go to top

Over the Horizon: Time for an Independent Special Forces Branch?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

As details of the successful raid against Osama bin Laden's Abbotabad compound come to light, it is becoming clear that the assault was the most important, and probably the most successful, operation in the history of U.S. special operations forces. Instead of Air Force bombs or Navy missiles, President Barack Obama opted for the special skills and capabilities of a Navy SEAL team to eliminate the al-Qaida leader. The reason is simple: A bomb or missile might have more easily killed bin Laden, but only special forces could confirm his death, recover his body and capture a trove of materials associated with the terrorist group.

The high-profile success of this operation may reawaken a debate about the role that special operations forces (SOF) play in the U.S. military and in American strategic thought. Although the lot of special operators has improved substantially since the 1980s, and especially over the past decade, SOF still occupy a curious position among the traditional military services. While SOF act in many ways independently of their parent services, and have congressionally protected resource streams, they still depend on the traditional services for recruitment, training and other functions. As recognized in the 1980s, however, SOF often have more in common with each other in terms of culture and strategic approach than with their home services. Accordingly, it might be time to reconsider a proposal from the 1980s to give special forces their own independent military service. ...

To read more,

enter your email address then choose one of the three options below.

Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 10,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.