CTX Journal Vol. 5, No. 4
From the Editor
Special Operations Forces have perpetually been on the frontlines of the world's military conflagrations, using every tool and skill currently available to them to prevent potential fuel from catching fire. SOF battle the blazes of sectarian war, locate the spot fires of extremist infiltration, and help people clear away the ashes and get back on their feet after conflict. Many of you have been involved in countering insurgency in one capacity or another, and you'll appreciate the personal stories our authors in this issue of CTX have to tell.
The first story is not about fighting bad guys, but about how those who fight bad guys turn their skills to saving lives and delivering humanitarian relief. SOF Lieutenant Commander Gilbert Villareal describes what happened after Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) smashed the Philippines in late 2013. Dealing with the aftermath demanded as much of his training and courage as his counterinsurgency missions ever had. Disaster relief, LTC Villareal admits, doesn't seem "sexy" to most SOF warriors. But it is deeply rewarding and well within the scope of the special operations mandate.
The next two pieces, by retired Pakistani Air Commander Jamal Hussain, take us back to the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. The first essay addresses the question of how four US helicopters managed to cross into Pakistani airspace, fly 100 nautical miles to Abbottabad, carry out the attack, and (minus one Blackhawk that crashed) escape back over the Afghan border before Pakistan's air defenses could react. The second essay rebuts, point by point, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh's recent retelling of the bin Laden raid as a top-level conspiracy of mass deception.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought a 30-year insurgency against the armed forces and government of Sri Lanka that nearly tore the country apart. Colonel Sylvester Perera describes how he and his fellow commanders struggled to adapt their legacy British-style training and strategic planning to counter the highly mobile and innovative LTTE. A united national front, COL Perera concludes, is vital for the future of Sri Lanka.
Major Daniel Pace uses his experience in Baghdad during the surge of US forces in 2007 to highlight the price a country may pay if it fails to unite after internal conflict. His platoon succeeded in replacing disrupted government services and channels of influence with its own improvised systems in an important Sunni neighborhood. But this success paradoxically deepened sectarian distrust once it came time for the Americans to pull out.
The skies around us, Captain Benjamin Seibert points out, are increasingly filled with those remote-controlled aircraft called drones. Drones are great for reconnaissance, lauded and vilified for their ability to deliver missiles, and promoted as the next big thing in online shopping. CPT Seibert warns, however, that drones and their attendant technologies are a terrorist's dream, and no one seems to know what to do about the danger.
Extremists have already shown us how quickly and effectively they can spread their ideology in cyberspace and how useful the internet is as a means of recruitment. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Schultz draws parallels between the open seas and the electronic frontier, and suggests that it's time we looked back to the age of privateers for inspiration about how to deal with cyber terrorists.
Nations and international organizations, including the UN and NATO, have embraced a concept for crisis management called the comprehensive approach (CA), which purports to enable the coordination of assets to contain and resolve crises. The problem with CA, as Lieutenant Colonel Sándor Fábián points out, is that no one agrees on a common definition for the concept, much less what it entails.
For our CTAP interview, Dr. Doug Borer of the US Naval Postgraduate School interviews counterinsurgency and crisis response specialist David Kilcullen about current trends in counterinsurgency planning and operations. Dr. Kilcullen also discusses ISIS at length: are we in the midst of a new Thirty Years' War, fomented to a large degree by information technology? That, warns Dr. Kilcullen, is a question worth asking.
We have two book reviews in this issue. The first, by Major Bradley J. Krauss, explores American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security by senior national security expert Richard K. Betts. While this book might seem to lie somewhat outside the CT-COIN realm, MAJ Krauss recommends it for military personnel like himself who are reentering academia after a long period of active service, and need to "jump-start" their capacity for critical thinking about international relations. The second book, The Hour between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates, examines the nexus between biology and decision making in high-stress environments. Lieutenant Adam Karagouz describes some of the implications for risk-taking organizations like special operations teams.
In this issue's Moving Image review, Ian Rice finds the AMC television series Turn: Washington's Spies satisfying for both its historical reenactment of eighteenth-century irregular warfare and as sheer entertainment. Turn follows a number of characters on both sides of the American Revolution as they seek to undermine their opponents' base of support among the colonists through intrigue and espionage.
Be sure to take a look at the latest publications from the Joint Special Operations University in our Publications Announcements. Write to CTXeditor@GlobalEcco.org and let us know what you think about what you've read in CTX or anything else in the CT world that's on your mind. You can also keep up on global CT news and comment on articles by "liking" Global ECCO on Facebook. If you are interested in submitting an article for possible publication, send it to CTXSubmit@GlobalEcco.org.