Sunday, August 31, 2014

The man who hunted bin Laden, Saddam and the pirates

Excerpt:

Hagel pointed out in his Thursday speech that McRaven also has "literally written the book on Special Operations." Indeed, McRraven's 1995 book, "Spec Ops," is the standard text on the subject.

I think if you ask ADM McRaven he would tell you that his book with 8 case studies and very good principles for conducting raids does not provide a theory of special operations writ large and in fact only covers the direct action side of special operations as noted here.

For his book, McRaven interviewed many of the key participants in the raids that he examined, and he traveled to the sites of the operations.

After a careful investigation of each raid, he identified six common principles that had made these operations a success: repetition, surprise, security, speed, simplicity and purpose.

Yes, I used his book in my class on UW and SOF for policy makers and strategists because it is an important contribution but it cannot be called the standard text on the subject.  Brian Pettit's book 
Going Big by Getting Small: The Application of Operational Art by Special Operations in Phase Zero provides a more comprehensive approach to the full range of special operations from surgical strike to special warfare (though I despise the use of the term Phase Zero).  I also think Chapter 2 of the 5th edition of US National Security: Policymakers, Processes, & Politics (by Sarkesian, Williams, and Cimbala) gives a very useful overview of modern special operations.  

But the real foundation for special operations and specifically the special warfare side of special operations lies in the ARIS project - Assessing Revolutions and Insurgent Strategies which can be accessed at this link: 
  http://www.soc.mil/ARIS/ARIS.html
  If you have not read, synthesized and internalized the lessons in the ARIS project then you really cannot be a practitioner of special operations.

Original Version referred to as Volume I by the ARIS project. Primary research responsibility Paul A. Jureidini, Norman A. La Charite, Bert H. Cooper, and William A. Lybrand. Special Operations Research Office The American University, Washington D.C., December 1962.
This Casebook provides a summary of twenty-three insurgencies and revolutions; the goal of the book is to introduce the reader to modern-style irregular and unconventional warfare, as well as to act as an informational resource on these particular cases. While not trying to provide an in-depth analysis of any case, our intent was to provide enough background material and description of the revolution to allow comparisons and analysis of broader ideas and insights across this broad spectrum of cases. 

 
Human Factors Considerations of Underground in Insurgencies, 2d Edition, 2013, http://www.soc.mil/ARIS/HumanFactorsS.pdf

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary and Resistance Warfare, 2d Edition, 2013,http://www.soc.mil/ARIS/UndergroundsS.pdf

Irregular Warfare Annotated Bibliography, http://www.soc.mil/ARIS/IWAnnotated_BibliographyS.pdf 

 

The man who hunted bin Laden, Saddam and the pirates

By Peter Bergen
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/30/opinion/bergen-mcraven-special-forces-influence/index.html


Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a vice president at the New America Foundation and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden -- From 9/11 to Abbottabad," from which this article is, in part, adapted.
(CNN) -- On Thursday in Tampa, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel presided over a change of command ceremony during which Adm. William "Bill" McRaven handed over the reins of Special Operations Command to his successor, Gen. Joseph Votel.
As McRaven stepped down he observed, "We are in perilous times." He pointed out that U.S. Special Operations Forces are helping to fight the fast-growing Islamic State in Iraq; the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines; the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
McRaven also said, "We are in the golden age of Special Operations" in which elements of the 67,000 men and women under his command have deployed to 92 countries.
Peter Bergen
Peter Bergen
Now, after more than 3½ decades working in the world of special operations, Bill McRaven, 58, is retiring. In his next incarnation he will become chancellor of the University of Texas.
As Hagel pointed out in his speech on Thursday that celebrated McRaven's storied career, no one has written McRaven's full history, but if it ever was to be written it "would need to be heavily redacted" because so much of it took place in the "black" (secret) arena.
"Revered" is the word you often hear about McRaven in the special operations community. That's in part because even as a three-star admiral, about once a month in Afghanistan, McRaven went out with his teams on risky snatch-and-grab missions. (His predecessor as the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, also went out regularly on such missions and is similarly held in the highest regard.)
The book
Hagel pointed out in his Thursday speech that McRaven also has "literally written the book on Special Operations." Indeed, McRraven's 1995 book, "Spec Ops," is the standard text on the subject.
Adm. McRaven on the bin Laden raid
It features lucid dissections of eight decisive special operations actions, ranging from the British forces who used midget submarines to badly damage the Tirpitz, a key Nazi battleship, in 1943; to the Nazi rescue the same year of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from his anti-Fascist captors; to the raid at Entebbe in 1976 that freed Israeli hostages held in Uganda by Palestinian terrorists.
For his book, McRaven interviewed many of the key participants in the raids that he examined, and he traveled to the sites of the operations.
After a careful investigation of each raid, he identified six common principles that had made these operations a success: repetition, surprise, security, speed, simplicity and purpose.
-- Repetition meant frequent and realistic rehearsals so that the "friction" of actual battle was reduced.
-- Surprise meant catching the enemy entirely off guard; for example, the Nazi rescuers of Mussolini crash-landed gliders on a mountain near the hotel where the Fascist leader was being held and rescued him without a shot being fired.
-- Security meant confining the knowledge of the operation to a small circle.
-- Speed meant that "relative superiority" over the enemy needed to be achieved in the first few minutes of the attack, and that the entire mission should be completed in no more than a half-hour.
-- Simplicity ensured that the goal of the operation was well understood by each of the soldiers involved -- "release the hostages" at Entebbe.
-- Purpose meant that the soldiers were completely committed to the mission.
But McRaven's influence on "spec ops" goes far beyond just the book he wrote. McRaven helped establish a curriculum at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. And after taking up a job in the White House just weeks after 9/11, he became one of the principal authors of the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategy.
During the Iraq War, McRaven led the shadowy Task Force 121, which tracked down Saddam Hussein in December 2003. Much of the public credit for Saddam's capture went to conventional army units, but it was, in fact, the Special Operations forces under McRaven's command who did much of the work to find the Iraqi dictator.
Rescue of Capt. Phillips
(Continued at the link below)

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