"Special" Forces

With terrorism incubating in cities, Washington’s approach is over-militarized.

Issue: Nov-Dec 2006

The United States' special operations forces (SOF) have come a long way since their post-Vietnam War decline in doctrinal prominence. During the 1980s, the U.S. defense establishment chose their "national wars of liberation" more carefully. The United States stayed closer to home, targeting mainly Central America, and Army Special Forces enjoyed some success in bolstering El Salvador's defense capabilities in a way that they had not done for South Vietnam's. Yet the emphasis remained on firepower rather than on training indigenous forces and the small-unit patrol operations favored by other counter-insurgency practitioners. In any case, the 1990-91 Gulf War-a high-intensity, high-technology blitzkrieg-extinguished any residual institutional enthusiasm for hands-on involvement in messy third world conflicts.

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!