Along the lines of "observe" I would say that one of the key contributions SOF can make is through area assessments, civil information management, and target audience analysis all of which contribute to the most important aspect of the human domain: situational understanding - we have to move past situational awareness which can be provided by drones, and technical intelligence to situational understanding which allows us to understand the conditions and strategies which will allow us to devise policies and strategies and campaign plans to protect our interests. And in some cases situational understanding may lead to an appropriate decision to not act.
The future is characterized (not exclusively of course) by states and non-state actors conducting UW (revolution, resistance and insurgency (RRI)) and thus there is a requirement to conduct Counter-UW. SOF is organized, educated, trained, equipped and optimized for both (but does not conduct them unilaterally or in a vacuum but as one element of the means in support of a joint campaign and national strategy)
Special Warfare (including unconventional warfare, counter-unconventional warfare and support to political warfare)can provide a strategic capability to operate in this gap (the gray zone between peace and war). To be effective, elements of the US military and Intelligence Community must continuously assess potential, nascent, and existing resistance organizations around the world on a day-to-day basis. Assessments will contribute to understanding when USG interests and resistance objectives can be aligned and provide the intellectual foundation to determine if a UW campaign is warranted or if opponents’ UW campaigns should be countered.
And a standing "PIR" for resistance (
basic information that should be sought on every deployment):
•Who is the resistance?–Leaders, groups, former military, in or out of government, etc.•What are the objectives of the resistance?–Do they align with US and friends, partners, and allies?•Where is it operating?–From where is it getting support?•When did it begin?–When will it/did it commence operations?•Why is there a resistance or the potential for resistance?–What are the underlying causes/drivers?•How will it turn out?–E.g., what is the assessment of success or failure of the resistance?•Most important - An expert recommendation: Should the US support or counter the resistance and if so how?