Grenada & Beirut Bombing 30th Anniversary

Posted on: October 23rd, 2013 by Will Rodriguez 12 Comments
Rangers in Grenada / Beruit Bombing (Bill Foley AP)

Not much coverage to be seen on the anniversary of the Invasion of Grenada Operation Urgent Fury or Beirut Bombing.  The Grenada invasion was the first major US military operation after Vietnam.  It marked the re-emergence of US military exceptionalism after the disastrous ‘70’s. It simultaneously demonstrated the incredible capabilities of our military as well as areas for improvement.

The tragic Beirut bombing cost 241 Marines’ lives.  It also simultaneously spotlighted the costs of foolish ROE and poor situational awareness as well as what can be considered a start point for the war on terror.

Plenty of pride in service, sacrifice and lessons learned to meditate on today…

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Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • HM1 (FMF) Ret.

    Thanks for being one of the few to remember the fallen!

  • LauraKinCA

    Important to remember. Thanks for providing the links.

  • HM1 (FMF) Ret.
  • Txazz

    At about 6:20 in the morning on October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes
    truck charged through the barbed-wire fence around the American compound
    and plowed past two guard stations. It drove straight into the barracks
    and exploded. Eyewitnesses said that the force of the blast caused the
    entire building to float up above the ground for a moment before it
    pancaked down in a cloud of pulverized concrete and human remains. FBI
    investigators said that it was the largest non-nuclear explosion since http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii and certainly the most powerful car bomb ever detonated.
    And, there was no retaliation.

    RIP to the fallen
    Peace to those still living the nightmare after 30 years.

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …So, what were the lessons of Beirut?   We started on one mission, and mission creep led us into the briar patch of “nation building…”  Nation building only works when all of the major factions want it to.  Because nation building would strengthen the current (barely effective) government… we were simply labeled as another faction.  This *always* happens when the major factions aren’t 100% lined up behind this.
    .
    …We placed our lads on poor ground… but since they were not *really* going to be involved in combat, not a problem, right?  Don’t want the place to look like Con Thien, so have the troops in a dorm rather than in bunkers.  
    .
    …Last thing that we want is some dumb grunt shooting a local… so no rounds in the chamber.  Any of this seem familiar?
    YP

  • YankeePapa I don’t believe nation building is more dependent on people’s buy in than defeating the enemy first.
    Seems kind of silly to be establishing “democracy” and governmental institutions when those most qualified to do that aren’t soldiers so security or at least a level of stability should be established first.
    It can be almost counter productive to establish civil law and democratic gov’t in a war zone.  Get’s to the law enforcement vs. warfare approach to terrorism or unconventional warfare.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa,
    .

     …”Nation building” is an exercise in futility in unsettled areas.  You know how a reporter says, “Tonight there is an uneasy truce along the border?”  Of course it is an “uneasy truce”… if it were a “casual and relaxed truce” it would be called “peace” and there would be no story.
    …So too with “nation building…” Have to have some kind of starting stability… You don’t try an organ transplant with arteries gushing blood all over the place… you clamp them off first.  
    .
    …The Turks in WWI had a comment that was too often true of some British commanders… “Brave fellows these English… always attack the thickest place in the fence…”  American leaders patently refuse to believe that “nation building” doesn’t work and are prepared to try it over and over again… experience be damned… 
    YP

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa,
    .

    “…more
    dependent on people’s buy in than defeating the enemy first…”
    …The point wasn’t the buy in of the people… but the factions.  If all the major factions in Lebanon willing to go “Peace, Love and Granola…” then nation building might have worked… but with everything so “touchy-feely” they probably wouldn’t have needed us.
    .
    …But it was obvious to any cheeseburger in the early 1980s that one or more powerful factions would fight if we did a nation building number in support of the government in power.  So yes… if we just had to do nation building… we would have to crush those factions first… which means that we would not have been nation building… but fighting a war. 
    .
    …But we had no political will (for both bad reasons and good) to fight it out in somebody else’s civil war.  We weren’t going to do that… but “nation building” meant that we kept boots on the ground…without a war fighting mission… which means that we just gave political fanatics targets to shoot at. 
    .
    … In the end by expending just one guy and a truck load of explosives, one group killed hundreds of Marines… drove the most powerful nation on Earth out of the country and gained not only a massive PR victory for themselves… but inspired countless other such groups. 
    .
    …But we tried it again… went over to “nation building” in Somalia and wound up turning mother’s picture to the wall and abandoning the project.  We declared nation building (and the implementation of democracy) to be “conditions of victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan without a hope in hell of ever accomplishing those goals… especially in Afghanistan…
    .
    …I am reminded of the pathetic speech given by the brave (though thick as two short planks) young American Lt. who addresses Vietnamese farmer/laborers and a handful of native mercenaries… telling them that they were going to establish a bastion of liberty and justice in the jungle…  
    .
    …I’d laugh if it weren’t so pathetic…
    YP

  • YankeePapa majrod Lebanon probably needs a little more analysis.  Nation building (I detest the term and like the mission less) tends to be tough when Iran is bombing your embassies, torturing your CIA chief and bombing your Marines that aren’t allowed to lock and load.  
    While not disagreeing with your NB comments in general there was a bit more involved in Lebanon.  Leaving like we did sent a bad message we would repeat with exponentially bad results.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa,
    “…more
    involved in Lebanon.  Leaving like we did sent a bad message we would
    repeat with exponentially bad results…” 
    .
    …I concur.  Unfortunately those Marines were not in Lebanon to deal with our real problems there… but as a glorified PR show.  They had ROE far tougher than that of the Seattle Police Department. 
    .
    …The Republic might have been able to cope with casualties taken in a clear cut struggle with the enemy… but not sleeping in a dorm like a visiting team at a football game.  How many heads of responsible parties in the Chain of Command rolled?  Hear that empty sound? 

    .
    …Again, in Somalia, our troops lacked a clear military mission that was within the realm of possibility.  So after less troops were lost than in ten minutes at Tarawa… the administration had no rationale to offer the American people… Lacking any logical reason for our policy… the government ordered the military to abandon the country… 
    .
    …The lesson seemed to be that less than two score killed would cause the most powerful nation on earth  to flee in disorder.  All of the respect for American power and capability generated by Desert Storm… was squandered.
    .
    …In Afghanistan and Gulf War 2 we triumphed… only to immediately publicly adopt absolutely impossible and unneeded “conditions of victory…” guaranteeing that no matter how much we accomplished that we would publicly fail at our self-imposed goals. 
    YP

  • YankeePapa majrod Don’t forget we wouldn’t send armor to Somalia because it would look too threatening…

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa,
    .

    “…wouldn’t send armor to Somalia because it would look too threatening…”

    …Indeed so.  We put in troops in the first place because the warlords were stopping relief supplies… and only credible threats would accomplish anything.  The initial ROE, they set up a roadblock, you politely ask them to move it… if they don’t, blow it to Mars…  Warlords understood completely…

    .
    …Humanitarian mission… but the moment that we would leave the warlords would be back in control.  Only point to boots on ground would have been to cover evacuation of relief personnel.  Since that wasn’t going to happen… why were we there, exactly…?  
    .

    …Year before we went in, there was a documentary on TV, mostly dealing with the hunger… but there was an interview with the head of the UN asking why that organization did not do something.  His answer was in three parts… no precedent… no votes yet… His last part was to the effect that there was really nothing to work with… like trying to build a wall out of soup…

    .
    …But that did not deter placing boots on the ground. Mission creep and NB… New ROE… that the warlords liked just fine.
    .
    …So in the words of T.R. Feherenbach… “We told our sons that there were no tigers… then sent them to fight them without tiger guns…”  We went hat in hand to the Pakistanis to ask them to use their decrepit old Soviet armor to help us rescue our men.  
    YP