Special Warfare

The Missing Middle in U.S. Coercive Options

Published in: War on the Rocks, Nov 20, 2014, p. 1-5

Posted on RAND.org on December 08, 2014

by Dan Madden, Dick Hoffmann, Michael Johnson, Fred Krawchuk, John E. Peters, Linda Robinson, Abby Doll

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In the face of adversaries exploiting regional social divisions by using special operations forces and intelligence services, and dwindling American appetite for intervention, the United States needs to employ a more sophisticated form of special warfare to secure its interests. Special warfare campaigns stabilize or destabilize a regime by operating "through and with" local state or nonstate partners, rather than through unilateral U.S. action. Special operations forces are typically the primary U.S. military forces employed, but successful campaigns depend on bringing to bear a broad suite of U.S. government capabilities. The figure below differentiates special warfare from more familiar forms of conflict. Special warfare has particular relevance to the current global security environment as policymakers seek options short of large-scale intervention to manage both acute crises (e.g., ISIL, Ukraine) and chronic challenges (e.g., insurgency in the Philippines).

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