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).
This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.