Most of these operations combine an excessive degree of military optimism about the parameters of possibility with a lack of political understanding of the risks and costs of failure. But these problems are not incidental to the special-operations-force paradigm; high-human-capital individuals tend to have a strong sense of their capabilities, and a strong belief in their ability to get tough jobs done. And civilians lacking in military expertise often have reason to take these beliefs at face value, especially when the SOF offer quick, easy solutions to knotty problems.
Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat. This article first appeared several years ago.