The Overuse Of Special Operations

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks, 5 days ago

I tried to warn everyone, but just like America has a cop-worshipping problem, it also has a special operator worshipping problem.  Abolish SOCOM, I said.  Distribute direction action capabilities among the units, get out of countries where we don’t belong, and whet our appetite for war-making.

No one listens to me.

The breakneck pace at which the United States deploys its special operations forces to conflict zones is taking a toll, their top commander told Congress on Thursday.

Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, called the rate at which special operations forces are being deployed “unsustainable” and said the growing reliance of the U.S. military on its elite troops could produce a dangerous strain.

“We are not a panacea,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We are not the ultimate solution to every problem, and you will not hear that coming from us.”

About 8,000 U.S. special forces are currently deployed in more than 80 countries, Thomas said. Many are at the forefront of advising missions in Syria and Iraq as well as counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan. There are about 500 special operators in Syria.

Senators said they were worried about the military’s overreliance on special forces, who are increasingly being called on for missions outside their usual range.

“Our combatant commanders around the world have developed a seemingly insatiable demand for the unique capabilities of our special operators,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The operational tempo is also wearing on the commanders, who in recent months have been called on to take the lead in anti-terrorism efforts and in monitoring the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said it was a “growing myth” that the U.S. “can use special forces and nothing else to achieve goals.”

Special forces are involved in operations against terrorist groups across the world, including the Islamic State and al Qaida in the Middle East and al Shabab in Somalia. On top of that, they are being assigned to a wide range of other conflicts, from “countering Russian aggression to preparing for contingencies in Korea,” Thomas said.

Thomas said special operators had engaged in “continuous combat over the past 15 and half years.”

U.S. special forces were deployed to 138 nations last year. Around 55.3 percent of Special Operations forces deployed overseas in 2016 were sent to the Middle East, a 35 percent drop since 2006, according to Special Operations Command. In the same decade, deployments to Africa rose steeply, by more than 1,600 percent, from just 1 percent in 2006 to 17.3 percent last year. Roughly 12.7 percent of special operators served in Europe, 9.2 percent in the Pacific Command region and almost 5 percent in Latin America.

The origins of this problem are actually quite simple.  First of all, allow meddlesome rulers control over the military.  Second, create military leadership who agrees with all this meddling.  Next, fling the borders wide-ass open and allow anyone to come here for any reason under the sun.  The resultant witch’s brew of toxicity requires you to control everyone, everywhere, all of the time in order to try to ensure that the country doesn’t completely collapse.

Further, invite gays, transgenders, women and weaklings into the military.  The only way to accomplish warfare then is to rely on the only remaining bastion of capability, SOCOM and the U.S. Marine Corps.  The general purpose forces have become a jobs program, and it’s doubtful whether “big army” will ever be capable of fighting another major war.

Perhaps one good side effect of this is that we leave those 138 counties where we deployed last year and mind our own business.

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Comments

  1. On May 8, 2017 at 4:24 pm, JJ said:

    What McLame is reallysaying: “All of us war hawks in the government have developed a seemingly insatiable demand for sending our special operators into conflicts around the world,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

    Perhaps Sen. McCain if you quit pursuing military action by our country all over the globe there would less demands upon the elite special operators. You know, until there was an actual need to do something about an actual threat to our national security.

  2. On May 9, 2017 at 5:05 am, DAN III said:

    This past weekend I participated in a 2-Gun shoot. We were briefed on the course of fire set up by one who claimed to be an active duty SEAL. This guy told us how the team he is assigned to uses the course he set up regularly. Surprisingly, when the SEAL squid’s turn came to run the course he had a malfunction with his AR-malite. He performed immediate action and “click”. NADA. Again, he performed immediate action….”click”. Tried a 3rd time….”click”. He yanked his mag from the weapon, threw it on the ground, and walked off the course in disgust and most likely, embarassment.

    The laughter from many of the observing 2-Gun participants may have been uncalled for. Shit happens. Correct ? However, methinks the laughter was not directed at him as a shooter. Rather, the laughter was the result of his playing up his capability as an alleged SEAL and his subsequent “misfortune” in his attempt to run the carbine portion of the shoot.

    Seemed to me there were few, if any of the laughing, observing shooters from this neck of Penn’s Woods who have a “special operator worshipping problem”. From this guy’s performance we may as well include SEAL operators in the same cavalcade of social justice “warriors” that have come to infest the United States military.

    Suffice to say I wasn’t impressed.

  3. On May 11, 2017 at 7:29 am, Fred said:

    I agree with the basic premise of your article that SOCOM/SpecOpc is overused however I look at it from a slightly different premise

    -Very often SpecOps units mission creep into DA missions when there are perfectly good Light Infantry Units around who can do the job just as well. ..Except the GPF Infantry units.. they dont feel entitled to this huge and expensive support system that the SpecOps guys feel entitled to and they are happy to execute without it.

    – Lets face it….. Army SF and SEALS have mission creeped away from their original charters a long time ago. Mostly because of service politics.. Not saying they aren’t great guys whom I wish the best. (lets make that clear right now.. Big props to them who have reached such awesome skill levels and who sacrifice so much during constant deployments!!!!) ..

    Part of the reason I think is human nature. Senior decision makers are human beings … as such they have all our failings and will develop Pet Units to use on everything because of their comfort zone and habit.. many senior descion makers are so senior they dont remember the huge capability of GPF Combat Arms units since its been 20 yrs since they were there …..and the media is blaring the self promotion from certain organizations day in and day out….. we are all affected by this even those of us who should know better….

    And this is the biggest driver for the overuse of SpecOps. to make things worse JSOC is the tail wagging the dog in SOCOM and as a result other important missions in that space get short shrift over the kill chain. And since SOCOM is politically so dominant now, it affects the whole of the .mil and not always in good ways.

    – Listen I get it, is your son is in the USMC and he is a great dude..and the USMC.. do a LOT of PR work… and some of the best troops I ever worked with are USMC…. but USMC is NOT SpecOps.. …No offense but that is a comical assertion (that they are trained to sometimes make) …I worked with a LOT of Marines in the Joint Force and in my experience 50% of them are awesome.. the type you’d let marry your sister……. the other 50% combine arrogance and stupidity in one efficient package.
    I know quite a few marines who even agree with that.

    – Abolish SOCOM. I also agree with this. Give the component units to the Geographic Combatant Commanders. they KNOW their AO… they know their theatre objectives … they are responsible for their AO……. NO reason for SOCOM go go into theater dont let anyone know ahead of time..sometimes with different objectives than the theatre 4 star…. sometimes even shut down valuable local GPF work in the process…. while they do their kill mission on an objective determined at a green table in Florida.
    Let the Geographic Combatant Commanders do their job in thier theatre!
    They are the best suited to decide what is needed and when in their GEOCOCOM

    Great article on this in Small Wars Journal too titled “What’s wrong with SOCOM”. its long + detailed (predictably has generated push-back) but should be required reading for anyone who wants to talk about the modern Joint Force.

  4. On May 11, 2017 at 9:35 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @Fred,

    First of all to get a housekeeping item out of the way, I have another regular commenter “Fred” (Fred Tippens) who also goes by “Fred.” I know the difference because I see the email associated with the comment, but others may not.

    Second, I think you need to read more carefully and with more nuance (although I’ll admit that there is a lot of water over the dam on this issue and it’s impossible to put everything I’ve put out on the web into a single post so you can see the full views).

    I mean absolutely no offense to my military readers, but I have to say this anyway (even though my own son was an infantry Marine). There is nothing special about having been through Ranger school, any more than there is anything special about having been an infantry Marine. Both are the premier advanced infantry schools in the world – but there is a huge difference in doctrine (and a discussion on that would take me far afield). But there are hundreds of thousands of both Ranger-schooled infantrymen and infantry Marines. Their purpose is advanced infantry, not special missions.

    Here is something special if you’re looking for what I consider “SpecOps.” Army Combat Diver. It’s a special school to which only a few have been sent, with graduates intended to perform special missions for which you simply cannot efficiently have everyone qualified. That’s the proper use of SpecOps in my opinion, just like underwater explosives and ingress / egress is the special purview of SEALs. As it should be.

    Use of guys who have been through special schools to perform special missions as direct action (DA) troops, and especially the only DA troops one can use, as if having been through these schools makes one special at DA operations, is silly and cultish.

    I maintain what I said (depending upon the specific issue with which you disagree). As for room clearing and CQB, you couldn’t have found a unit better capable of performing this DA than my own son’s unit in Fallujah in 2007. Not in SEALs, not in DELTA, not in the Rangers. DA is DA, and they succeeded at it in the superlative.

    On the other hand, this particular company had been trained by Marines who had already done a combat deployment to Fallujah, and the boot Marines were trained by the experienced Marines. The very next company my son was deployed in couldn’t have fought their way out of a wet paper bag, and I suspect there are other such units in both the Army and Marines, including SpecOps. They (the officers) would literally lay maps on top of Humvees in LCACs, allow the wind from the LCACs blow them off into the sea, and then know absolutely nothing about their mission because they had no maps.

    That all has to do with small unit leadership, not branch of the military.

  5. On May 11, 2017 at 9:49 am, Herschel Smith said:

    By way of followup, I’ve tried to teach my children (they are all adults now), and my oldest son Joshua has tried to teach his children (and my grandchildren) that there is nothing special about them.

    They are special to me. They are not “special” to the rest of the world. That’s one of the problems with the special snowflakes today in college, and the military doesn’t need yet another entitled class of “special” people who are the only ones used for something (unless the stipulations are met, such as special schools like Army Combat Diver).

  6. On May 13, 2017 at 3:52 pm, Tony said:

    Fred, the Geographic Combatant Commanders already have control of forces within their AO. No need to change anything. SOCOM provides those special operations forces through its TSOCs (theater special operations commands), but once they’re there the GCC has ADCON and OPCON of all forces.

    Second, and more generally, special operations involves WAY more than just kicking in doors and pulling triggers. DA is only a small part of what they do, but everyone seems to think that’s almost the totality of what they do. And contra Herschel’s last post, there are many things special operations forces do that are (a) not DA or even kinetic and (b) not something general purpose forces can generally do without special training. Having language capabilities and cultural/geographic knowledge of your given AO is not something you can train every Marine, Ranger, or snuffy to do. Having the ability to think and act independently in small teams is not something just anyone can do, and it’s not just a function of training but of inherent ability–again, not something you’ll find in your average Marine, Ranger, or snuffy.

    In short, if you’re going to be critical of special operations forces and SOCOM, it helps to have a better idea of what you’re talking about.

  7. On May 13, 2017 at 7:51 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Tony,

    I never said DA is all SO does, nor do I think that. You didn’t read carefully. And there is a difference between SF and SO, and both are being overused, and we shouldn’t be deployed in over 100 countries no matter if it’s SO or SF.

    I gave you an example of SO and their proper use, i.e., army combat diver. As for thinking and acting independently or in small teams, millions of people do that every day in the work place. You’re trying to make brain surgery out of something that isn’t.

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You are currently reading "The Overuse Of Special Operations", entry #17076 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Army,Department of Defense,Special Forces and was published May 7th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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