Thursday, May 04, 2017

FLASH OVERRIDE Message to the Pentagon

Since September 11, 2001, we expanded special forces operators to reduce the new stress on them from the war on terror, but apparently we expanded their missions to keep the stress level the same or higher. Stop that.

This is not good:

America's special operations forces on the front lines in the war on terrorism are unable to retool and recharge because the elite commando units are in constant demand, a situation that is risking serious readiness challenges for the future, a top commander told Congress Tuesday.

It takes a lot of training and experience to create our special forces that are the envy of other militaries.

But over-use will drive those operators with years or decades left of service out from exhaustion at the pace.

The signs of the stress are there if we'd see them.

The Pentagon--or perhaps more importantly their civilian bosses--needs to react before this gets into a death spiral of stress, departures and death, and more stress on those who remain.

The end point of that path is a mission carried out by operators not nearly as good or healthy as those who order the mission believe they are. That mission will end badly.


Some special operations units have found themselves in an “unsustainable” deployment tempo, with warfighters deployed for six months, home for six months and then heading back out the door again, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Due to the high operating tempo, “we’re having some challenges for recruiting” as the Army downsizes its active force, SOCOM commander Army Gen. Raymond Thomas told lawmakers. The command is capped at 69,000 members, with members from all services but drawing the most warfighters from the Army.

Overall, “we can sustain the rate of deployment,” but “there are challenges on the force,” Thomas said.

With all due respect to General Thomas, I don't think SOC can sustain the rate of deployment.

UPDATE: Good advice:

But the truth about these operators is that for all their successes, they can’t actually have that much of an impact. The very nature of their training and standards weans thousands of recruits down to a highly-motivated elite, with stupendous capabilities for a few select missions.

But they are very few.

And in America’s struggle against violent Islamism today, there is little evidence that individuals matter. It is no accident that even our operators’ finest moment — the killing of Osama Bin Laden, six years ago this week — did not fundamentally change the extremist threat America faced.

The bigger picture apart from the strain on our special forces is that military action--whether a team of operators, air strikes, or an entire army--is largely a holding action against jihadis to protect the West while the Islamic civil war is waged to define whether Islam will look like the Islamist version of violent and intolerant Islam or whether it will allow more moderate strains to define Islam.

Special forces have a role, of course. But they are not a substitute for Moslems winning that civil war in a way that defeats and delegitimizes Islamist fanaticism.

People mock the Arab Spring. But it was the first real sign that Arabs wanted democracy--as ill understood as it was (rule of law is needed as much as voting)--rather than "pure" Islamist rule to replace corrupt autocrats (whose corruption and failures give rise to Islamists). I don't see the Arab Spring as a failure. It was the first partial success in a long process (did the West or anyone else just flip a switch to democracy?) to make Islam compatible with democracy