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Old 12-28-2016   #1
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Default Special Warfare, Special Operations and SOF (US) under Trump

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There is a thread Special Warfare, Special Operations and SOF (US) before Trump, which has been closed:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3028
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Will Trump Break the Special Forces?

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Old 02-17-2017   #2
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Default US Continues to “Trump” UK on Special Forces Transparency

US Continues to “Trump” UK on Special Forces Transparency

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Old 04-11-2017   #3
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Default Book Review - American Spartan: The Promise, The Mission, and the Betrayal of Special

Book Review - American Spartan: The Promise, The Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant

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Old 04-24-2017   #4
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Default America’s Dangerous Love for Special Ops

America’s Dangerous Love for Special Ops

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Old 04-24-2017   #5
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Default CNA Report: Special Operations Forces Want to Do More Than Just Counterterrorism

CNA Report: Special Operations Forces Want to Do More Than Just Counterterrorism

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Old 04-25-2017   #6
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Default Book Review - Oppose Any Foe: The Rise of America’s Special Operations Forces

Book Review - Oppose Any Foe: The Rise of America’s Special Operations Forces

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Old 04-26-2017   #7
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Default “America’s Dangerous Love for Special Ops” - The Real Story

“America’s Dangerous Love for Special Ops” - The Real Story

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Old 05-16-2017   #8
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Default Pentagon Special Operations Studies Russia ‘Gray Zone’ Conflict

Pentagon Special Operations Studies Russia ‘Gray Zone’ Conflict

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Old 05-17-2017   #9
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Default Women: A NATO Special Operations Forces Force Multiplier

Women: A NATO Special Operations Forces Force Multiplier

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Old 05-30-2017   #10
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Default U.S. Special Ops General Sees Decades-Long Struggle in Africa

U.S. Special Ops General Sees Decades-Long Struggle in Africa

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Old 06-12-2017   #11
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Default Special Operations and Diplomacy: A Unique Nexus

Special Operations and Diplomacy: A Unique Nexus

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #12
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Default U.S. Special Operations Forces – Searching for Lasting Peace in Somalia

U.S. Special Operations Forces – Searching for Lasting Peace in Somalia

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #13
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Default Special Warfare, Special Operations and SOF (US) under Trump

A new thread for this theme.

There is a thread Special Warfare, Special Operations and SOF (US) before Trump, which has been closed:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3028

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #14
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Default Kiras on 'Special Operations and Strategy': reviews

The catalyst for the moderator's action today was reading a library copy of 'Special Operations and Strategy: From World Wat Two to the War on Terror' by Dr James Kiras, published in 2006. The preface is by the Anglo-American academic strategist Dr Colin S. Grey and by Robert Andrews, a senior DoD official (for SO & LIC). The book has 117 pgs text, with 76 pgs notes and 28 pgs bibliography.

Returning to SWForum I found the book was reviewed in 2008 by Tom Odom:
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James D. Kiras offers a strategic framework for analyzing the use of special operations forces (SOF) and special operations (SO) to achieve strategic effects as part of a larger conventional war. In doing so, Kiras defines both SOF and SO in a limited sense, excluding elite but more conventional forces by requiring a selection process to decide what makes SOF and SO "special". His strategic framework for analysis is bipolar. On one extreme Kiras offers "annihilation" strategy and reviews it in its many forms. On the other he expounds attrition-based strategy, expanding it to the point where it becomes a near catch-all of strategic thought.
Understanding the differences between annihilation and attrition is central to this monograph. Simply put annihilation theory posits that an enemy can be forced to surrender if struck in a certain way that paralyzes his ability to make war. Think of it as the "silver bullet" or "brass ring" approach to strategy, one that has great attraction to military and political leaders alike. Shoot that silver bullet into an opponent or pull a particular brass ring controlling his war making capacity and his will to fight on will evaporate along with his capacity. Attrition, on the other hand, is not so elegant for attrition means that one accepts war as a contest of morals and materiel, inextricably woven together, that requires time, will power, and blood to achieve victory. Annihilation strategy is therefore seductively attractive, especially when tied to technological advances such as the tank or airpower or the use of SOF against particular vulnerabilities.

Kiras contends that SOF are best used to complement a measured strategy of attrition. He largely dismisses annihilation strategy's quest for strategic paralysis of the enemy as a paralysis of thought. His critical question is what does using SOF in a particular SO achieve in the larger context of an attrition-based war? Kiras uses two case studies to illustrate what he means in asking that critical question. The first is the British effort to collapse the German war-making capacity by "busting" the Ruhr Valley dams. Kiras classifies the dambusting effort by 617 Squadron as a great but costly raid that fell far short of its intended goal to bring the German war machine to a grinding halt. His second case study is the helter-skelter tactical employment of the Special Air Service (SAS) brigade in conjunction with the invasion and liberation of France. Kiras contends that while a coordinated SAS campaign could have greatly assisted and perhaps accelerated the liberation of France, convoluted command and control, personalities, and poor planning meant the SAS paid a heavy price in lives to achieve little in the greater scheme of things. Both case studies are therefore offered as examples of how not to use SOF or mount SO.

I would say Kiras' monograph has great strengths and a few weaknesses. First of all, for the reader looking for a quick review of strategic thought, this book is a real find. Annihilation theory comes across as a bumper-sticker approach to strategic thought. I found his discussion of John Warden's 5-ring model useful, fair, and ultimately damning when judged against the reality of war. Second Kiras offers a broader explanation of attrition-based strategy than one typically hears, especially today when bumper stickers are quite popular. Placing SOF and SO in the context of annihilation and attrition strategies was clearly Kiras' main goal and he did so quite effectively.

As for weaknesses, I would offer but a couple of comments. First of all I would say the book is British-centric in its case studies and in some ways its analysis. Operation Chastise and 617 Squadron were purely British efforts. The SAS brigade's effort in France went through British chains of command until it reached Eisenhower. Secondly and perhaps this is an extension of the first weakness, Kiras is more convincing when he discusses airpower-related subjects than he is on SAS operations. He rightfully criticizes the inflated claims concerning the dam-busting effort. Then he makes what I would call inflated hypothetical claims of what might have happened in France had the SAS been properly used. I believe he would have been better served by letting a reader make such leaps alone.

Overall I believe this monograph has great value to policy makers and soldiers, conventional and unconventional. As the author rightly points out, policy makers and SOF warriors have often struggled with the issue of best use. Both have, on occasion, gotten it wrong. James D. Kiras rightly cautions that such use must be governed by a rule of sustained value added to the overall effort of an attrition-based strategy. That certainly is nothing new to students of conventional warfare. Kiras is, in my opinion, warning that SOF and SO must be used in a coherent, comprehensive, and strategic version of combined arms warfare. He is correct and that is what makes his book valuable.

In 2009 Ken White added a review of two books:
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Special Operations and Strategy by James D. Kiras and To Dare To Conquer by Derek Leebaert. Bought both after Wilf recommended them. The former concentrates on WW II through today, the latter purports to cover 'from Achilles to Al Qaeda.'

Both books essentially make the same two principal points; (1) At the operational and strategic levels, most 'special operations' do not succeed in producing major effects; and (2) many special operations that do achieve success are not performed by special operations forces but rather by 'conventional' units -- or even worse...

Both also make the valid points that hasty wartime expansion of SOF historically entails lowering standards often creating more problems than are solved and that, regardless of the historical lack of coup de main success, such forces are very important today and should be encouraged to be innovative and flexible (and that, in the west, they are generally not...). Both also make the point that direct action is probably over rated as a tactic and that coordination or operating with conventional forces are problematic.

Of the two, I believe the Kiras book to be far superior; Professor Leebaert possesses considerable knowledge but he tends to share only part of it; for but one of many examples, he apparently refers to Paddy Mayne but doesn't bother to give him a name. He also has the, to me, disconcerting habit of frequently trying to compare historical events (from Drake's round the world voyage as one instance) to current actions while interjecting political commentary. In short, he teaches International Relations and not strategy, military subjects or history -- and it shows. That specialization does allow him to note the mutual antipathy between SO and conventional forces has been around for centuries.

Both are good reads but I'd recommend "Special Operations and Strategy" as the better single choice. It's concise, well done and accurate.

The points made by the author and the reviewers seem from this "armchair" to be even more pertinent today.


Incidentally one of the missions Kiras touches upon in The Battle of Normandy was a UK mission behind German lines, Operation Bulbasket and that had a 64% fatality rate. Not something I'd expect US SOF could accept today.
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