Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Reviewing the Math

Earlier this year, I was struck by the remarkable event of the CIA openly announcing the names of two who passed in their service. Rather than let the opportunity pass unnoticed, I posted a commentary on the event and a momentary eulogy for those who died in the service of what I believe is right. Today I received this:

interesting blog Patrick. I am the brother of Chris Mueller whom you wrote about. not sure I understand the whole "fuzzy math" issue you spoke of.
care to expound? I do appreciate your respect for his service and

Brandon Mueller

I greatly respect the people who fight for the US in the Special Forces and covert communities. I joke about some of the things I had to endure in my term of service; exploding toilets and decaying goat carcasses on Haitian smugglers to name two. My service had some rough spots, but nothing like what the Special Forces operators go through. The saying in the Navy is: you choose your rate, you choose your fate. I choose to spend the bulk of my time in air-conditioned spaces staring at squiggly images. Chris Mueller chose to go a much harder route, and he did so repeatedly. You do not end up in Central Asia getting shot at by unpleasant religious enthusiasts either accidentally or just because you needed the money. You end up on the far side of the world, fighting on the CIA's dime because you are very good and very trustworthy. In order to be fighting in operations beyond the traditional scope of military control, a lot of professionals had to have trained you and believed in you. You have to be somebody special.

As much as we might like to, we can't just push a button and produce people like Chris Mueller. Not to disregard the decade of hard training it takes to get somebody in the zone he was in, the character it takes to stick with it through all the training isn't easy to come by. I never was in Special Forces, but I was around them enough to pick up on the subtle differences between those who want to be SF and those who could make it. There were a lot of insecure jocks who tried out for the SEALs, and a small number of serious hard cases who had the supreme disregard for their own comfort that was needed to accomplish the mission. We can't afford to throw away people like Chris; we need every one we can get.

So here's the math on this. We cannot afford to lose these special people. We cannot afford to not use their special skills and character to accomplish the missions. People like Chris Mueller keep thousands of soldiers and millions of civilians from getting slaughtered by being tougher, smarter, faster, and better than anybody the enemy has. They deserve all the support we can give them without that support becoming an easy target or a distraction to their mission. We certainly owe them our thanks and remembrance.

I have no idea how many critical missions Chris Mueller and his partner William Carlson accomplished before they died in an ambush. I know they died while receiving air support and their team inflicted serious harm to those who attacked them. I strongly suspect that they were just unlucky that day. I also suspect that the casualties their team inflicted on the enemy will reduce the likelihood of that bad luck repeating. It's a shame they went down, but they didn't go down easy. In the final accounting, Chris Mueller and William Carlson made ambushing our forces a net loss for the ambushers, and that's the only math that really matters.

I wish that Chris Mueller was still alive and out there operating; Brandon must feel the same thing a thousand times more. This year, I've lost my grandmother, an aunt, and my father; grief is no stranger to me these days. All of my family went well, though. They lived their lives in worthwhile ways and I am better for it. I am also better for the life of Chris Mueller and I thank his family.
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