As the post 9-11 era of the War on Terrorism winds down, the Services are rightly looking to the future. With the severe fiscal constraints, drawdown of personnel, and an uncertain future of threats there is a debate on whether the military should focus solely on traditional war fighting and deterrence or sustain and further develop the capabilities to deal with the unconventional warfare threats posed by state and non-state actors from the Iran Action Network to North Korea’s Department 39 to Al Qaeda. The Special Operations community is having this debate as well and it has resulted in controversial visions for the future including establishing a Global SOF Network (GSN).
6 specific points.
- The U.S. faces national security threats in three fundamental forms of warfare: nuclear warfare, conventional warfare, and unconventional warfare.
- The future is characterized by the need to conduct unconventional warfare (UW) and to be able to counter unconventional warfare.
- The U.S. has the greatest surgical strike capability in the world but it needs to prioritize and resource equally our special warfare capabilities.
- The U.S. needs Strategists and Policy makers who have a deep understanding of and value the strategic options of UW and Counter-UW.
- Effective Special Warfare is counter-intuitively characterized by slow and deliberate employment – long duration actions and activities, relationship establishment, development, and sustainment.
- SOF will always have a role in hybrid conflict and conventional warfare.
Since here is no agreed upon theory of unconventional warfare and certainly nothing to balance with theory of special operations put forth in Admiral McRaven's seminal work on special operations raids and direct action with his important principles of how small special operations forces can defeat larger ones. The no longer published 1997 Joint Doctrine Encyclopedia is that last time that UW was fully described in non-SOF military publication. This excerpt provides a foundation for the concept of UW that remains relevant today:
UW is the military and paramilitary aspect of an insurgency or other armed resistance movement and may often become a protracted politico-military activity. From the U.S. perspective, UW may be the conduct of indirect or proxy warfare against a hostile power for the purpose of achieving U.S. national interests in peacetime; UW may be employed when conventional military involvement is impractical or undesirable; or UW may be a complement to conventional operations in war.
The focus of UW is primarily on existing or potential insurgent, secessionist, or other resistance movements. Special operations forces (SOF) provide advice, training, and assistance to existing indigenous resistance organizations. The intent of UW operations is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by advising, assisting, and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish U.S. strategic or operational objectives.
When UW is conducted independently during military operations other than war or war, its primary focus is on political and psychological objectives. A successful effort to organize and mobilize a segment of the civil population may culminate in military action. Strategic UW objectives may include the following:
• Undermining the domestic and international legitimacy of the target authority.
• Neutralizing the target authority’s power and shifting that power to the resistance organization.
• Destroying the confidence and will of the target authority’s leadership.
• Isolating the target authority from international diplomatic and material support while obtaining such support for the resistance organization.
• Obtaining the support or neutrality of the various segments of the society.
The future of U.S. SOF should rest on its historical foundation while adapting traditional missions for the conditions and character of conflict of the 21st Century. Unconventional warfare could very well be the dominant form of warfare. While the U.S. may not choose to conduct UW often, it is imperative that the U.S. has the capability to counter it. U.S. SOF by virtue of its training, organization and experience is well suited to make a major contribution to the U.S. efforts to counter UW.
Pic - " Provide fully capable Special Operations Forces to defend Great Satan and her interests. Synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks"