Friday, June 29, 2007
The Ballad Of The Green Berets
I got to this article kind of late last night, so I linked to it without posting, but it really warrants some closer attention. It ostensibly focuses on how the military leadership of the Special Operations command will soon be rotated out, resulting in the appointment of senior officers who are committed to returning to traditional 'indirect' special operations tactics. But it's actually a pretty severe indictment of the ways in which the Bush administration has misused Special Forces in particular, and the military in general, in response to the attacks of 9/11.
Despite their image, Special Forces have always placed a heavy emphasis on non-combat oriented interventions, especially with regard to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism:
Through the indirect route, support can be overt or covert. But it always is aimed at eliminating safe havens for terrorists. This is done by training foreign militaries, supporting surrogate forces or providing humanitarian, financial and civic backing to areas viewed as possible breeding grounds for terrorists.
But after 9/11, the Rumsfeld Dept. of Defense began to increasingly use Special Forces in combat operations, first in Afghanistan and then even more so in Iraq. In direct contradiction of the command's strategic doctrine, Bush and Rumsfeld have tried to "kill our way to victory".
There's a trend right now to trace our failure in Iraq to an Army culture that never learned the counterinsurgency lessons of Vietnam. But some blame must also go to a civilian leadership that ignored the tools we did have in the toolkit, or tried to apply them to tasks they aren't appropriate for.
The Bush administration's riposte to the attacks on 9/11 was driven more by political considerations than by strategic calculation. But while "Bring 'em on" and "Mission Accomplished" might have made for more virile, macho soundbites, the meticulous counterterrorism operations Bush and Rumsfeld mocked would have made for better policy. The proof lies in the comparison between the Philippines, where they were applied, and Iraq, where they weren't.