An American warship opened fire on a boat in the United Arab Emirates, which apparently looks like a tragedy, if also an understandable one, because of the Cole.
Al Qaeda targeted that vessel in Yemen in 2000, and partly, if not exclusively, because the Navy had different regulations on the use of force, the Cole not only lost 17 crew members, but was broken in half essentially.
They almost lost the whole crew, and the Cole was carried on its side back to the United States for a half billion dollar repair job, as to the win-lose-lose-win nature of operating to protect our interests and those of our allies in some parts of the world.
If the boat in the Gulf port of the United Arab Emirates turns out to be a suicide vessel, that's a win, but it's a lose to as to demonstrating real risks.
If the vessel, as would seem far more likely from what has been said to date, was not a suicide bomber, and that would be pretty obvious as to the presence or absence of explosives, especially with the almost certain use of dogs, then that's a lose, because we just killed innocent people, maybe two brothers arguing over the day's fishing catch, human enough as to not heeding what is claimed by the American Navy, and probably correctly, as multiple warnings.
People space out on warnings all the time, and if you saw that on the U.S. vessel, at some point, you would be thinking of what would happen if an oil tanker, which is what the American ship is, was struck by a suicide bomber like the Cole.
That would be a lose.
On the other hand, clearly people are going to have to think about rules of engagement carefully after this episode, which might mean more distance between Americans and Arabs in the Gulf, so such a thing doesn't happen again, which is a lose as to personal relations between Americans and folks in the UAE, if a win as to avoiding some bigger tragedy, like some huge family outing in a dhow that kills twenty people.
On the other hand, it has to be the case that sometimes situational awareness of the risk of suicide attacks, or even swarming attacks by Iran's Revolutionary Guard's fast patrol craft that look like the dhow's popular in the Gulf, cannot be lowered too much.
It's a messy world, although if as appears to be the case that this was analogous to "friendly fire," it's not like people in the U.S. Navy are looking to pick a fight with the UAE at all, and that more than likely there was a truly tragic communications error, which is a lose, if hopefully when all the facts come in, it will allow for better procedures to be put into place as to where vessels are located on our side so as to make such apparent accidents less likely while not allowing for Iran to pull off another Cole, by proxy or by the direct approach.