Special Operations Forces in the Gray Zone: An Operational Framework for Employing Special Operations Forces

Special Operations Forces in the Gray Zone: An Operational Framework for Employing Special Operations Forces in the Space Between War and Peace by Phillip Lohaus, American Enterprise Institute Report

Key Points

  • Current operational models do not adequately reflect the challenges of “gray zone” warfare, leading to a misallocation of the instruments of national power to address nonconventional threats.
  • As the US military’s primary tool for addressing conflict “outside of war,” special operations forces (SOF) are at particular risk for misuse if current operational models are used as a guide.
  • SOF are useful at a variety of transition points along the escalatory spectrum, but as threats become more defined and pervasive, they are better addressed by a mass application of skills normally thought of as endemic to relatively smaller special operations units.
  • US military doctrine, if not reformed to adequately account for conflict outside of the traditional peace/war duality, is not sufficient to advance national security interests against adversaries whose understanding of warfare encompasses competition outside of kinetic conflict.

Read the full report.

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Given the U.S./the West's "world transformation" political objective in the New/Reverse Cold War of today,

Which -- in size, scope and objective -- seems so glaringly similar to the "world transformation" political objective of the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday,

Given these such similarities, then might we consider that:

a. Only a Soviet/communist-like approach is considered viable today; this,

b. As a means/method for achieving this such "world transformation" political objective?

For example, as per the Soviet/communist approach(es) described here:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1034145?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents (Look to the section entitled "Weapon of Peaceful Coexistence," which begins at Page 78, and look specifically at the notations relating to "closeness and appeal to the population" and "ideological conviction," which are found at the top of the second column on Page 79.)

(Herein to note that -- in the New/Reverse Cold War of today much as in the Old Cold War of yesterday -- such theories as "universal values" -- neither the Soviet nor our version -- [a] panned out and thus [b] could be used for and/or relied upon to provide that either of our "world transformation" projects might be achieved quickly and/or easily.)

Thus to ask, specifically, whether the Soviets/the communists -- and re: their similar "world transformation" political objectives back-in-the-day -- employed their special operations forces either extensively or exclusively (as we seem to be considering today?) in these such "world transformation" missions?

This, or whether the Soviets/the communists made more extensive use of other/non-military assets (civilian "cadre?"); this, to perform the exceptionally critical "preaching"/"evangelistic"/ "converting," etc., tasks -- tasks normally associated with transforming the other states and societies of the world more along one's own, very unusual and unique (in our and the Soviets' cases, for example, think "secular"), political, economic, social and value lines?