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    Default Suggested reading for graduate seminar at Columbia on US Role in World Affairs

    I'm a graduate student at Columbia University taking a year long seminar called "US Role in World Affairs". Taught by a former US Ambassador, with guest lectures from generals, prime ministers, and lots of policy makers, it is a great course. The professor has asked for recommendations for readings for next semester and I think that something focusing on America's shadow wars, in particular those fought since 9/11, would be a good addition. How is US power being exerted through SOF and other "black ops" around the world, and how does it affect US policy? I've found The Way of the Knife by Mark Mazetti, The Short American Century, a collection of essays edited by Andrew Bacevich, and Washington Rules by Bacevich. I've scanned the reading list on SWJ, and didn't find anything I thought would be topical. Any suggestions?

    I've been through the recommended reading elsewhere on the site, but haven't found anything.

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    Savage Wars of Peace and Imperial Grunts are an interesting overview of the US employment of the military as a diplomatic tool. Max Boot's book, Savage Wars of Peace is a review of historical use of the military, while Kaplan's book, Imperial Grunts is a broad look at contemporary employment of military force from SOF in Colombia to FAO in Mongolia.

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    Default To understand the US world role, look outside

    murphysl,

    It is important that you have some readings from outside the USA, on how the world looks at you - which has greatly changed since 9/11.

    So a couple of websites I watch:

    a) The Australian Lowy Institute's blog:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/

    b) Open Democracy (UK-based, with Europeans) has a global security column:http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity

    c) Within OD are Paul Rogers slightly off-centre critiques of US & Western security policy, called 'A report from the South Waziristan Institute of Strategic Hermeneutics' (SWISH) and the latest is:http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-ro...wish-report-23

    d) IISS, although global has a strong Anglo-US-EU viewpoint and its regular Strategic Comments are short and sharp:http://www.iiss.org/en/publications/...gic%20comments

    Prepared to seek contrary viewpoints try Caged Prisoners, the (MB influenced) Cordoba Foundation and some of the radical left US groups.

    I assume you have picked up the debates here that much of US action abroad is without a strategy and is IMHO effectively gaining time for other non-military action and responses. All at a price and risk that the intended effect simply does not happen, e.g. Yemen.
    davidbfpo

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    davidbfpo and ryantherationalactor,

    Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. I will look into Imperial Grunts-Savage Wars of Peace was excellent, but not exactly what the theme of the course is about.

    I'm familiar with most of the themes and debates-I am looking for a book that summarizes them, ideally since post 9/11 (the more current, the better) and I don't know about a book like that. It needs to be a book for the purposes of the class I am in.

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    http://www.amazon.com/One-Hundred-Vi...linda+robinson

    One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare Hardcover

    by Linda Robinson (Author)

    http://www.amazon.com/Future-U-S-Spe...linda+robinson

    The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces Paperback

    by Linda Robinson (Author)

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Way-Knife-...d_sim_kstore_6

    The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
    Mark Mazzetti

    http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/de...transcript.pdf

    Transcript from Wilson Center on the future of SOF that contains some relevant comments. You of course can find a lot of comments on how SOF and the CIA will enable aspects of foreign policy (includes shadow wars) in the future if you do a Google search and hit the links at the credible think tanks.

    The best books by far were historical accounts of our shadow wars during the Cold War, and the lessons from those wars are still very much relevant today. I did a similar paper on covert operations 25 or so years ago, I'll see if I can find it (long before I had a computer, so it is a hard copy) and send you some of the references. I started has a true believer, and by the time I finished by paper I had serious reservations about the long term impact of these operations in the countries we operated in, and how over use could erode our own moral fiber. There is still a place a covert operations, perhaps more so than ever, but we can't afford to throw caution to the wind. We need to think deeper and more clearly about the longer term impacts before we decide to execute just because it often a relatively simple and cheap course of action.

    Please share your paper when it is complete.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 11-24-2013 at 01:10 AM.

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    I enjoyed reading Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars though it's definitely from a critical journalist's perspective. He takes the reader through the conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner takes a critical look at the CIA's covert operations from the start of the Cold War and argues that it came at the cost of forming an effective intelligence agency capable of providing strategic warning for policymakers.
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    I would recommend against Dirty wars by Jeremy Scahill. His description of some of the regular training i.e. sere shows he really doesn't get it. The whole book just slams JSOC and coddles people associated with AQ or other extremist groups. The book is not even handed about our military successes or failures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyatt View Post
    I would recommend against Dirty wars by Jeremy Scahill. His description of some of the regular training i.e. sere shows he really doesn't get it. The whole book just slams JSOC and coddles people associated with AQ or other extremist groups. The book is not even handed about our military successes or failures.
    In an academic environment, "[slamming] JSOC" would probably offer a fresh perspective from some of the other recommended readings. I didn't get the impression that the book "coddles people associated with AQ...". From what I recall, not one person interviewed in the book questioned the fundamental legitimacy or legality of US policy; the criticism focused instead on how the strategy played out, particularly in Yemen and Somalia.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Murphy,

    All the links I have provided have some to a high degree of bias, but they do discuss views how some see SOF being employed in the future in support of what you are calling shadow wars. I have used a lot of Linda's books and papers because she is probably the foremost analyst on current and future SOF. Not all her ideas are in line with SOCOM's current thinking, so she is somewhat of a independent voice.

    This particular paper written by different authors sums up much of the latest thinking on the future of SOF.

    http://www.csbaonline.org/publicatio...ations-forces/

    Beyond the Ramparts: The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces

    From the crucible of more than a decade of continuous combat operations, Special Operations Forces (SOF) have emerged as one of the most cost-effective “weapons systems” in the U.S. military arsenal and a major source of strategic advantage for the nation. How can the United States capitalize on such development and extend the SOF’s strategic advantage well into the future?

    This study reviews the key elements of SOF’s transformation since 9/11, outlines the key national security challenges and relates them to the future of the SOF mission. It also offers specific recommendations for reshaping SOF and identifies new capabilities which require immediate investment and prioritization in the upcoming QDR.
    Highly recommend you search out articles that criticize the over militarization of U.S. foreign policy to get a balanced view, and also research the legal aspects of the current shadow wars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    In an academic environment, "[slamming] JSOC" would probably offer a fresh perspective from some of the other recommended readings. I didn't get the impression that the book "coddles people associated with AQ...". From what I recall, not one person interviewed in the book questioned the fundamental legitimacy or legality of US policy; the criticism focused instead on how the strategy played out, particularly in Yemen and Somalia.
    Depends on where you read the book from I guess. I found it overly laden with hyperbole on a variety of subjects. If it wasn't on my kindle I would go back and pull some examples but when you call SERE "the armys torture school" you pretty much show you have no idea what you are talking about. Steve Coll is even handed, Scahill is editorial.

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    Wyatt,

    I agree with you regarding the hyperbole, which I found suffocating at points.

    I would like to stress to the original poster that there is continuity between "US power being exerted through SOF and other "black ops" around the world" pre- and post-9/11, which is a meta-narrative not often captured in many works. I think a strong argument could be made that how the key players in the Bush administration, Cold Warriors themselves, responded to 9/11 was not necessarily derived from an objective analysis on how to conduct a "war on terrorism".
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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