Revelations that U.S. commandoes unsuccessfully sought in a secret mission to rescue American journalist James Foley and other captives in Syria recall similar failures in past conflicts.

Obama administration officials confirmed the failed raid yesterday, prompting bitter criticism from some conservatives, including former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton.

Failed rescue raids should not be made public because doing so stains the U.S. reputation for military strength and gives away too much information to opponents about how U.S. special forces operate, the critics contend.

Desert One disaster

That said, the history of known U.S. rescue raids is grim. Six months into the Iran hostage crisis in 1980, for example, President Jimmy Carter ordered a Delta Force raid to free 52 American hostages held in Tehran by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Helicopter equipment failures caused Operation Eagle Claw to be aborted, but not before a chopper collided with an accompanying C-130 aircraft at the operation's Desert One rallying point. Eight U.S. servicemen died.

The equipment failures highlighted the sorry state of U.S. military preparedness under Carter and contributed to his loss in November to Ronald Reagan.

The Son Tay raid

A decade before Eagle Claw, President Richard Nixon ordered a commando force to attack a North Vietnamese prison where American POWs were believed to be held.

Operation Ivory Coast was a complete success in every way except the most important: When the commandoes landed in the prison camp, the U.S. POWs weren't there.

As many as 200 North Vietnamese soldiers were killed by the raiders, but that was small consolation for the failure to rescue any POWs.

Son Tay in Syria

The failed Foley rescue effort appears to be most similar to the Son Tay raid in Vietnam because both were executed brilliantly but nobody was rescued.

In both cases, the pre-raid intelligence appeared strong, but proved to be faulty once the commandoes were on the ground.

The lesson is that hostage rescues are among the most dangerous and difficult jobs America asks its military to do. When they fail, it's not the fault of the brave soldiers who carry out the missions.

On today's

Editorial: Tough words won't substitute for action, Mr. President.

EXography/Luke Rosiak: Senator flies like a Rockefeller, but bills the taxpayers.

Watchdog/Mark Flatten (Fourth of a five-part series): Treatment at a VA hospital nearly killed this whistleblower.

Watchdog/Richard Pollock: Guatemala's coyote smuggling networks are big business.

Columnists/Cal Thomas: When fighting ISIS, fight to win.

Columnists/Michael Barone: Ferguson is not nearly as daunting as the race riots of the 1960s.

Columnists/Jed Babbin: The torturous debate over the CIA's "torture" report.

Columnists/David Freddoso: Rick Perry is smiling because he has the smoking gun video.

OpEds/Ryan Bradel: Kinship, bloodlines matter to everyone.

Beltway Confidential/Michael Barone: Demography is destiny — pizza department.

PennAve/Betsy Woodruff: Special session in Richmond could be challenge for Barbara Comstock.

PennAve/Joseph Lawler: Treasury looks to stop "corporate deserters" on its own.

Legal Newsline/Bryan Cohen: La. AG sues State Farm, claims it tried to control auto repair business.

Video Morning Examiner: Morning Examiner with Steve Doty for Aug. 21.

In other news

NBC News: U.S. mission to rescue Foley failed, according to officials.

The New York Times: ISIS pressed U.S. for ransom payment before beheading Foley.

USA Today: Ford worker challenges UAW dues, citing 1988 Beck Supreme Court decision.

Righty Playbook

The American Spectator: Quick fixes and lasting grief make Ferguson safer than Pittsburgh.

Washington Free Beacon: Michigan Dem Gary Peters got campaign money from convicted loan shark.

Daily Caller: Ditka brands criticism of "Redskins" horse manure.

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: If millennials want liberty, they must have virtue, too.

Lefty Playbook

The Nation: What would real economic justice look like in Ferguson?

The Progressive: FBI tracking charter schools.

Grist: Why Michael Brown had the right to stand his ground.

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: Are the thousands of sailors U.S. sent to help at Fukushima now sick from radiation?