The model that American policy makers should look to for appropriate engagement of foreign governments in conflict zones is the Foreign Internal Defense and irregular warfare conducted by American special operations forces. The ability to gain the trust of local leaders, build their capability and capacity, and provide them with the tools to govern their own spaces with a modicum of justice is the hallmark of American Special Forces. Unfortunately, SOF operates on a limited scope and scale. And American policymakers too often assume that once American conventional forces are deployed en masse, the arrival Jeffersonian democracy is simply a matter of time. Rather, it requires living day-to-day under conditions of significant hardship to forge relationships of trust in order to influence the governance and development models of war-torn nations. This is the kind of mission small unit leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq are well-suited to carry out.
As former Army Sergeant Elvis Presley once said: “We’re caught in a trap. I can’t walk out, because I love you too much baby.” Strategic thinkers and tactical implementers need each other in order to successfully address thorny American foreign policy issues with feasible recommendations from a holistic perspective.