August 12, 2007: In the U.S.
SOCOM (Special Operations Command), there's a growing friction between
advocates of Unconventional Warfare (UW), and Direct Action (DA). UW means
doing what the Special Forces were originally established to do. That is, go
into hostile territory, develop useful contacts, collect information, and pave
the way for effective direct action, or, preferably, arrange for friendly
locals to do it for us. The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was a good example of
UW. The few hundred CIA and Special Forces operators who went in had, over the
years, developed contacts inside Afghanistan. In 2001, they brought cash, and
smart bombs from American warplanes overhead. Few of those operators did much
fighting. They were there to facilitate, negotiate and expedite. UW at its
finest. The Afghans did most of the fighting, and the Taliban were out of power
within two months.
But as the war on terror
proceeded, there were more calls for direct action by SOCOM commandos (Special
Forces, SEALS and Rangers). The feeling is that there is no time available to
spend years developing contacts and laying the ground work for the kind of
rapid defeat of the enemy as happened in Afghanistan. Indeed, the underpinnings
of the rapid collapse of the Taliban went back about twenty years, when the
Special Forces and CIA got involved aiding Afghans who were fighting the
Russian occupation of their country. But now, no one wanted to wait two
decades, or even one, to prep the battlefield for a decisive defeat of al
Qaeda. People, politicians and the media wanted action, Direct Action.
Many in SOCOM view the UW
crowd as old fashioned, and relics of a bygone era. It's believed that new
information processing and communications technologies make UW less useful, and
DA more likely to produce results, and a lot sooner. The DA crowd has impatient
politicians and media behind them, while the UW guys just continue to point out
that the only way to get results in some situations, like pinpointing the
location of Osama bin Laden, is via UW.