What Black Hawk Down leaves out

Political commentary and more.
Jan. 21 2002 6:21 AM

What Black Hawk Down Leaves Out

That Somalia raid really was more a debacle than a victory.

(Continued from Page 3)

Update/Correction: An alert kausfiles reader points out it was unfair of me to insinuate that Bowden's criticism of Clinton's pull-out was a recent opinion prompted by post-9/11 hindsight or the need to promote the movie. It turns out that Bowden made a similar, if less personal, criticism in the afterword of later editions of his book—an afterword dated November, 1999, years before both 9/11 and the film's PR campaign. There, Bowden decides that "it would have been better not to try" to go after Aideed. But, he adds:

That said, once we had committed ourselves to the effort, I believe the United States should have seen the mission through even after the battle on October 3—especially after the battle. … This story would have had a much more satisfying ending if he had been delivered up in chains. ... The lesson our retreat taught the world's terrorists and despots is that killing a few American soldiers, even at a cost of more than five hundred of your own fighters, is enough to spook Uncle Sam.


Apparently, Bowden believes a) it was foolish to try to arrest Aideed; b) arresting Aideed wouldn't have produced "lasting peace" in Somalia, would have "just given the Habr Gidr leader a more fervently motivated following, and would have elevated a two-bit Somali warlord to the status of an anti-imperialist hero in many parts of the world;" but c) once the 18 Americans died we should have kept on trying to arrest Aideed in order to establish the principle that killing Americans is a bad idea.

This is a reasonable position, though it's not mine. As Bowden half-acknowledges, the Rangers' very "success" at killing their foes undermines the need for additional punishment. Bowden's book concludes that while we lost 18 men, "the Somali death toll was catastrophic." Shouldn't that—if publicized—have been enough for deterrence?



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories to the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
Oct. 22 2014 9:51 AM What Was It Like to Work at NASA During the Challenger and Columbia Disasters?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
Oct. 22 2014 9:54 AM The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here I feel like a kid in some kind of store.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 9:39 AM Gertjie and Lammie, a Magical (and Bizarre) Friendship
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.