Osama bin Laden, Benito Mussolini, and Physicians

I’m reading William McRaven’s book, Spec Ops, with case studies of military special operations ranging from Eben Emael to Entebbe.  While there are metaphorical parallels to persuasion in this book, for now, I’d like to offer a quote and an consideration.  First, a little background.

Just before World War II, Hitler and Mussolini formed the first partners of the Axis powers against the Allies.  In 1943 the tide turned against Mussolini in a coup and he was arrested by the new Italian government.  Hitler decided to rescue his partner and ordered Captain Otto Skorzeny, a German commando, to execute a daring and dramatic mission.  Skorzeny had to first locate Mussolini because the new Italian government kept moving him across Italy to hide him from just such a rescue mission.  As McRaven details in his book, Skorzeny thought the Italian government was hiding Mussolini in a remote mountain location at Gran Sasso in Abruzzi, but he had to be sure before he launched his rescue.

In the meantime, Skorzeny made one final attempt to verify Mussolini’s location.  He arranged to have an unwitting German medical officer travel to Gran Sasso to determine the hotel’s suitability as a malaria clinic . . . The townspeople with whom the doctor had talked, informed him that a number of high-ranking Italian officers had stayed in L’Aquila and that all the civilians in Campo Impertore Hotel had been dismissed.

A physician employed to gather military intel?  Gee, that sounds familiar.

History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme according to Mark Twain and note a rhyme here.  Admiral William McRaven runs the Spec Ops force in Afghanistan that found and killed Osama bin Laden.  You’ll now recall the alleged CIA program that sent a Pakistani physician to bin Laden’s suspected hiding place to run free vaccination clinics in an attempt to obtain bin Laden family DNA.

Hey, military guys are students, too, and they learn from their learning.

Shouldn’t you?