I think Anthony Cordesman might have coined the phrase of the era: "Strategic Tokenism" for the use of SOF. http://bit.ly/1PYsPJj
But this article, although written by a former Army Captain with no love lost for special operations, should make one think. This entire article focuses on only one aspect of Special Operations and the smallest part at that. This is all about the forces that conduct surgical strike (the execution of activities in a precise manner that employ special operations in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to seize, destroy, capture, exploit, recover or damage designated targets, or influence adversaries and threats.) It does not talk about the vast majority of special operations being conducted around the world that are defined as special warfare (the execution of activities that involve a combination of lethal and nonlethal actions taken by a specially trained and educated force that has a deep understanding of cultures and foreign language, proficiency in small-unit tactics, and the ability to build and fight alongside indigenous combat formations ina permissive, uncertain, or hostile environment.)
This article and all the emphasis on surgical strike (despite the words of senior leaders, to include GEN Votel who try to talk about the importance of special warfare and unconventional warfare see the JFQ article: http://bit.ly/1SRbTVV
) really should lead one to think of whether we are correctly organized for special operations. The dominant special operations organization is JSOC and its national mission forces. Is there really a need for 4 star functional combatant command? Why does JSOC need a higher headquarters? What value does USSOCOM add to JSOC operations?
I am coming to think that the Army actually appreciates the special warfare capabilities that reside in Army Special Operations more than the rest of USSOCOM. After all it is the Army that has incorporated special warfare and surgical strike as the doctrinal descriptions of special warfare and surgical strike and not USSOCOM. I think General Votel is the only member of USSOCOM in Tampa to use the words special warfare (again see this JFQ article http://bit.ly/1SRbTVV)
What we do not have is an organization that is organized and optimized to conduct special warfare. Perhaps the Army ought to recall its special operations forces (assuming that Title 10 Section 167 could be repealed) and form a Special Warfare organization that would be organized, trained, equipped, and optimized for special warfare. The forces exist to conduct special warfare but there is no organization to conduct special warfare with the priorities, authorities, and resources similar to the scale of those that exist with our premier surgical strike organization. Of course my words are sacrilege and I will probably be forced to turn in my SOF union card but my extreme rhetoric is really meant to ask are we giving sufficient priority to our special warfare capabilities. Again, I think the Army appreciates them perhaps a bit more than the broader SOF community and certainly more than our policy makers and political leaders who desire the strategic tokenism offered by employment of our surgical strike forces (and I do not mean to disparage those forces at all - we have the best in the world and we need to sustain the highest level of capability within that force). But I am not the first to ask these questions. In 2009 someone named Yasotay asked whether we still need a USSOCOM at this link: http://bit.ly/20fhBWf (Full disclosure - I do believe in USSOCOM but I believe we need to place greater priority on our special warfare forces but not at the expense of our surgical strike forces.)