A Precarious Balance: Preserving the Right Mix of Conventional and Special Operations Forces by Phillip Lohaus, American Enterprise Institute Policy Study
American special operations forces (SOF) are in the midst of a golden age. From references in pop culture to commendations from the White House, praise for America's quiet professionals has become anything but quiet.
Such adoration is well-deserved, but underlying SOF's newfound popularity, questions remain as to how they should be employed in the future. When should they lead conventional forces, and when should they act in a supporting role? How might we apply the counterinsurgency lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan to a conventional conflict? Above all, should SOF retain all of their current responsibilities, or should the tip of the metaphorical spear be sharpened to allow SOF to focus on the tactics and techniques that only they can bring to the battlefield?
Many crises are best addressed with the innovation and discreetness of SOF, but others require the mass that only conventional forces bring to bear. More often than not, successful military campaigns involve some mixture of both conventional and special operations forces, but tensions between the two have impeded successful cooperation in the past…