Special Ops Forces are a tool-not a strategy

Thanks to my good friends at the New York Journal of Books, I was able to get a copy of Sean Naylor’s very excellent history of the Joint Special Operations Command and write a review…linked here.

But, as always, there is more to the story. First of all, there is a lot of misunderstanding about what JSOC is versus the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) which not only owns JSOC, but the special operations pieces of each military service. What makes JSOC special is that it combines the best of the best to create a uniquely qualified organization of trigger-pullers that can deal death and destruction on very short notice world-wide.

However, what makes this book so good, and likely to be very controversial, is that Naylor pulls no punches and doesn’t hesitate to throw the bullshit flag on what he considers bad decisions that put American lives at risk.

Big case in point was the dropping of Rangers into Kandahar shortly after the war in Afghanistan began. For the most part, Naylor makes a very good case that there was little to be gained from parachuting a large forces of Rangers into the area, sweeping some compounds, and then extracting them. Of course, it did make for awesome video footage, and certainly scared some goat-herders that a battalion of whoop-ass could drop in on them pretty much undetected until the bullets start flying. But strategically, the mission was pretty much as bust as the supposed targets had already left.

Naylor gives his opinion on the various commanders of JSOC, mostly through the eyes of their subordinates and presents a mixed picture of an awesome killing machine worn down by too many missions, conducted for too long, against a varied group of targets of different operational risks, for dubious strategic gain.

At the end of the day, as I pointed out in my NYJB review, his admiration for the grunts is unmistakable, and he offers some sage advice that JSOC gives Presidents an awesome capability to reach out and touch someone, but even a legendary unit like Delta Force or Seal Team Six can’t rescue a flawed foreign policy. Still, this is an excellent book on this really never truly written about organization, and it comes in a timely manner.