Thanks to movies like “Lone Survivor” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” America has a greater and fuller appreciation of our elite warriors of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). We know they are lethal shadow warriors who carry out dangerous and deadly missions.
But that may be changing.
According to a report from the National Review, there is a new mission statement for the unified Special Operations Forces: to achieve strategic outcomes by working with and through interagency and foreign partners to understand and influence relevant populations.
The Special Operations Forces (SOF) Operating Concept captures the essence of the SOF heritage as it could be – as it should be in the year 2020 and beyond. The concept moves beyond the first decade of the 21st Century, when SOF primarily supported large-scale contingency operations by conducting counterterrorism operations to find, capture, or kill our adversaries. Although of great value to the nation, these operations were never intended to be decisive. Operating through the Global SOF Network in support of our Geographic Combatant Commanders (CENTCOM, PACOM, EUCOM, AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM, NORTHCOM) and Chiefs of Mission (State Department, US Embassies).
The National Review reports that at a special Council on Foreign Relations group presentation at the United States Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, famed Admiral William H. McRaven started the briefing with the new command motto, “You can’t surge trust.”
I wish I could decipher what all this means but it sure sounds like some political gobbledygook to me. So there you have it — operations to find, capture, and kill our enemies will have lesser value to our nation in the future. And I beg to differ that they are not decisive — killing bad guys is certainly decisive for that designated bad guy.
But now, rather than focusing solely on capturing or killing the bad guys, the new mission is also to shape public opinion.
The SOF Operating Concept includes a goal of “Elevating SOF non-lethal skills to the same level of expertise as lethal skills.” I understand the full compliment of mission sets that our Special Operating Forces train for and deploy to achieve. What I don’t want to see is a paradigm shift that elevates a certain “political” mentality over reality. I’m quite certain I’m not alone in preferring our elite warriors maintain a higher level of lethal capacity and capability than anyone else on the globe.
What’s next? We trade out that venerable 1966 song, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” sung by Army SSG Barry Sadler, for Katy Perry singing “Roar?”