embassy in Tehran, US Army troops from the Delta Force special operations unit were dispatched to Iran along with transport aircraft and helicopters. The plan: spec-ops teams would strike the US embassy at night, rescue the hostages, and get them to a nearby soccer stadium where helicopters could land, taking both the hostages and the strike team to a captured airfield south of the city, and from there to freedom.

The operation was a complete failure. During the initial infiltration by eight helicopters, a sandstorm forced one to crash, another to turn back, and a third made it to the staging area badly damaged, leaving only five of the six copters that were considered a minimum to go forward. The commanders on site requested an abort, and Carter approved it; during the evacuation of the staging area, one of the helicopters crashed into a C-130 transport plane, destroying both aircraft, killing eight troops, and forcing the other helicopters to be abandoned on site. The event became an international embarrassment for the United States, and ended up being pivotal to Carter's landslide defeat in the election six months later.

Operation Eagle Claw is a perfect example of why "giving that order" is not nearly as simple as Mitt Romney would have you believe. Military special operations have no second chances, and very little margin for error. Something as simple as a storm, mechanical failure, or a pilot making a minor error during a tricky nighttime exercise can result in disaster. Being able to give such an order hinges on being able to know that you are gambling with your entire presidency, and the lives of the men on the ground, and still having the nerve to make a decision based on what is the best course of action, rather than the safest. If Eagle Claw had been successful, it's likely that Carter's surge in popularity and perception could have ended the "Reagan Revolution" before it began. President Obama had the option of safely striking from the air, and maybe never knowing whether they really did get their target, or the dangerous, necessary route of a ground incursion, knowing that it could mean dozens of deaths, diplomatic strife, and his presidency being recorded as a catastrophe. He did it anyway.

Somehow, Mr. Romney, I don't think you have the conviction to make that call.

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Reply A reminder for Mitt Romney: President Carter DID give that order. [View all]
TheWraith May 2012 OP
onehandle May 2012 #1
babylonsister May 2012 #2
freshwest May 2012 #5
Not Me May 2012 #3
Atman May 2012 #4
Auntie Bush May 2012 #6
RZM May 2012 #7
qkvhj May 2012 #8