Friday, July 11, 2014

(Linda Robinson Interview) Beyond Hollywood, 'Call Of Duty': Why Special Forces Are The Future Of The U.S. Military

I do have to take issue with these excerpts:

But, I want to get to this issue of the actual Special Operations themselves; you're most recent book talks about how Special Ops are the future of American warfare. And, we've been hearing this for some time that this really is the way in which we're going to be fighting our wars in the future. 

I think it is fair to say that Special Operations will make an important contribution to national security strategy but the fighting of US wars will always be done by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and conventional and special operations forces.  Special operations as a way of war and special operations are certainly not war winners by themselves.  Special operations can play a role in helping others to help themselves in their wars but to say that special operations is the way of future American warfare does a disservice to both conventional and special operations forces and also imprints in the public mindset unrealistic, unsupportable, and unattainable expectations.  Small footprint with special operations working with indigenous and host nation forces is a nice concept and very useful in many cases but it and special operations are not a panacea or silver bullet and we need to be careful about implying it as such.  I know that is not what Linda Robinson means but it is obvious by the reporter's questions and the questions and comments of the press and pundits that they are implying that small footprint special operations are the answer to everything.  It should not be touted as the future of American warfare.  We do not need that kind of cheerleading for special operations.


And it pains me to read this:

So what I viewed, what was happening in Afghanistan was they were kind of recovering their roots, and going back to working with populations and also working with indigenous military forces.

This is actually counter to the discussions in this very article about Colombia, The Philippines, and East Africa where Special Forces continued since 9-11 and continue to this to operate in accordance with their "roots."


Beyond Hollywood, 'Call Of Duty': Why Special Forces Are The Future Of The U.S. Military


By  &  & TREVOR FORD
  • Soldiers from the U.S. Special Forces review map data while conducting an operation in Panjawi district, Kandahar province July 10, 2010.
    Sgt. David Russell U.S. Army
The so-called “light footprint strategy” has been a hallmark of President Obama’s military engagement strategy as he pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq and winds down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. That drawdown of massive units of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian support staff means a stronger reliance on smaller, more elite military groups.
RAND Corporation senior international policy analyst Linda Robinson focuses on national security strategy and these types of units in her latest book One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare. It covers the two years she spent embedded in Afghanistan.
14:41
Listen to Suzette Grillot's conversation with Linda Robinson.
Before the Middle East, she started her career focusing on insurgencies in Latin America. She studied and wrote about the role of U.S. Special Forces in a counter narcotics effort that eventually evolved into a true counterinsurgency against FARC rebels in Colombia.
“One officer had said, ‘Nothing has been written about us since Vietnam. Much of what was written in that era wasn’t good, so let’s take a chance on this reporter and see if she’s willing to give some in-depth research on us.’,” Robinson says.
According to Robinson, U.S. special operations have doubled in size since the September 11, 2001 attacks and the subsequent October invasion of Afghanistan. But they still operate in small numbers, and Robinson calls that the model of the future.
“About 12,000 people can be deployed around the world at any one time as a sustainable number,” Robinson says. “And some people may say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a lot.’ Well, if you consider it compared to 100,000-plus [the 2006 counterinsurgency] in Iraq, it’s not.”
In Afghanistan, these small units worked among indigenous populations by going into villages and seeing if residents wanted to form self-defense groups and a local government.
“They had done this in the Vietnam era, but they had gotten away from that in the years after 9/11,” Robinson says. “And that is a more long-term solution while recognizing they still do the direct action raids, but that is more of a temporary piece of the puzzle.”
FULL TRANSCRIPT
SUZETTE GRILLOT, HOST: Linda Robinson, welcome to World Views.
LINDA ROBINSON: Thank you Suzette, I'm delighted to be here.
GRILLOT: I have to start by asking what drew you to that topic, why focus on Special Forces and Special Operations?
ROBINSON: Well I did get that question a lot and I actually started my career focused on insurgencies down in Latin America. First in Central America but also in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and elsewhere. And also the democratization issue was something I covered heavily there. But the insurgency, or small wars, issue led kind of naturally to the flip side which is counterinsurgency, what the people do when they're trying to combat an insurgency. Since that is one of the main missions for the Special Forces, I gained some entree, really first in Colombia, down in Latin America, where the Special Forces were ramping up a counterinsurgency support effort. So, the Colombians were in the lead, but US Special Forces were helping them and training them what had originally been a counter narcotics effort, morphed into a counterinsurgency effort because there were two very strong insurgencies. 40 years the FARC was the larger of the two groups in Colombia that had really grown in strength to control half of the country. So it was a good, real, first lesson for me in what Special Forces could do to help a country. And, right now, flash forward a decade or so later, Colombia is engaged in very serious peace talks with the remnants of the FARC and there is quite a strong expectation that they will be able to wrap up their war, with the negotiated accord. So, of course the Special Forces weren't solely responsible for that progress but it gave me a window into the various things that they do and I had to go through a lot of hoops to gain that access. So I spend a lot of time on doing research and attending exercises and briefings. They had really not let anyone inside to see what they do, and one officer had said, "Nothing has been written about us since Vietnam, much of what was written in that era wasn't good, so let's take a chance on this reporter and see if she's willing to really give some in depth research on us." 
GRILLOT: Well I want to get back to that issue of your access, and specifically what it is you did on the ground, you know, what that was like, spending time with the Special Forces. But, I want to get to this issue of the actual Special Operations themselves; you're most recent book talks about how Special Ops are the future of American warfare. And, we've been hearing this for some time that this really is the way in which we're going to be fighting our wars in the future. But you begin your story in this most recent book, at a time when you say that Special Forces were at a crossroads, that they were very unclear about their goals that they were unsure of their procedures and the effectiveness of those procedures. So, when was it, that it became more clear that Special Forces were going to be the way that we were going to fight wars, and what's the reason for that?
(Continued at the link below)

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