What’s So Special About Special Ops?

Sexy? Yes.  But how effective over the long haul?

W.J. Astore

What’s so special about Special Ops?  It used to be that special operations troops were few in number.  You had Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, mixed units like the Delta Force, and a few others, but nowadays U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) consists of 70,000 troops, equivalent to five or six regular army divisions, a military within the military.

What’s truly elite about America’s special ops community, as Nick Turse shows in his latest article at TomDispatch.com, is their global reach and global power, to borrow an Air Force phrase.  Special ops forces have already been deployed to 137 countries in 2017, or 70% of the planet’s nations.  Talk about reach!  Yet enduring victories from past deployments, as Turse shows, have been surprisingly elusive.

Why is this?  Special ops forces are good at short-term kinetic actions (hit and run strikes, commando stuff), and they do their share of training and advising.  Yet their staying power, their persistence, their endurance, their ability to shift strategic winds in America’s favor, simply hasn’t been there.  Some would say that’s not their purpose, except that the U.S. military and government has been selling them as strategic game-changers, which they’re not.

As I’ve written before, I see America’s special ops forces as America’s global missionaries, our version of the Catholic Church’s Jesuit order during the Counter Reformation.  The Jesuits were soldiers of Christ, a militant order of highly trained missionaries, totally dedicated to upholding the one true faith (Catholicism, of course).  For many peoples around the world, Catholicism was the Jesuits.  And for many peoples around the world today (137 countries!), Americanism is a gun-toting special ops troop,

Coincidentally, I came across this report from FP: Foreign Policy this morning:

Pentagon taking lead in Africa makes some allies uneasy. At a recent summit meeting in Malawi attended by several U.S. generals and their African counterparts, some allies on the continent, while welcoming American attention, aren’t so sure they want it all from the Pentagon while the State Dept. is diminished.

“We have statements out of Washington about significant reductions in foreign aid,” Gen. Griffin Phiri, the commander of the Malawi Defense Forces, told the New York Times during the African Land Forces Summit, a conference between American Army officers and representatives from 40 African nations. “What I can tell you is that experience has shown us that diplomacy and security must come together.” He was unsure over the “mixed messages” coming out of Washington.

But is Washington’s message really mixed?  It seems clear.  Ever since 9/11, as Nick Turse has shown in several articles for TomDispatch.com, America has been downplaying diplomacy while ramping up “kinetic” strikes by special ops.  This trend has only accelerated under the leadership (if that’s the right word) of Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson at the State Department. When it comes to world affairs, Trump and Tillerson have often been AWOL, leaving the real action to Mattis and the Pentagon.

And nowadays the real action at the Pentagon is centered on SOCOM, the military within the military, America’s militant missionary order.

Even allies question America’s almost monomaniacal commitment to military action everywhere.  They’re right to do so.  For special ops aren’t so special when they’re deployed everywhere in dribs and drabs, parceled out on missions that lack achievable aims.

Finally, there’s this.  Say what you will of the Jesuits, they had faith.  A clear ideology.   Their faith, their devotion, was an inspiration to many. Even as their symbol was the cross, their skill-set was quite varied, e.g. they were often learned men, well ahead of their times in areas like science and mathematics.

Does Washington’s militant missionary order have a clear ideology?  A compelling symbol?  A varied skill-set?  Favorable and enduring results?  Evidence (so far) suggests otherwise.

20 thoughts on “What’s So Special About Special Ops?

  1. When I read this article I thought of a great movie from the 1980’s “The Mission” with Jeremy Irons & Robert Deniro, and like the Jesuit missionary’s who were Martyred I guess you could say our American Soldiers will have the same end results unfortunately…


  2. The basic premise is right on target. When you make everything “special” then nothing is “special” so why bother, in this case, with Special Ops. If you must call in the military, just send in the regular forces that do have staying power and include units like civil affairs, medical, and engineering that can actually do something good for the local inhabitants and maybe win a few hearts and minds along the way.

    Moreover, diplomacy has always been a U.S. weakness. Oh we’ve had our diplomatic victories along the way, but in general the U.S. method of diplomacy yields few if any results. Now, under President Trump and Secretary Tillerson (sic) it will only get worse as fewer resources means less experience for those diplomats who aren’t outright fired.


  3. There seems to be a tendency for small mission specific forces to morph into larger “Elite” units. The Normandy invasion had Rangers and Airborne units, but these units were meant to provide surprise and shock, but not to be an end all. The Regular Infantry and Armor would provide the real muscle, expand on the special ops, and Airborne troops success to expand the bridge head. The Bridge too Far, or Operation Market Garden had the same general pattern.

    The idea was especially attractive after the Korean stalemate was small unit highly trained forces could provide a path to victory in Vietnam, such as Green Berets or advisors with out the high casualty rates grunts take. What was rediscovered was these special units could be cut off and would need to be backed up by Regular heavily armed units.

    The Shock and Awe of a different era in the Middle East had Militant Monks organized into the Knights during the Crusades. They were a powerful force, but too few in numbers to hold the ground they captured during their Medieval Blitzkrieg. Bush the Younger’s invasion of Iraq duplicated this error only with modern weapons.

    Politically, it is far more acceptable to the American Public that a few “Special Ops” types are killed, wounded, etc. Better yet, some airstrikes can be conducted, some target is obliterated and our “Intelligence” can claim to have killed some leadership, without the slightest shred of evidence.

    Interesting article > https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/26/hershs-big-scoop-bad-intel-behind-trumps-syria-attack/


  4. To all proponents of the All Voluntary Military, as you and those in power like to say: “They are volunteers and want to be there. ” Isn’t this what you wanted?


  5. In ancient Rome, military were always volunteers or conscripts but all of the Roman Republic. They were citizen soldiers. Then, as the Roman Republic morphed into an empire, things got more complicated and the citizens of Rome began to tire of the role of becoming the world’s policenan. Then came the triumvirate and finally the great Caesar; Octavian, Augustus Caesar and the Republic was finished. Rome itself became just another in the grip of the terror and evil of the Roman Empire and its mercenary armies. Now, we are repeating history all over again. Will we never learn?


    1. Franklin.

      You know your history. Isn’t it amazing that even a cursory understanding cannot but arrive at your conclusions. As contemporary Americans like to say, “It’s a no-brainer.”


      1. What a hilarious concept: namely, contemporary Americans mouthing inane slogans while supposing that they talk about “conclusions” and “brains.” Best laugh I’ve had all day. Starting with a conclusion and repeating it a few sentences later in different words may have consituted “logic” (technically, a “syllogism”) for Medieval theologians, but modern logic abandoned that nonsense with Charles Sanders Peirce and George Boole sometime in the late nineteenth century.

        Pardon me for mixing metaphors here, Walter, but you sound like a one-trick pony beating a dead horse. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits slavery or involuntary servitude and the Twenty-sixth Amendment gives eighteen-year-old citizens the right to vote. They will never vote for their own enslavement to the U.S. military. About seven hundred thousand Americans died in three wars (the Civil War, Korean War, and the War on Southeast Asia) to win these freedoms, so you can say goodbye to your dearly beloved compulsory military conscription. It escapes me why you hate our individual freedoms and wish for our own government to rob us of them. You almost sound like you trust the U.S. military not to wantonly squander young American lives just so that some ticket-punching generals can add more stars and a few more medals to their already over-decorated uniforms. My experience as an enlisted man in the U.S. military disabused me of any such foolish notions. In any event, the military Draft simply won’t happen again in any future that you or I will ever live to see. Thank goodness. But don’t take my word for it. Retired Army Colonel (and university professor) Andrew Bacevich explains some (but not all) of the reasons why in his book The Limits of Power: the End of American Exceptionalism (2008):

        Why the Draft is Not a Good Idea and Won’t Happen

        “This brings us to the third of the Iraq War’s ostensible lessons: closing the divide between the army and society by scrapping the All-Volunteer Force and reverting to conscription.

        “There are several reasons why the draft is a bad idea. For one thing, a large draftee army is unaffordable [emphasis added]. The Pentagon is currently planning to expand U.S. ground forces by ninety-two thousand over the next several years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the price tag for this modest increase at $108 billion. To train, equip, and sustain the current active-duty force and to defray the costs of ongoing operations, the Penatgon is currrently spending approximately $700 billion per year. Doubling the size of that force to three million – less than 1 percent of the total population, yet sufficiently large to make a “small wars” imperial strategy sustainable – would require an annual defense budget upwards of a trillion dollars. Even if the bodies needed to fill such a force exist, the money doesn’t.”

        “Nor does the military want those bodies, except on very specific terms. Toward the end of the Vietnam War when Richard Nixon first proposed ending the draft, the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed the idea. Since then, with the partial exception of the Marine Corps, each of the services has become enamored with a force composed of highly skilled, long-service “warriors.” When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the draftees of prior wars as having added “no value, no advantage, really,” he may have violated some cannon of political correctness, but he accurately reflected prevailing Pentagon opinion. The truth is that the four-star generals and admirals view citizen soldiers as more trouble than they’re worth” [emphasis added].

        “As for the hope that reinstating conscription might reenergize politics, its akin to the notion that putting Christ back in Christmas will reawaken American spirituality. A pleasant enough fantasy, it overlooks the forces that transformed a religious holiday into an orgy of consumption in the first place.”

        “Crediting President Nixon with ending the draft is like tagging Macy’s for commercializing the birth of Jesus – it ignores the backstory. The fact is that when Nixon pulled the plug on selective service, the system was already on life support. The American people killed the draft. In the midst of a misbegotten war, they withdrew from the federal government its hitherto widely accepted prerogative of commanding citizens to serve” [emphasis added]. For his own cynical reasons – he hoped to deflate the antiwar movement – Nixon acceded to this popular demand. One serendipitous result was to lay the basis for a new consensus, henceforth defining military service as a matter of individual choice. In short order, liberals, conservatives, and centrists all signed on, and the bargain became permanent.”

        I’ve read five books by Professor Bacevich and many of his Op-ed writings at various publishing outlets. I agree with him on a great many issues, especially the rank incompetence (or, at best, mediocrity) of America’s flag-rank officers. In any huge bureaucratic institution such as the U.S. military, Parkinson’s Law and the Peter Principle (fuck up and move up forever) will always combine to guarantee nothing much in the way of competence or success in America’s numerous “wars.” Still, I differ with Professor Bacevich in that he seems to think that America still needs a standing Army. I do not believe that America needs any such thing. It seems to me that the old system of 50 state militias, with volunteers who serve one weekend a month and two weeks every summer would do for “national defense” should the continental United States (surrounded by huge oceans and bordered by weak neighbors Canda and Mexico) actually require any defending. Should the Taliban or Al Qaeda paddle their non-existent little boats across those vast waters to land on any of our beaches, storming ashore to impose Sharia Law upon the local Christian denominations in Peoria, Illinois, I think that the militia (if not the local police), heavily armed with their own “home defense” weapons, can handle the problem. No need to garrison the globe with paranoid, sub-educated, monolingual Americans who, like private Jessica Lynch, “joined the army to get out of Palestine West Virginia where [she] couldn’t even get a job at Wal Mart.”

        Not to put too fine a point on it but half the U.S. population now lives in poverty and so, as always throughout history, a Poverty Draft exists and will always exist to fulfill the purposes expressed by Robber Baron Jay Gould who once blurted out the One Percent’s understanding of the world: “I can always hire half the working class to kill the other half.” Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight. Same old story throughout the ages. For the pitiful wages and meager “benefits” offered by the U.S. military today, the Army and Marine corps — the two primary infantry services — can always find desperate enlisted troops to guard heroin producing poppy fields in Afghanistan for boy-buggering Warlords. No problem for the One Percent and their government lackies, civilian and military. The super-wealthy corporate oligarchs own all the political and military officials in our government and will always see to it that any and every “law” passed by Congress and signed by the President will work to their benefit and excuse them from any accountability. So no possible “draft” legislation could ever trouble them in the slightest since they will write such legislation themselves while paying our Republicans and Democrats to sign off on it late one Thursday night while no one notices. Idly dreaming of such an absurdity as a “fair draft” willfully ignores every lesson that history has ever taught about what real money can buy.

        So the United States now has a self-serving, mercenary military. So what? Calling it “professional” doesn’t change its essential nature. Every man or woman “serving” in it will kill anyone, anywhere, just because some “superior” orders them to do so. They will kill and destroy for a tiny paycheck and perhaps some “educational assistance” should they live to become a civilian again. Of course, something like 20 of them a day will commit suicide because they can’t live with themselves for what they have done, to whom they have done it, for whom they have done it, and for how cheaply they have done it. As we used to say back in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos): “We are the unwilling led by the unqualified to do the unnecessary for the indifferent.” Nothing about that essential truth has changed over the last fifty years of my life. We had a draft then. We don’t have one now. The number of enlisted casualties — at least those that the U.S. military will officially count — has dropped significantly, though. I suppose that has to count for something. No Draft means fewer dead and maimed enlisted men. Until we can disband the standing Army and severely downsize the other parasitic military branches, that will have to do.

        Thus I have concluded after using my brain for the last half-century.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dear Mike and Walter: I’d like to combine your separate insights. Mike says the draft isn’t coming back — I agree with him. Walter, for this site, has pointed out that our wars are unconstitutional and unwinnable because they’re undeclared by Congress — they lack the people’s support. I agree with him.

        Why have a draft to fight undeclared and unwinnable wars?

        A draft would likely be restored for a world emergency like World War II. Short of that, I don’t see it happening.

        As Mike notes, America’s imperial footprint is far too large, its dreams of global dominance far too fevered. While I do think we need a federal standing military, it should be downsized significantly, which would serve to decrease our meddlesome ways, limit our unwinnable overseas adventures, and ultimately increase our national security.

        Sadly, downsizing the military and our imperial adventures (undeclared wars when they’re on the large scale) is also unlikely to happen, for all the reasons we’ve discussed over the years at this site.


  6. William. I don’t have the exact record in front of me, but I recall Jefferson’s description of the militia from one of his “Letters on the State of Virginia.” It went something like this: “Every able-bodied free male between the ages of 16 and 60 is enrolled in the militia.” And the records of Salem County NJ, contain a reference to one of my ancestors being fined for failing to muster with his involuntary militia unit. The notion that what we now call the draft is this nation’s only experience with involuntary military service is bogus.

    As it was with Rome, an all-volunteer military is the last nail in a republic’s coffin. Ours will be no exception.


    1. Walt: I agree the burden of military service should be shared equitably. The problem is our political system, which acts to ensure burden-sharing isn’t equitable. Men like Cheney avoid the draft due to “other priorities.” Men like Trump concoct medical deferments (heel spurs!).

      As a product of the AVM, I met many officers and enlisted, most of them not mercenary. Most of them doing their best. The problem with the AVM is not in the lower ranks of the enlisted and officer corps. The problem is with senior leaders, both in and out of uniform, and the whole military-industrial-Congressional complex, which continues to grow like Topsy.


    1. Yes, we Americans do always defeat the fabulous alien monsters in our Hollywood movies. Even better for the aging, increasingly impotent White Male demographic, the women in our movies now do most of the alien-killing and bad-guy-ass-kicking thing, although an increasing number of real women warriors wind up raped by their fellow male troops in today’s actual armed forces. But if poor and jobless women want to staff the All Volunteer Military instead of poor and jobless American men — who have already had their turn, and then some — I say: “You go get ’em, girls! Remember privates Jessica Lynch and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning!”

      No question, either, about the fierce, fantastic fortitude of our Seal Team assassins when gunning down unarmed individuals like Osama Bin Laden, at home under house arrest by the Pakistani military and intelligence services. What timeless heroics! A squad of rookie policemen fresh out of the academy would have had Bin Laden in handcuffs and on his way to interrogation, indictment, trial, conviction, and sentencing in no time flat. You know: that “rule of law” principle upon which our nation stakes “its life, its fortunes, and its sacred honor.” But actual photographs of Bin Laden’s bullet-riddled corpse wouldn’t have gone down too well in the real world as opposed to Heroic Hollywood Fantasyland. Something about emptying several magazines into a sacrificial goat tied-down to a stake just doesn’t strike most people as at all “heroic.” If Osama Bin Laden actually had anything to do with 9/11/2001 (which no one has ever proved, one way or another) we Americans have the legal and moral means of acertaining that beyond the shadow of a doubt. But a public trial would have given Bin Laden the means of spilling all sorts of Pentagon/CIA/Saudi-Arabian secrets about who really created, funded, armed, and trained the legions of Jihadi Wahabi terrorists who plague so much of the world today. So President Obama sent in a platoon of heavily armed goons to simply murder the potential squealer. Dead men tell no tales, as the Mafia and pirates always say.

      Interestingly enough, apropos of this article, the Russian expatriate engineer, Dmitry Orlov, has a great piece on this U.S.-created-and-sponsored Wahabi terrorist thing at Russia Insider (6/29/2017). See: I Hope Hell Has Cable TV So That Brzezinski Can Watch the US Empire Implode. How one Russia-hating Polish psychopath created Hell on Earth, gifting us modern terrorism. Some “stirred-up Muslims,” indeed.


      1. Just as a follow up on the notion of heroic official U.S. political and military fantasy productions for the proles, I submit the example of our very own Secretary of Permanent War James “mad dog” Mattis attempting with a straight face to “explain” the inexplicable — if not patently deranged — leaking of lurid lies out of our very own White House the other day. See: Mattis Claims White House Threat to Syria ‘Worked’ – Tries to Take Credit for Lack of Chemical Weapons Attack, by Jason Ditz, anti-war.com (June, 2017)

        You see, the internationally recognized sovereign state of Syria never has used chemical weapons, although the United States government has falsely accused them of doing so more than once. Furthermore, the Russians removed and destroyed any chemical stockpiles that Syria had years ago under UN auspices. Nevertheless, the Trump White House accused the Syrians of “preparing” to use these nonexistent chemical weapons anyway. Then, when the Syrians didn’t immediately do what our government had accused them of preparing to do, Secretary Mattis concluded that our President’s reckless bullshit threats must have succeeded. As one commenter called “lemur” at antiwar.com put it:

        “White House threat to Alien Invaders to “stay the hell away from Earth” worked. Film at 11. After this message!”

        How could Hollywood top that? Another commenter named “richardstevenhack” takes the analysis even further:

        Of course this was one of the purposes for the White House statement. If an attack occurred – by the jihadists – they could blame Assad and launch another attack. If no attack occurred, they could claim their threat “worked”.

        It’s like that old joke about how to keep tigers away by Nasreddin:

        One of the neighbors found Nasreddin scattering crumbs all around his house.
        “Why are you doing that?” he asked.
        “I’m keeping the tigers away,” replied Nasreddin.
        “But there aren’t any tigers around here,” said the neighbor.
        “That’s right,” said Nasreddin. “You see how well it works?”

        That’s the level on which Trump’s mind works.

        But let’s not forget that by doing so he has – probably deliberately – goaded the jihadists to set up yet another false flag chemical attack. This incident was intended to lend credence to his NEXT attack on Syria.

        The Moon of Alabama blog (June 29, 2017) takes the requisite satire even further:

        White House Encouraged After Elephants Did Not Climb Trees. Trump administration officials are walking back the White House announcement of its plans to fake another “chemical weapon attack” in Syria.” I quote:

        There are plenty of reasons why the U.S. would want to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons but zero sane reasons for the Syrian government to use such. Russia and Syria have long insisted on sending chemical weapon inspectors to the airbase the Trump administration claimed is at the center of its “chemical” fairy tale. The U.S. has held the inspectors back. The claim made thereby zero sense to any objective observer.
        The way the statement came out, without knowledge of the relevant agencies and little involvement of the agency principals, was just dumb. It sounds like the idea was dropped by [Benjamin] Netanyahoo to schoolboy [Jared] Kushner who then convinced his father in law [President Donald Trump] to issue the crazy statement. Now officials are sent out with the worst argument ever to claim that the White House “warning” made sense [emphasis added]. “The elephants did not climb up the trees. Warning them off was successful,” they say. “The trees were saved!”

        “It appears that they [whomever that means] took the warning seriously,” Mattis said. “They didn’t do it,” he told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers. He offered no evidence other than the fact that an attack had not taken place.

        So the alien monsters have stayed away from Planet Earth, the Tigers will go on eating bread crumbs instead of villagers, and the elephants will obediently refrain from climbing trees. How do we proles know this? Why our very own Mr Magoo Mattis has told us so. And rumor has it that this former jar-head bullet-catcher possesses a library full of books and has actually read some of them. Unconvinced by these unattributed rumors, I await any plausible evidence that might confirm the truth of things.


      2. Michael, your hypothesis on OBL (Osama Bin Laden) fits my thoughts. Given the scant details on the killing of OBL, I found my mind troubled at that time. Given that OBL was the most wanted man on earth, he seemed by all descriptions to have been unarmed, or virtually unarmed. Just jumping back into Hollywood, I would have thought OBL would have been armed like Al Pacino in the movie Scarface.

        OBL’s compound seemed to have been totally unprepared for some form of assault, such as planting a few trees, etc. I concluded the OBL Compound was a Safe House. At some point for some reason, someone decided OBL’s shelf life had expired.

        Killing OBL was the only option. Bringing him back to the USA in an orange jump suit, or delivering him to the Hague for an international trial would have been a mess. What a story he might have told about the USA arming him early in his career, or Saudi support, all carefully camouflaged by a variety of front companies. It would have made Iran-Contra look like a frat house prank.

        Some of my friends on the left, questioned the “story” of the raid like I did. Most Americans and certainly the McMega-Media press were delighted and bathed in the glory of our warriors. Few questioned the vigilante aspects of this raid.


  7. William.

    Since Michael chose to refer to me by name and in a derogatory manner, I respond to the bill payer. When I came home from Vietnam, unlike Michael, I chose to live the remainder of my life in the country of my birth, the United States of America, and try to raise my family to have some respect for our culture and rule of law. As degrade at this respect might be, I carry the fight at every primary and general election, and have served in local government. Michael, by his own account, is Taiwanese and at least four decades out of touch with life in America. Must be nice to throw stones from afar.


    1. Thank you for the reply, Walter, but you might address your comments directly to me and not to the blog proprietor. I can handle anything that you have to say. In any event, please allow me to clear up a few misunderstandings you seem to harbor about where and how I have lived my seventy years of life on this planet.

      First off, just the bare facts. I never claimed Taiwanese citizenship as you falsely say. Actually, I married a Taiwanese woman at a courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga, California, in 1999. My mother acted as our witness. When we entered the office where all the secretaries worked, my mom lit a cigarette, took a deep drag, and announed to everyone present — doing her best Bette Davis imitation: “They just need someone to say the words.” One of the young secretaries took up the challenge. “OK. I’ll do it,” she said. “You can be my first.” So, we went out onto the patio, said the required words, took a few pictures, got married, and my mom took us out to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate. “When I married your father in 1944,” Mom told me, “the local justice of the peace took us out an bought us some tapioca pudding.” Family traditions.

      After my mother passed away in 2002, my wife and I spent another year in California liquidating her affairs before moving back to Taiwan in 2003 so that my wife could help care for her own elderly parents. Not long afterwards, I had a skin cancer and a heart attack. Fortunately, thanks to the National Health Care system here, I got fixed up at very little cost to myself. Having no employer-provided heath care back in the U.S. and having not reached the Medicare eligibility age aof 65, I would have died and left my wife in poverty had I not moved to Taiwan when I did. In short, the Taiwanese people, their democracy, and their single-payer health care system — for which my wife and I pay the equivalent of $45 per month — saved my life. As a guest in this country, I never fail to express my gratitude at every opportunity. When you Americans still living in “the homeland” (or “Fatherland”) manage anything close to what the Taiwanese have achieved here, then you can talk about your “culture” and “rule of law.” Over the past fourteen years, I have returned regularly to the U.S. for high school reunions and visits with my brother and two sons, both of whom I raised to adulthood in the United States. I haven’t lost touch with anything there. Quite to the contrary, I have noticed an increase in the number of elderly people working part time as cashiers, greeters, and shelf-stockers at Wal Mart and grocery stores, jobs that teenagers used to do in my own youth. My wife and I have also noticed shabby tent-cities springing up in the drainage canals that run alongside many California freeways. We have borrowed an expression for them from the movie Inherent Vice: namely, “Channel View Estates.” We Americans still remain World Champions when it comes to inventing Orwellian euphemisms to mask unpleasant reality.

      As for the “stone throwing” accusation, I use my own first and last name when posting on public bulletin boards because I stand by my opinions and have no need to hide behind pseudonyms or aliases of any kind. I paid you the compliment of assuming that you did the same. However, if you feel personally persecuted by replies to your comments — published under your own name — then pick another name to hide behind. As for the opinions you espouse, you have every right to them, but you should expect disagreement in a “democracy” and not take deconstruction of your often poorly reasoned and factually unsupported views as a personal affront. As Harry Truman said: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” In other words: Grow up. As for any talk of “culture” or “rule of law” in America, I can only repeat what Elmer Gantry said: “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” So let us discuss real life in a real world, not as children, but as men. OK with you?


  8. Getting back to the theme of this particular article, I would caution against accepting the official term “Special Ops” at face value. Given their long history of legendary fuck-ups, we should more properly call these erstwhile assassins of peasant villagers the “Special Oops! Of all the examples I could cite in support of my thesis, I think the fabulously failed “Iranian Hostage Rescue” that cost President Jimmy Carter his job ought to suffice. The Republicans had a political field day with that one, gleefully referring to the debacle as “The Jimmy Carter Desert Classic.” If anyone requires further examples — including from the just-recently-installed Trump administration — I will gladly supply them.

    The Special Oops goons fit into a long established pattern of U.S. miltiary blundering going back over a half-century now. First, they move “covertly” into a formerly sovereign country to “advise and “train” the local regime’s armed forces. Then they start terrorizing the indigenous peasants with late-night home invasions, resulting in the enraged local population shooting and killing them. Then the other service branches — the “straight legs” (because they don’t jump from airplanes) — insist on getting in on the action, too. They demand to “play a role,” you see, even if no sane person would allow them a back-up part in a high school stage play, let alone the nation’s foreign policy. So the regular Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force move in and start blowing up the national infrastructure, leaving the poor invaded country in ruins. But this just enrages the locals even further, so that they start ambushing, maiming, and killing any U. S. soldiers or marines who dare set foot — dare I say “boots” — on the local streets. This becomes politcally unpopular back in the United States once the browbeaten and deliberately misinformed U.S. public begins to catch on to the scale and scope of the disaster. The rising casualties engenger political unrest and results in the adminstration — it doesn’t matter which one — reducing the number of regular Army and Marine invaders, eventually leaving only the Special Oops goons to “advise and train” the now-thorougly detested national “armed forces” whom the native people properly regard as American puppets and who have no future in their home country but death or emigration.

    I have just described the U.S. military in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If anyone needs further examples I will gladly supply them. But don’t take my word for it. Consider another, more succinct, treatment of the U.S. military in action — this time in Syria — by The Saker, someone who actually knows a thing or two about military analysis.

    “An elephant in a porcelain store is a scary sight for sure. But once you get over your initial fear, you soon will realize that being a big bad elephant makes it very difficult to make a smart move. That is exactly the USA’s problem, especially the US armed forces: they are so big and confident that almost every move they make lacks the sophisticated caution imposed by life on a much weaker actor. This is why they almost always end up breaking the store and looking stupid. Add to this a quasi-total focus on the short-term quickfix, and you get a recipe for disaster.”

    A very colorful and accurate analysis, indeed. But you will never hear any such truth debated, or even mentioned, in the U.S. Congress, charged by the Constitution with deciding if, when, where, for what purpose, and at what cost the American military should get involved in foreign affairs. The obvious answer: “never under any circumstances ought not to require much in the way of experience or intelligence.

    To conclude this treatment of the Special Oops pooch-screwing contingent and where their deployment inevitably leads, let me suggest that we imagine them insisting on providing the balloons for a children’s garden party. Once assigned this trivial task, they hook up a high-pressure air line to a pack of condoms, inflating them with flammable hydrogen gas to the size of Goodyear Blimps which collectively blot out the sunlight. Then they start lighting off roman candle fireworks all over the place until the entire sky explodes like a dozen Hindenburg dirigibles detonated simulaneously. Naturally, the parents of the barbecued children had to write them off as “collateral damage,” but as good patriotic Americans they fell right into line, as expected and demanded by their “government.” Criticism of the U.S. military for its role in the disaster somehow never occurred to anyone.

    Yes. I think that about concludes this episode of “The Special Oops boys just dropped another load in their camoflage diapers.” Catch it soon on DVD — if you can find a Blockbuster video store still open for business.


    1. Colorful as ever, Mike. I’d add that the U.S. military is paid to find threats. They are incentivized, in so many ways, not only to find threats but to inflate them. Savvy civilian leaders need to know this. As president, Ike certainly did.

      But the reality today is different. Americans profess to admire the military more than any other institution. They “trust” it. Civilian leaders, noting this, want to bask in the military’s glory, hence they praise it instead of controlling it. They capitulate. They wave the white flag of surrender.

      So the military, now led by General Mattis, has a societal blank check to do what it wants. Trump is, to put it politely, in over his head (when he’s not deluded), Rex Tillerson is a non-player, and of course Homeland Security and the NSC are also led by generals.

      Who needs a military coup when the military rides ascendant?


  9. The movie graphic you provide reminds me of a superhero movie. I note all the gadgetry that the SEALs are known for – the high tech night vision and communication gear, backed by helicopter gunships, etc. Two things come to mind.

    When my son was young there was a cartoon show on TV that featured giant robot-like machines each under the control of a human at a control panel in the “head” of the machine. The appeal was in a human being made powerful by technology far beyond what our own bodies can do while at the same time being safe inside the machine – invincible. My second, related thought is about the way the SEALs are promoted – tough, pure muscle, with high powered weapons and able to function in any environment. What is never mentioned is that for all the gear, for all the muscle with not an ounce of fat and all the team camaraderie, one bullet can kill a man, SEAL or not.

    BTW – I have a way to avoid wasting money on bad movies, military related or not. I ask someone who has seen one I’m considering if there are any scenes with a helicopter. If so, I know I can skip it.


    1. Yes, our military is presented in heroic terms, and sometimes as superheroes. As you say, it’s fantasy, but fantasy can be very powerful, and is especially seductive to young recruits.

      Our movies also support the idea of technology as “force multipliers” that win battles for us. Hollywood loves “sexy” war machines, hence all the movies that feature them. “Top Gun” was made thirty years ago, spawning a whole series of movies featuring jets and helicopters and so on. The Pentagon now works closely with Hollywood to integrate its machines into movies, e.g. the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.


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