The Military Is Relying Too Heavily on Special Ops Forces. Mattis Must End That.

At a recent special operations symposium in Tampa, Florida—home of the U.S. Special Operations Command—a senior Marine commander said he was concerned that America was too often going to the special operations “well” to address its military challenges.

Unfortunately, he is correct.

Lt. Gen. William Beydler, the commander of Marine forces for all of the U.S. Central Command, America’s busiest war-fighting command, rightly noted that while the American people and leaders now have an enormous respect and fascination for units like the Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and Army Rangers, it might be leading the nation to neglect other capabilities.

In recent years, missions that are best carried out by well-trained conventional units have gone to special operators because everyone considers them the “best,” and it sounds better to have them on the case. And at the opposite end, missions that were better carried out by special operations forces have been handed off to less capable units because special operations forces were too busy hunting down terrorists.

America has multiple types of forces for a reason. Time and experience have shown that we need the “right” tool for each task.

A 12-man Special Forces A-Team (Green Berets) cannot stop an enemy tank formation alone. The best weapon for that is one of our own tank units. We can “make do” with special operations forces in extreme situations if supported by air power (think the recently released movie “12 Strong”), but that should not be the default setting. That needs correction.

The Department of Defense needs to re-evaluate its forces and get things realigned so that the best unit capabilities—not the most popular ones—address the threat being faced.

America needs to return to the concept of a full toolbox. Use the right tool in each case. Now is the perfect time to do this.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is a proven combat leader. He has led Marines in combat and has commanded joint forces with every service and capability in the arsenal represented.

He should publicly acknowledge the problem identified by Beydler and set to work fixing it. Mattis has little time or concern for “popular” ideas. He cares even less for making constituencies happy.

Fighting the nation’s wars is not a popularity contest. You do not choose forces for a mission by what is in style today.

Mattis should lead the charge to rebalance missions and capabilities so that the absolutely best forces to prosecute any given mission are the ones sent to do the job.

You don’t send a screwdriver to do the job of a hammer. Mattis is the right guy to fix the imbalance, and he needs to move on it now.

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One Comment

  1. I agree that the US Military should not neglect traditional and broad spectrum, capabilities. That said, the naturally emerging need is to re balance resources and capabilities in favour of asymmetric warfare .An increasing focus on Special forces is the natural imperative for the times.

    The battleground is a palimpsest where war is tiered. They said guerrilla warfare was a thing of the past. Today it is the most widespread form of war. They said close ground support was supplanted with drones. The demand for the A-10 (Warthog) has gone up, particularly in Afghanistan. Consider a scenario where a squadron of F-35 are flying to engage the enemy and SU 30s break through to close. The F-35 is a sitting duck unless escorted by interceptors. They also said, when they founded the UN that War was over. And, Nehru set about dismantling the Indian Armed Forces when he awoke from his delusional day dreams to notice Pakistan and China. They also said that War would end with Nuclear deterrence. Pakistan, China and India are all Nuclear Armed since those days of naivete. When such sweeping doctrines such as “Dogfight days are over now only BVR decides and plays a pivotal role in winning” are announced, kindly see what is happening around the World in real terms and war fighting.

    That said, the fastest growing form of warfare mirrors the fastest growing religion. Islam. The guerrilla warfare in which the Taliban (i.e. students of the Quran) were trained by Al Qaeda (“The Base” created US-Saudi-Pakistan) and their many regiments (by whatever name from Boko Haram, Jaish e Mohamad, Pakistan’s ISI to Daesh), heirs, successors and assigns.

    Proxy wars fought between Great Nuclear Armed Powers who are, in person, held back by MAD provide a certain scope for conventional wars which will, in the main, be waged with proxy soldiers and armies.

    However, any area of weakness in the over all military line up will be exploited by the enemy,

    The US Armed Forces is no longer contemporaneous. It is, rather, a smug, bordering on delusional, military that has failed to learn it’s lessons since the days of Mc Namara and Westmoreland. This is largely due to “Tradition” and “Morale” driven Military Momentum stoked by Hollywood and Comics on one hand, and the Pork Barrel Political leadership which is in the grip of the “Deep State” (an amalgam of the war profiteers who want more bucks for less effective bangs and continuous war with the US-NATO-Sunni Axis forged with Petro Dollars by Nixon, Kissinger and Tent of Saud with Petro Dollars that has turned the US into a hired gun for Sunni Islam long before Clinton bombed Belgrade for 84 days to throw Bosnia and Kosovo into the maws of Islam)

    A thorough over haul of threat scenarios and a re engineering of military resources across structure, systems, processes and arms set to the context of the next fifty years rather than the previous two hundred is long over due.

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