President Trump’s invocation of fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was one of the most polarizing moments in his address to Congress. Those who praised the moment are correct that men and women who risk their lives on America’s behalf, discharging missions not of their choosing, deserve public recognition of their burdens and valor. It is heartening that military families saw their sacrifices praised.
Trump critics are equally correct that a succession of presidents have engineered similar moments to exploit goodwill toward warriors for political purposes, at times even to bolster ill-conceived missions that disrespect or decimate the warrior class.
It is difficult to parse the motives behind these moments.
For that reason, responsible citizens must try to gauge whether or not the president is acting as responsibly as possible in his capacity as a steward of the young lives he commands.
Trump is failing that test.
Ryan Owens died in a “boots-on-the-ground” raid in Yemen that the president approved shortly after taking office. The circumstances of that approval remain murky.
What followed was a tragedy:
- The SEAL team’s cover was reportedly blown and its contingency plans failed.
- The reported target, a senior al-Qaeda leader, was neither captured nor killed.
- According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, nine children under he age of 13 were killed and at least five more were wounded in a fierce firefight.
- While the overall cost of the raid is not known, a $70 million V-22 Osprey aircraft had to be destroyed.
- Owens was killed and several of his comrades were wounded.
- It is unclear if the raid yielded significant intelligence.