“US Army Special Forces is the only force in the Department of Defense organized, trained, equipped, educated, and optimized for the conduct of unconventional warfare.”
I have written those words many times in the past thirty plus years of my military service. With those words I have implied that the unconventional warfare mission belongs solely to US Army Special Forces (SF). I was wrong.
I began to realize this in 2009, when I participated in a working group established by the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School to re-examine the definition of unconventional warfare. The revised definition that resulted was a compromise that did not satisfy everyone in the Special Forces (SF) or wider Special Operations Forces (SOF) community. Nonetheless, the definition currently resides in Joint Publication 1-02 the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms and is now the foundation for US military unconventional warfare doctrine: Unconventional warfare consists of “activities to enable a resistance or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.”
But here's where he goes 90% of the way in tying together the uncomfortable vocabulary that most of us hard core militarists inherently understand, but that the rest of the country is likely loath to admit
Due to the prevailing wisdom that SF owns the UW mission, many senior decision makers, policymakers and strategists both inside the Beltway and at the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) rarely consider the strategic option of conducting UW. Furthermore, as evidenced by our myopic view of terrorism, we do not fully comprehend that our enemies are, in fact, conducting unconventional warfare. As a result, we do not consider potential strategies to conduct “counter-unconventional warfare,” instead focusing solely on the means and methods of counterterrorism.
See, in admitting that AQ is conducting "unconventional warfare" we can easily hit the button on the Patented GrogNews Vocabulary Substitution Machine™ (not sold in stores) and swap out "UW" for "insurgency":
Due to the prevailing wisdom that SF owns the insurgency mission, many senior decision makers, policymakers and strategists both inside the Beltway and at the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) rarely consider the strategic option of conducting insurgencies. Furthermore, as evidenced by our myopic view of terrorism, we do not fully comprehend that our enemies are, in fact, conducting insurgencies. As a result, we do not consider potential strategies to conduct “counter-insurgency,” instead focusing solely on the means and methods of counterterrorism.
Hmmmm... we know we're conducting counter-insurgencies, right? We've been talking about it for 10 years now. We know that AQ is formenting insurgencies all over the world. But we have to be very careful about how we frame the UW-COIN vocabulary substitution. If we admit that AQ has been conducting worldwide UW, but then focus on their terror campaigns, what does it say about the US that we have a dedicated UW doctrine, when UW becomes a synonym for "terrorism"?
So we have a doctrine in the US for conducting UW (read: insurgency). We don't particularly want a doctrine for conducting UW (read: terrorism). And I'm OK with that.
What do you think? How would the US public react if it became explicitly clear that we had, and actively developed, trained, and disseminated doctrine about creating insurgencies in places where we don't like the government? Is it better that we obfuscate the capability behind the kabuki dance of shuffled vocabulary words? Or is this something that deserves a serious and sober conversation with the American public* that they might fully understand the broad spectrum of capabilities that we offer our government through the use of the military?
*note that I am fully aware of the general inability of the American public to make mature and thoughtful decisions regarding complex socio-geo-political issues like this