Special Forces on Steroids

More military capability equates to more security for the United States. This precept is so deeply embedded in our minds that no one sees a need to state it. Yet it may be false. Let's consider the following. If we did not possess a mighty high-tech military, we may never have considered invading and occupying Iraq. Since the ramifications of that action clearly are negative for American security, then there is a negative correlation between capability and security. The same holds for our protracted occupation of Afghanistan and subsequent incursion into Pakistan. Then there is the contemplated war against Iran -- unimaginable if we lacked deep penetration bombs and assorted other state-of-the-art weaponry.

Now we are faced with an audacious plan to give the central role for advancing American interests (very broadly defined) to Special Operations Command under the aggressive leadership of Admiral William H. McRaven, who directs our Special Forces. As outlined in Monday's New York Times, he is putting the finishing touches on a detailed, comprehensive plan for using his 60,000 personnel as a multi-purpose, semi-autonomous force operating on every continent except Antarctica. It will be designated the military's tool of choice not only to fight insurgencies. SOC will be mandated to do active intelligence gathering, to engage in political penetration of other countries and governments, to undertake training and liaison with foreign militaries, and to address underlying conditions that spark insurgencies.

McRaven modestly admits that "we're not yet ready... to run the global war on terror." We must wait awhile for that happy day to arrive. When it does, the Admiral wants the authority to make independent decisions when and where to deploy Special Forces without going through standard Pentagon procedures. Where is the State Department and other Executive Branch agencies in all this? The White House? Eclipsed. The State Department has yet even to be briefed on the plan that bears the formidable name of Global SOF Alliance.

The plan's purpose and justification is clearly the all-encompassing 'war on terror.' It is noteworthy that McRaven routinely uses this term despite its having been jettisoned by Obama three years ago. The 'war on terror' is open-ended, elastic and multi-dimensional. In short, perfect for a mission without limit in time or space. As the Raven might said, "Evermore, Evermore."

All this will be enabled by a healthy increase in budget and personnel. The other enabling factor is the feebleness of civilian leadership from the Oval Office on down which continues to fail at providing strategic guidance to the Pentagon.

I'm rooting for a smaller defense budget and the reduced capabilities that would result. This is not a fixed principle. It is merely pragmatism. We simply do not have a civilian or military leadership that can be counted on to use it sensibly, prudently and responsibly. They are untrustworthy.