Friday, January 27, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

I could say that my name was Bonaparte,
and show you Napoleon's tomb;
that wouldn't make him my grandfather would it?


Makes me feel quite dirty,

Though we all do sometimes

--I Wanna Be a Cowboy
Boys Don't Cry

Oh. Um, l-- look, i-- i--

if we built this large wooden badger ...

--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Ranger often quips that he was Special Forces before SF was cool, before it earned its "O".

In his day, joining SF was a career kiss of death for an Infantry Officer, as it was often viewed as
abandoning ship. The Infantry's main focus was, "Clank clank, I'm a tank" and the Fulda Gap. The war in Vietnam was just a live fire exercise which Ranger called the field Army in the ambush; the events in SE Asia were mostly seen as a distraction from the Cold War (anyone remember that one?)

Fast-forward 2012 and everyone is GAGA over Special Operations Forces. Poster child Seal Team 6's exploits are touted as the best thing since sliced bread (and since Wonder Bread's going bankrupt, it's nice that we can have a replacement.) The new Bill of Goods says Special Ops are the wave of the future, but this is hype based on showboat moments.

Recent vaunted ST6 actions are not military in nature. For instance, the death/murder/killing/neutralization of Osama bin Laden was a simple assassination, gussied up for American consumption as a heroic military operation. However, wars are not won (or lost) via assassinating individuals; if they are, Ranger would suggest that this is a war he would rather not fight.

How about the recent ST6 rescue of two hostages in Somalia? Portrayed by the administration as a military operation, again this was simply the killing of eight pirates hoping to negotiate for somewhere between their requested $10 million in ransom and the $1 million offered. The WaPo reported, "U.S. officials said there was no evidence that the hostage-takers had any connection to the [al-Shabab militant group which is said to be allied with al-Qaeda]". Shabby brigands who understand Westerners are flush and so want to steal a little; you'd think they'd studied the banker's handbook.

So they rescued a couple of hostages -- a Jessica Lynch moment for sure, replete with blonde captive Jessica Buchanan, reminiscent of other constructed American Teutonic heroes like "Lucky" Penny, the would-be downer of ill-fated Flight 93 (
Sorry, Shoshanna, we have not forgotten you). But how does this translate out to war fighting?

This is not exactly Guns of Navarone or the Son Tay Raid, or Desert One. This was simply a feel-good raid against a small band of bandits -- anything but prime troopers. This action was not Anzio or Pointe du Hoc or the Great Raid featured in Ghost Soldiers. This was not a Studies and Observations Group mission against superior enemy forces; not the Hammelburg Raid, alas.

So why do we get our peckers hard about a chicken shit live-fire practice raid?

For SOF assets to contribute anything of value the assets must be part of a Theatre Commander's strategic plans and must work as a force multiplier to synergistically enhance the overall mission objectives. Crummy little raids like these need not apply.

In the 1980's the SOCEUR had raids and target folders that identified and delineated targets 450 kilometers to the rear of the forward line of troops (FLOT). This meant that troops had to insert by fixed or rotary-wing flying over enemy-controlled terrain and then conducting the operation, followed by an attempt to return to friendly lines -- a far piece from fighting drug-dazed bandits.

How does a raid against OBL or a rag-tag bunch of pirates contribute anything beyond enhanced recruitment for the SEALS? It is all movement with no progress. One more dead guy (even OBL) or 20 more bandits is hardly a strategic event.

We are so desperate to call the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) a real war that we stretch the reality of ancillary actions to the breaking point. Why not just dress the teams as United Parcel Service deliverymen and hide them in the back of the truck? Why not use a Trojan Horse or a Trojan Rabbit?

Our operations mimic those of a bi-polar amoeba. One wonders if the good folks at DARPA have studied that application yet.


  1. jim-

    Nice thread. I take your point, but I think America itself, is the greatest show on earth . . . that is in 2012. The SF stunts are just one aspect of a much larger circus . . . imo.

  2. "In the 1980's the SOCEUR had raids and target folders that identified and delineated targets 450 kilometers to the rear of the forward line of troops (FLOT)."

    Deathtraps perhaps?

  3. mike,
    that's what i ALWAYS told chief,soceur.
    i said to him-i'll take any mission as long as it's the second lift.
    i didn't believe there would be any a/c left for a second go around. there was also a confusion about the misns. somebody in the chain obviously didn't understand sf capabilities.the tms had initial direct action misns, and then were supposed to switch to strategic recon AFTER THE DA WAS DONE.
    IT WAS MY VIEW THAT TEAMS CANNOT DO BOTH B/C OF ORG/WEAPONS/RADIOS/mindset and all those inconvenient minor points. nobody could explain how the wounded would get exfil'ed
    just imagine being in an ao 450 k's to the rear and blowing stuff up, and then trying to snoop and poop after the en knew you were there.!!.
    fortunately the oplans were never tested.
    btw- at that time sf soldiers w. vn experience were largely eliminated from active duty and were mostly relegated to reserve status.
    also imagine a AF 06 as chief.
    thanks for replying. AT LEAST 2 PEOPLE READ MY MUTTERINGS.