Small Wars Journal

The Liberator’s Dilemma: The Paradox Of American Leadership by Joseph Long

Wed, 04/17/2024 - 7:11am

Be forwarewarned.  There is some math in this essay.

But this is a serious essay for SOF and other practitioners and covers a lot of ground, e.g., irregular warfare, PME, the moral hazard of liberation, population centric military operations and a liberator's dilemma model (see the math).

Access the full essay HERE.

The Liberator’s Dilemma: The Paradox Of American Leadership


As the special operations profession enters a new era of Special Operations Forces (SOF) involvement in geopolitical competition in the “gray zone” as part of a comprehensive U.S. strategy of integrated deterrence, the leadership skills developed by the broader profession of arms remain necessary but insufficient. For special operations, the complexity of the emerging security environment suggests there is increasing uncertainty on how the Joint SOF profession must exercise leadership in support of American interests that center on partner forces of both developed and developing nations, as well as the interests of micro-level populations and associated non-state, sub-state, and paramilitary actors. As SOF adapts to these requirements through joint and combined integration, or “the imperative of approaching complex, complicated, wicked, and compounded challenges through ‘whole of governments, whole of societies,’” SOF must recognize the reality that this environment necessitates a new framework for understanding military leadership.1