America’s Dangerous Love for Special Ops by Mark Moyar, New York Times
… The country, and its presidents, have been enamored with special operations forces ever since Franklin Roosevelt created the first unit in 1942. John F. Kennedy expanded the Army Special Forces from 2,000 to 10,500 soldiers and founded the Navy SEALs. Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, special operations forces grew from 38,000 in 2001 to 70,000 in 2016.
Will President Trump follow suit? He has already used special operations forces in several Middle Eastern countries. And the units seem custom-made for a president intent on both combating terrorism and avoiding large-scale war.
But the history of America’s special operations forces recommends caution. They are primarily tactical tools, not strategic options. Nor, for all the talent and training, can they always beat the odds.
When Jimmy Carter sent special operators to rescue the hostages in Iran, the raid went awry far short of its objective, with eight dead Americans left behind. Bill Clinton deployed Delta Force members to neutralize the Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but aborted the mission after militiamen dragged American corpses through the streets of Mogadishu. Barack Obama’s use of special operations forces to train a Syrian rebel army yielded a pitiable “four or five” fighters.
When special operations forces have succeeded tactically — as they so frequently and impressively have — they rarely have produced strategic success on their own. Presidents Bush and Obama hoped that precision strikes by special operators would decapitate the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the insurgents endured so long as they controlled territory and population…