The Baldwin Files – Forgotten SWCS History

I sent the following email just before I retired in 2011 to an old friend who had just taken a senior position at the Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) at Fort Bragg. During the time in question, 2000-01, I was commanding F Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Camp Mackall.  My company was responsible for two phases of the Special Forces Qualification Course or Q Course for short.  What was then called Phase II, focused on Land Navigation and Small Unit Tactics; and Phase IV, focused on Unconventional Warfare (UW), including the culminating Robin Sage Exercise. I am one of the few that had firsthand knowledge of this historical episode – since it was never made public – for reasons that will become obvious.  I thought it was past time to share it with a larger audience and save it for posterity.  I have edited what follows only to spell out contractions and the numerous acronyms for clarity.

Believe it or not, this is a true story.  In 2000 and 2001 (before 9/11) a small group of senior Special Forces Officers at SWCS and some retired leaders – including one former Group Commander – were developing plans to radically “reinvent” or “reboot”  Special Forces (SF) for the new millennia. I am not going to mention names, but you know these men. They were convinced that the classic core SF mission of Unconventional Warfare (UW), aka Guerrilla Warfare, was as obsolete as the horse cavalry.  Moreover, if our Regiment did not significantly change we would risk becoming irrelevant in the 21st Century.  Therefore, they were determined to save SF…even if it meant discarding everything that makes us who we are.

This cabal looked at our history and reached some firm (but fatally flawed) conclusions: First, they determined that if any U.S. President ever considered doing small scale UW again, it would be a covert or clandestine effort conducted by the CIA. If any Department of Defense (DoD) forces were involved, those troops would come from the “black” SOF and not the “white” SF Groups (God, how I hate those terms). Because the Vietnam War had been less than successful at the strategic level, they also believed that our national leaders would never again have the political will to conduct Counterinsurgency or Nation Building.  Of course, they had to willfully disregard the myriad of tactical and operational successes and the breadth of Special Operation Activities that SF accomplished during the conflict in SE Asia.  

They looked at Desert Shield/Storm and concluded that the only mission SF conducted that conventional commanders were comfortable with – and praised – was the Coalition Support Team (CST) mission. The Special Reconnaissance (SR) missions (referred to as Strategic Reconnaissance in older manuals) executed by SF were only marginally successful and not very helpful at the operational level. Although I would argue that was because we were constrained from operating mounted a la the LRDG as 5th Group had detachments well trained to execute.  Instead, we inserted teams on foot in a fashion similar to conventional LRS units. Oddly enough, those “black” units tasked with “Scud Hunting” went in mounted, were more successful, and therefore had a more appropriate SOF operational impact. 

They looked at other operations and contingencies (Panama, Somalia) and decided that the SF contribution to combat operations was, to their way of thinking, marginal. Instead, they liked what had been done with SF ODAs in Haiti and in Northern Iraq after Desert Storm. SF had received much praise from conventional Army leaders for effectively working with indigenous people in largely permissive environments for humanitarian purposes. The cabal concluded that utilizing ODAs as “super” CAT-As instead of “cowboy” warriors was non-threatening to Conventional Force commanders and therefore a “safe” mission to retain. 

Based in part on the restraints placed on our adviser effort in El Salvador as well as constrained partner operations in Bosnia and Kosovo there was also a strong perception that Force Protection priorities (Risk Aversion) would preclude future SF advisory efforts from ever accompanying our counterparts on actual combat operations during Foreign Internal Defense (FID) activities.  Therefore, there was no need to prepare ODAs to conduct direct combat as an integral component of FID. Small scale and short duration Direct Action (DA) “surgical operations” would be the purview of those aforementioned “black” SOF units. Likewise, rapidly maturing technologies like drones and advanced reconnaissance satellites meant that SR as we had known it was also no longer a necessary or relevant skill set for SF soldiers.

No UW, no DA, no SR and no “combat” FID. So what would SF soldiers and ODAs be trained, equipped and organized to do in support of National Strategic objectives?  The cabal’s verdict…Peacetime FID.  In fact, they went so far as to declare that there should be “no such thing” as an SF unilateral mission. The “by, with and through” methodology was actually meant to purposely constrain and limit SF utility so that we could not be “mis-utilized” in some direct role.  We would in effect “opt out” of being a Full Spectrum Special Operations Force. Clandestine and covert would not be in our vocabulary, and there would be no need for classified or advanced skills and no compartmented SF operations…ever. Infiltration techniques like HALO and SCUBA would only be applicable to the training of others and never for ODA independent insertions and extractions.

We would still call ourselves “SF,” but in my opinion, we would have only been “Short Bus” Special.  I mentioned to one of the “true believers” of this radical concept that by confining ourselves to such a narrow mission set we would effectively self-select SF to be a Combat Support Function rather than a Combat Function. He seemed to take my not-at-all-subtle criticism in stride and told me that the train had already left the station and I had better get on board.

This far reaching but poorly conceived initiative scared the living daylights out of me.  I do not know how far it would have gotten. At the time, the schemers were keeping it “on the down low” because I am sure there would have been an extreme backlash from the force once this proposed transformation was out in the open. However, in the late Fall of 2000, there was a “Grey Beard” Conference held at Camp MacKall and most of the retired SF Generals were in attendance.  I was not privy to the conference sessions but was told afterwards by my Battalion Commander (you know who that was) that the proposal was discussed and at least some of the Gray Beards were “OK with it.” Whether that is true or not, after the conference the cabal continued their preparations to implement the training shift “on order.”

This was not all just theoretical discussion on their part. By the early Summer of 2001, initial steps were actively taken to phase out and eventually eliminate Robin Sage as a UW exercise in Pineland.  Instead, SWCS was preparing to shift to “FID Lane” training to be conducted entirely on the Fort Bragg reservation. The student ODAs would link up with their Host Nation (HN) counterparts (formerly known as Gs) and teach conventional small unit tactics and individual skills in a “secure HN area.”  The culminating event would be the ODA advising and assisting their counterparts through an actual Fort Bragg live fire maneuver range. Imagine that. The most complicated task we would demand in the Q Course of our SF soldiers and teams is that they can safely conduct a live fire range under peacetime rules. And, to add insult to injury, in combat we would relegate them to act as glorified liaison teams (CSTs) or surrogate CAT-As at best.

Of course, 9/11 occurred and their plan and their premise became moot. All have since retired and/or faded into well-earned obscurity. That is a very good thing as far as I am concerned. I do not fault these gentlemen for not having precognition and foreseeing GWOT. I do fault them for cherry picking historical examples that supported their thesis and ignoring the rest. I fault them for being so timid that they would retreat from SF heritage – not under pressure from the Army or DoD – but out of fear. I fault them for not understanding that our success in FID is directly related to the fact that we are – first, foremost, and always – combat soldiers and combat units with a long history of skill and valor to prove it. But most of all, I fault them for not understanding what makes us Special Forces. It is not a beret, a tab, or a title.  It is in fact the UW Mission.

UW is not just one more thing on our “to do” list alongside other potential tasks/missions of equal importance and priority. UW is the foundational mission that shapes our individual troopers and our teams. Training for it in the Q Course and the Groups teaches our people to operate effectively in any complex, uncertain and ambiguous situation or any challenging environment. It teaches them to be able to act alone or as part of a team sometimes without much in the way of outside support. It reinforces the individual and collective traits of self-reliance, adaptability and determination. UW teaches our operators that when all else fails they can always rely on their wits, their training and their teammates. No other mission set does that. UW makes us good at FID and just about anything else we might be asked to do. The opposite is not true.

So, what is my point?  This is ancient history. It did not happen. Crisis averted.  But wait, as we draw down from the larger scale conflicts in Iraq and eventually Afghanistan we will again rightly reassess ourselves and look at ways we need to change to meet emerging threats and missions. I have already seen or heard public and private comments by well-meaning but sadly uninformed individuals (some wearing long tabs) that we (SF) “lost our way” to a certain extent over the last decade plus.  The argument goes that we became too enamored with DA missions and we have to “get back to our roots” as an “Indirect” force rather than a “Direct” force. 

First, you and I both know that their premise is false. SF conducted almost all of our combat activities “by, with, through and alongside” our indigenous counterparts. Either we partnered with existing forces like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan or the Peshmurga in Northern Iraq – or we created surrogate forces where none existed. Ultimately building successful high-end HN Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet, U.S. SF teams also rightly retained the option and capability to conduct unilateral operations when appropriate.  It would be just as wrong for us to back away from our DA skills now, as it would have been in 2000-2001. Clearly, our DA skills remain a vital enabler that directly supports the UW and FID missions as well as enhances our ability to provide our own measure of credible force protection or independent offensive action under any circumstances.

Some people still worry that we are the only SOF unit that does not fit into a well-defined niche. The rest generally specialize in narrower mission sets and they are very good at what they do. The concern is that we (SF) are trying to be “jacks of all (SOF) trades”…and therefore appear to outsiders as perhaps “unfocused” and “masters of none.” I would argue that there is great goodness in having a highly skilled force that is not a one trick pony. I think the incredible range of activities that SF soldiers and teams are successfully conducting around the world every day proves that. Moreover, in my opinion, we do have a clear focus because we spend our careers mastering the UW Mission and the UW Environment. In short, with UW as our foundational and defining task I believe we are on very firm footing.  And I do not see us going the way of the horse cavalry anytime soon.

I am not trying to set myself up as the arbitrator of what SF should and should not be in the future. However, I have been around long enough and seen enough to know a little about what we are and what we are not. We are not Combat Support and we are not second string to the “black” side. We are unapologetic men of action and can justly call ourselves the best of the best. I am very pleased with where the Regiment is now and I have even greater expectations for the future. The schoolhouse is where we define ourselves. It is where we shape not only our entry-level operators but our senior leaders as well. Based on what I have just told you, I would just caution that not everyone who has a Special Forces Tab necessarily “gets it.”  Of course, you already knew that. On a personal level, I can tell you that I am very thankful that you are where you are right now. Moreover, I envy you the opportunity to directly shape that bright future.

De Oppresso Liber.


LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

32 Responses to “The Baldwin Files – Forgotten SWCS History”

  1. NiOe says:

    I’d have say that most of the “Cabals” predictions were accurate. SF doesn’t have a proper mission, and suffers because of it. They have been outpaced by those “Black” SOF units, and their core mission of UW is one that they will never be called upon to conduct.

    The Regiment is rotten, burdened with bad leadership and no focus.

    • Mehmaster says:

      Why then are they awash in Benjamins and the greatest concentration of human capital in the army??? Anybody remember when Glenn coffee was the cat’s meow of swc?

    • Attack7 says:

      Ni0e, I’m a supporter of 1st SF Cmd units because of the close peers I grew up with in the parachute Infantry and LRS. But, I’m a supporter mainly because of these relationships and the concept of SF and not from what I’ve witnessed of SF teams during OEF/OIF. What you describe, I continue to hear and read. So, who’s the leader to fix it?

      Everybody complains about this command. Down at Benning their eyes roll. Over at Bragg out off Lamont, they laugh at what their purpose is. Conventional units have had such a weird experience with most of the command that it isn’t even trusted to train their people unless a relationship is close. Even then, it’s suspect about the NCOs training your people.

      Of of my 5th Group classmates put it plain and simple, “You as an NCO are either a military professional who defaults to military right. Or you believe in the vague concept we have called ‘special and different’ which will get you in trouble.

      I wish I could find CSM Mike Hall’s USASOC CSM email he sent out talking about accountability and proper leadership across the command in the eyes of the enemy and in the eyes of the Army. GEN McChrystal even had points about the command in one of his books, on how he left the command for these same and other issues of the like.

      The true believers are far and few between!

  2. Chuck says:

    As an outsider, I take comfort in the fact that Special Forces soldiers are ready and capable for the various missions that could and do come their way. As a nation and as an Army we need people who are flexible enough to put themselves in the position to be the right man for the job as the opportunities or neccesities present themselves. The idea that a SF soldier may be in an UW role at one moment and a DA role in the very next moment seems to be what makes SF so special and a force worthy of our nation. Further, the UW foundation is what has shaped the wider force throughout GWOT and continues to enhance lethality and survivability for the rest of the Army.

    As always, truly great article Terry. Thank you.

  3. Maroon Beret says:

    Interesting story especially for those of us without the backstory. As you say thank goodness that the “crisis” was averted. Somehow though it seems to be the a”others” might have scored a partial victory with the asinine “SFAB” concept which needs to go the way of the equally asinine black beret meaning into the dung heap of bad decisions. I’ll add to that pile ASWG which also appears to be nothing more than an encroachment on traditional SF missions. The Army needs a real dose of mental health treatment with the constant reinvention it goes through from countless uniform changes every few years, to inventing badges and excuses to award them in response to the military version of particpation trophies, and policies and procedures designed to appease non-military civilian leaders more focused on social and gender norming than war fighting. Funny how the USMC as a whole doesn’t feel this pressure to lower standards, create missions to justify their existence and change uniforms more frequently than Rue Paul. Apparently the SEALS aren’t interested in OER notations about “gender inclusion” at the expense of a warrior ethos either. Yep, I’m old school and thought BDUs worked fine and made sense but somehow when I see combat patches on everyone, the vast majority of whom never heard a shot fired in anger, overweight troops as a norm, and troops with the ability to tie up the command with every micro aggression because someone used profanity in their presence or told them the Army has no obligation to pay to switch for their perceived plumbing mix-up at taxpayer expense somehow I wonder how the country is better off with today’s Army than the Army of 10-15 years ago never mind before 9/11.

  4. Darkhorse says:


    I attended the Q Course from the “dark side” in 2000 into 2001. I felt the course was decent and was focused on the “SF mission” and although I never spent one minute in SF, it changed my perception of SF, mostly for the better.

    In the early 1990’s, during my first trip to Ft. Bragg, I saw a ton of “fat SF guys” on post. It was my perception (and every other Ranger’s perception at the time) that SF was fat, lazy, and had no mission. Attending the Q Course definitely changed that perception. My only criticism of the course was that the standards changed depending on who you were assigned during the various phases, a problem common to many military schools. As an example, I was assigned to a guy who’s sole function (and I know this because he told me to my face) was to make the “dark side guy quit”. At the end of Phase 1, he told me (to my face again) that he’d thrown everything at me that he could and that he’d gained a new respect for me and the Unit from which I came from because he was confident he could make me quit and failed to do so.

    Years later, this individual would come to my Unit as a support guy, and at that point I outranked him (irony) but there was no retaliation on my part rather, I welcomed him and told him I was happy he was a part of the team.

    Long winded way to get to the point of my story- my perspective of SF is that there are some individuals who favor one mission or another. If it was up to them, they’d focus SF on XYZ. Another SF guy might be super focused on ABC and believes that all of SF should be too. I’ve been affiliated with units that revamp their structure and refocus their mission and it’s one of the many things I feel the military does a poor job at doing. I’ve seen this same thing happen based on who is passionate about what and unless you’re in a “one trick pony” Unit, I don’t think there’s a cure. The SF “jack of all trades” moniker is both a blessing and a curse as it enables SF to remain flexible depending on how they will be employed, but it also enables mission creep depending on who is in command and which mission profile they are passionate about.

    • Jon, OPT says:

      Funny, I know exactly who your cadre was based on the description, not a bad guy, but he had a notorious reputation as a phase 1 (SUT) instructor.

      • miclo18d says:

        I went thru at the same time as dark horse, I think I remember EXACTLY who you’re talking about! The after hours “nonstandard” run right after a forced MRE feeding comes to mind.

        Me and another guy were severe heat casualties and about 10 others were mild heat casualties out at the “STAR Orientation”. Doc Keaton called the commander and told him if there was one more heat casualty he’d send us all to Womack and he could explain to the commanders at the hospital and therefore SWC why there were so many heat casualties happening.

        I was recycled and made the next go around. I didn’t realize all of this was going on inside the regiment. I got to group 3 weeks before 9/11…I guess that changed it all.

        • Terry Baldwin says:

          Darkhorse, Jon, miclo18d,

          There have been some unnecessary shenanigans in the Q Course from time to time. Cadre that resented a SWCS assignment and/or were not suited to it. While it might seem odd to some, just because you passed through the course does not mean that you are automatically capable of effectively teaching the course. Working up new cadre takes a lot of effort and is not a perfect process.

          Others though they had a secret mandate to “protect the tab” by adding their own individual hoops for the candidates to jump through. I spent a lot of my command time dissuading individual cadre of those notions and removing those who didn’t get it. I found that guys who had been themselves recycles tended to do very well as cadre. The had not only done parts of the course twice but had the opportunity to see more examples of cadre in action – good and perhaps not so good.


          • Terry Baldwin says:

            BTW, I am pretty sure I know exactly which Cadre Team Sergeant you are referring to.

            I left command in May 2001 so I am guessing that the heat casualty incident happened latter in the summer because I do not recall anything like that on my watch.


          • Darkhorse says:

            Terry, as you know, if you stay in the military long enough you will experience this. I wasn’t telling the story to complain about the guy, more so that if left to their own devices, those who have their own agenda (due to ambiguity whether it be METL/mission/grading students) can alter careers and what happens on the battlefield- for good, or for bad.

            I showed up to Ranger School after serving only 4.5 months in the 75th because I was the ONLY private to pass the pre-Ranger PT test. For that, I spent 7 phases in Ranger School because several of the cadre there at Benning had come from my platoon due to DUI/other circumstances and they were appalled that I showed up so soon after being assigned. I was given 18 major minus spot reports in ONE DAY for a bunch of BS make pretend violations because the cadre made me the company 1SG, and there were crooked cat eyes on rucksacks that I had obviously failed to inspect.

            On the other hand, while I was in Robin Sage, the G Chief was an old school Unit guy who knew I was from there. When I arrived at the base camp a day before the team (I was the Team Sergeant go figure)- the G Chief handed me his loaded 1911 and explained that there were real dangers and I being much younger than he, was to engage any real threats with his 1911. True story. I carried his 1911 for the duration of the field problem and returned it to him when we headed back to main post.

            I’m glad I had the experiences that I did. I’m glad I took all the BS they threw my way and rammed it down their throats because to a man, I know I’m better than they are. A better leader, a better operator, and a better human.

            • Terry Baldwin says:


              Spot on and well said. Schools are always artificial and imperfect environments – not to ever be confused with the real-world job on the far side. That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

              I had a different experience at Ranger School. I went as an old Airborne Infantry guy (~12 years experience at that point). I admit I did not learn much from some of the younger RIs but they were at least enthusiastic and sincere about doing their jobs.

              I had served with some of the RIs in previous assignments and in every phase someone would immediately greet me with “Ranger Baldwin!” and proceed to smoke me for a few minutes. But it was all done in fun and I took it that way. I remember it as a good time. And, more importantly, I did learn quite a bit from the more experienced cadre.

              I like guys who won’t quit. Recycles don’t matter. The strongest and the best people stay focused on the goal (mission) not the obstacles in the way. Those are the people I want around me.


  5. cimg says:

    Thanks Col. Baldwin for sharing this bit of history, lest we forget the lessons and decisions (good or bad) of the past!

    • Terry Baldwin says:


      I am going to tag this here so even those that don’t have the time to scroll to the end can see it. These articles are fire and forget and I have little control over where the conversation goes after they launch. That is not a bad thing, since I am usually pleasantly surprised where the conversation meanders.

      However, in this case there is an additional point I would like to make that hasn’t come up yet. That is leadership – or a lack of leadership. The membership of the “cabal” I mentioned were all in leadership positions at SWCS. However, in this case they were most certainly NOT leading by example. They were not leading at all.

      Let us say – for the sake of argument – they were absolutely right and I was absolutely wrong to be in opposition. Leadership is all the more vital when a situation is dire. These men owed an explanation to the Regiment and especially the cadre at the school. Instead they acted in secret. Why?

      The answer is simple, they were afraid. They were afraid that they could not defend their plan if it was ever subjected to rigorous scrutiny. Was there actually a crisis that demanded such a radical response? If they believed there was then as leaders they had an obligation to act. Which means they first needed to inform everyone involved.

      Here is one of those “pro tips” on leadership. If you don’t have at least the courage of your own convictions; one, your opinions probably aren’t convictions at all, and two, you aren’t honestly capable of leading anyone anywhere.


  6. Kirk says:

    Interesting history. I think I heard a little of this from waaaay out on the periphery of things, from friends in the SF community that I knew.

    But, y’know… Here’s a question that has always bothered me, with regards to the whole SF concept of “Unconventional Warfare”, as it is described.

    Does it actually, y’know… Work?

    Go back to the WWII era, that of the OSS, SOE, and the Jedburgh teams in the battles for Europe and other areas, which I think we can safely say is the actual historical antecedent for the SF UW lineage, and not the Rangers or 1st Special Service Force. Did those efforts really accomplish enough to justify the resources and high-quality manpower expended on them? Did it amount to more than a public relations campaign, in terms of actual operational or strategic effect? Would we have been better off, as some argue to this day, in leaving those high-quality manpower assets out in the line units?

    These are questions that I still don’t think have really been settled, to be honest. Yeah, SF is an asset that has a lot of wonderful people working within it, but I think the question of what they actually contribute to the general mission, in terms of the UW realm, is still unresolved.

    You look at the post-WWII track record, and granted that there’s a lot of stuff we still don’t know about due to classification and OPSEC requirements, but the question persists: Did it work? Does it work, in today’s operational and strategic environment?

    From an outsider’s perspective, I honestly would say that I can’t see much evidence that it does. Start with WWII–There’s a huge amount of historical evidence, there, and if you read enough of it, you’re left with a vague sense that the UW guys (Brits, mostly…) were simultaneously playing at the game of war, not really accomplishing much, and playing with fire. Looking at things like the actions in the Vercors Massif area of Southern France, you really start to wonder if the whole UW idea was even ethical, in terms of starting things we couldn’t finish or even really support. Yes, we got a lot of benefit from intelligence efforts in France, and the French Resistance did a lot to damage the German war effort there, but was it a.) moral, the way we did it, and more importantly, b.)effective? Did we get good military value for the manpower, munitions, and effort?

    I’d argue that it’s highly questionable whether we did, or not. There’s only one area in Europe that (and, even that’s arguable…) effectively “freed itself” from the Germans, and that was the former Yugoslavia. And, without the conventional war to distract the Germans, the Yugoslav partisans would have been unsuccessful: They manifestly did not have what it took to defeat Germany all by themselves.

    Waging war from the margins is what UW actually consists of. It’s a strategy undertaken by those weak in real military power, and generally it’s been forced on them because there’s nothing else they can do. All the SOE efforts, all the unconventional forces sponsored by the British in WWII? Did any of that really affect the outcome of the war? Was any of it worth the investment? Was it worth the lives of our soldiers, and those we encouraged to “rise up” against the Nazis or Imperial Japanese? Was it ever anything more than a romantic PR exercise?

    Same question needs to be asked, down to the present day: Did any of it work?

    I would submit that the answer would likely piss off a lot of people, especially when you start to ask questions about how morphing the asset represented by SF over into the realms of FID and nation-building actually played out. Consider all the various post-WWII efforts against Communist insurgencies: Which ones worked? Who ran them? How did we organize them?

    Greece and the Hukbalahap “problem” in the Philippines happened before SF was really a thing; so did Malaya, for the Brits. Both were essentially run by the conventional bubbas, with some peripheral contributions from the intel world. Note that we won both of those “shadow wars” in the absence of what we’d today term “unconventional warfare” doctrine or assets. Same with regards to the Korean War, when you look at the “UW” and FID effort: There was ‘eff all for any sort of UW efforts a la the Jedburgh teams that the classic SF mission is based on. Come Vietnam, and the Kennedy administration…? What changed? Why did we suddenly start losing in these sorts of conflicts?

    I’m gonna submit that the rise of SF and the idea that we could do these things “on the cheap” by throwing a small number of highly trained specialists at the effort is where we’re going very, very wrong. SF can appear to be doing a lot of highly romantic things in this sort of conflict, but the question has to be asked: Does it fucking work?

    Show me the successes, where we’ve done it. El Salvador? Honduras, maybe? Where was the UW aspect, to either of those campaigns? We mostly used SF as trainers for the already-organized existing militaries of those nations, so what the hell was the point of having a highly-trained cadre of UW experts do it? Should we have, perhaps, kept the FID and nation-building mission within the conventional forces, the way we did in Greece and the Philippines?

    Is what we’ve been doing with SF in UW even ethical, when you get right down to it?

    Does the fate of all the abandoned “little brown people” we’ve raised up via the SF effort start to, y’know, bother anyone? Should we be doing this crap, knowing full well that the political powers-that-be are just gonna do the Realpolitik thing, and leave those poor bastards who plunked down for the US at our word hanging in the wind?

    The bastards in Congress and our government can’t even be relied on to keep the promises we made to the Iraqi and Afghan naifs who served as our interpreters. I have to tell you that I think anyone agreeing to work with us in these roles is dangerously naive, if they think it’s going to count for anything in terms of returned loyalty from the people we all work for, in the final analysis.

    Is anyone disturbed by what happened to the Hmong that didn’t get out of South Vietnam? What is going on, with the Kurds and the Afghanis who rallied to our cause? If I were in SF, the big question I’d have to be asking myself is whether or not I wanted to “be the guy” encouraging the next bunch of little brown naifs that they ought to be gambling their lives and fates for the convenience of the scum we have in Congress and the government. After all, it’s you out there, giving your word and pledging your sacred honor on behalf of the Teddy Kennedy types, who think nothing of the effect of their actions out on the pointy end of things, while luxuriating on the take in the halls of Congress. Don’t forget that the Kennedy family was not only intimately involved in creating SF, but that they got us into Vietnam in the first place, then escalated the scale of our moral involvement by sanctioning the killing of Diem–To be followed by that “Lion of the Senate”, Teddy Kennedy, essentially abandoning the South Vietnamese to the North after we expended God alone knows how many indigenous lives, and 50,000 or so of our own.

    I had an old friend of the family that had been in SF, during the late 1960s. He drank himself to oblivion on the anniversary of the fall of Saigon, every year until deep into the 1990s when he died. Asked about it, he would say that he was drinking to all the Montagnards he’d known and convinced to follow him. What happened to those people, once the politicians pulled us out, still haunted him. He donated a lot of money to help the Hmong, but he could not ever bring himself to actually work with any, here in the US: He was afraid he’d meet some of the ones he’d worked directly with, or, worse yet, their kids. He couldn’t face that, and he once remarked that if he ever had to, he’d probably go home and blow his brains out right afterwards. He didn’t want to know what happened after we left, and I can’t say that I blame him.

    SF is cool, and all, but… I gotta tell you, I have my doubts that the juice is worth the squeeze, in either an operational, strategic, or moral sense.

    • Terry Baldwin says:


      As always you have put out a lot of valid questions based on sound reasoning. It would take a book to answer all of them in detail – so I will summarize a counter argument. The short answer is that UW does work. We know it works because many times we have seen insurgents, aka guerillas topple regimes that ostensibly had overwhelming military advantage. The fact that guerrillas – supported by others – have held the U.S. Military to a stalemate in various places is another example of UW working. As soon as we leave, the Taliban will probably overthrow the government in Kabul. So, I have no doubt that UW can work.

      Of course, the more critical question is does the U.S. – SF or otherwise – do UW right? The answer is NO. But I would argue – and some of your examples point to this – not because SF or the conventional military before SF were unfocused. Rather these efforts often fail because our political objectives in those kinds of situations are habitually unfocused and undefined. To this day we have to strategy in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria worthy of the title.

      Some of the same arguments you are making have also been made about conventional Airborne capability and Marine Amphibious capability. In fact, the arguments are identical, albeit perhaps on a larger scale. Too dangerous, resource intensive, outcomes uncertain and the talent would be better utilized spread out through the conventional forces.

      I would point out first that having those capabilities gives our adversaries one more thing they have to be concerned about countering. Whether we use it or not – the amphibious feint in Desert Storm for instance. The relative cost and danger is subjective and I, obviously, would prefer that our Nation have the capability and the option to use it or not use it rather than not have the option at all.

      The last argument is where I think you are on the shakiest ground. It might have been true in the mass draft Army of WWII but it is not true in a volunteer force. Talent like this will not stay long without something to challenge them. That was actually one of the fatal flaws of the plan to change SF I spoke of. Recruiting for SF would have dried up almost instantly. Other SOF formations would have seen some benefit perhaps but I do not think the Army would have. The guys who could not get into some other SOF assignment would likely have left service to seek opportunities elsewhere.

      Finally, the moral argument. I will also leave that for individuals to make their own judgements. However, I would tell you that we drum into our SF candidates from day one that they must NOT fall in love with their Guerrillas (partners). Some SF soldiers – being human – do become emotionally attached to the people they are working with. They should not. Because we are intentionally using those people in furtherance of U.S. national goals and strategic interests. Nothing else. We are not doing it for altruistic reasons.


      • Kirk says:

        You say that “UW does work…”. If that is so, where is the evidence for it? What contribution to overall victory in war does it bring?

        Let’s back this up, a bit, and take a look at it from the Soviet perspective: Why has UW (very, very arguably…) worked for them, and doesn’t work for us? Why, for example, did the “Forest Brothers” of the various vestigial Baltic states go down to inevitable defeat in the 1950s? What happened to the various and sundry Ukrainian equivalents? If UW is so efficacious, why didn’t those guys accomplish more than filling a bunch of graves, and becoming a footnote to history?

        I think that the massive missing piece that all of the folks who proselytize for this stuff miss is that the Soviets were far more ruthless than we were, and were also operating from a position of ideological superiority that we never quite managed to address. You look at the various and sundry Communist movements, and the thing that is most noticeable is how well they managed to indoctrinate their members. We never, ever managed anything even remotely akin to that–Most of the ideology we’ve come up with as counter to their belief systems comes off as insipid and inadequate. Likewise, with the Islamics that came after the Communists as our enemies. What the hell do we have to offer the average mujahedeen who is looking for his 72 virgins in the afterlife? He’s motivated by the idea of glory before his god, and we don’t even have a conceptual framework to understand that, most of us not being at all religious enough to die for our faith.

        UW is, I am afraid, essentially a conflict of ideological frameworks, and not a purely military one. We think it’s a military answer, but it really isn’t. You want to fight the UW fight, you need to go into it armed with an overarching ideological view, not just a contrarian “Well, we’re for economic liberty and personal choice…” sort of insipid answer to the certainties on offer from either Communism or Islam. We don’t have that sort of religious fervor in our ranks, and that’s a good thing. But, it leaves us with an inability to cope with either the Communist or the Islamic form of jihad, on an ideological basis. Since UW is basically heavily armed ideology, guess what? We’re gonna lose, each and every time we go up against the “true believer” in their mass movements.

        Not least because they’re willing to do anything and everything in order to win.

        This is why I’m of the opinion I am, which is that UW is basically an unworkable tool for the US and other established state entities. I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t work as a part of any theoretical WWIII scenario, either–As stay-behind rabble-rousing trouble-makers for the new Communist regime, mainly because we’d have lacked the necessary fervor to counter the unlimited powers of repression and control the Communists would have brought in.

        The only way UW works is if the regime either cannot or will not take the necessary steps of repression, either by mass deportations the way the Soviets did, or conducting genocide operations the way the Nazis half-heartedly tried in the East. It’s notable that the steps taken against partisans and resisters in the East were only tried half-heartedly in Western Europe, and there’s a hell of a difference between the perceived success of such operations between the two theaters. Had the Nazis done in the West what they did in the East, with the drastically smaller theater that was more heavily populated…? I suspect we’d have a much different view of what UW can accomplish in real military terms. We’d also have learned the hard way what UW can provoke in terms of enemy reprisal operations… Something that folks in SF should have asked the Forest Brothers and the Ukrainians about, long before we thought of doing similar things in Western Europe.

        Not to mention, someone should have contemplated the reasons that the Soviets were able to eventually repress those movements, and why the Nazis never quite managed to do the job, despite their proclivities for atrocity. Pure ruthlessness uncoupled from effective engagement via ideology isn’t the answer, either… Something even the Soviets found out the hard way, in Afghanistan. Although, I suspect that Stalin might not have had quite the same set of problems that Breznev and his successors did–Most likely because there would have been few living Afghanis inside Afghanistan to cause them. I think the majority would have been in Siberia trying to make sense of how to cut down trees they’d never seen the likes of, before…

        UW really only works against civilized and restrained opponents, for whatever reason they’re like that. Against an unfettered enemy? LOL… Yeah, suggest to me again just how successful UW would have been against someone like Ghengiz Khan, coupled with modern military technology. Recipe for success, that would be…

        Color me as cynical, but I think there’s a damn good reason why UW does not work for the US: We’re simultaneously ideologically unarmed, and we lack the necessary ruthless focus to really make it work for us. Most UW is a political/ideological thing, and without addressing either of those two aspects of human behavior, it’s doomed to failure.

        Fixing the problem ain’t something that’s going to happen, either. It’s fundamental to the nature of the things we’re fighting, and I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a major problem, either. What it does represent for us is a failure to recognize that the nature of the fight in UW terms, or the willingness to pay the price.

        I also don’t subscribe to the whole idea that the moral aspect of this all is irrelevant, either–You want to discredit the limited ideological underpinnings for what we do while at war, I can think of no better way to go about it than to undertake the cynical and self-centered viewpoint that what we do has no moral issues. You want any sort of success in a culture you don’t plan on taking over and rewriting from the ground up, you need to recognize the need for clarity in communications and have something of a Hippocratic Oath going to the whole effort–“First, do no harm…” doesn’t really address what needs to go on, but something along the lines of “First, make no promises, either implied or explicit…”. And, I say that having had to deal with the second-order effects of promises made by sundry SF troopers over the years to indigenous personnel. It ain’t pretty, and it wears at the soul to know that the organization you give your loyalty do does that sort of thing on a routine basis. It doesn’t help the SF guys who are out on the pointy end trying to make the cynical policies work, either… The system demands that the guys out there on the pointy end bond with the indigenous personnel, and then turns around and breaks those bonds out of expediency? Ya think that doesn’t create problems for the guys who made those promises…?

        One of the things that people need to realize is that if you want decent, moral people to work for you, then… You and the organization need to be decent and moral, as well. You can’t have one end of the thing doing the amoral and expedient, and then expect people on the other end not to notice, and lose faith in the mission and the organization. Breaking promises, implied or explicit, to those who are not of us, yet chose to support our military efforts? That’s no way to do that.

        And, come to think of it…? That lack of a moral aspect to all of this is a large part of why we’re ideologically unfit to fight in this arena. How the hell do you answer someone you’re asking to die (or, at the least, risk death…) for you, when they ask “Hey, just what the hell happened, to the last set of people you asked this of…?”. Cynicism and expediency are a poor answer to true belief and the fervor of the convert.

        • Terry Baldwin says:


          This is why I like engaging you. You love the fight. As you say, “Cynicism and expediency are a poor answer to true belief and the fervor of the convert.” That is correct often enough to be called a truism, I suppose. Of course, I am one of those true believers. I believe in my Country and my mission. I am willing to risk my life for both.

          My job in UW is not to adopt, sanitize or validate the ideology of my partners. If measured strictly objectively, some of those we choose to work with are not morally or ideologically any better than the other side. Are the Shia any better than the Sunni in Iraq? Are the Pashtuns any worse than the Tajiks in Afghanistan? In both case the answer is not really.

          My job in UW (or FID for that matter) is to energize those we have sided with, provide at least rudimentary combat skills, some fighting implements (or show them how to get them) and point them towards whatever we think is the “right” direction. In other words, get them in the fight and help them prosecute that fight as effectively as possible given their limitations.

          I did not say, nor did I mean to imply in any way that morality and ethics are irrelevant to the issue of UW. However, I will leave aside the moral and ethical dilemma you pose only because it would side track and dominate the rest of the conversation. If you would care to, you can get my email from SSD and we can talk about that at greater length and depth offline.

          My wife’s family was originally from the Philippines. Pilipino Guerrillas, in many cases advised by Americans, had considerable negative impact on Japanese operations on the islands. Despite the fact that the Japanese conducted ruthless reprisals on Philippine civilians in response.

          Those Guerrillas were not fighting for the U.S. but rather to drive an invader out of their country. Our mutual aims were clear and aligned and therefore our partnership was beneficial and contributed quite a bit to ultimate success. So, there are some positive examples that are worth considering.

          Still, to answer one of your questions, I have never, ever asked any partner to die for me or my cause. I have only asked them to die for their own causes.


          • Kirk says:

            I’m not intending to question the whole of UW, just the reasons why it demonstrably isn’t working for us as we desire. And, as I said, I’m convinced it comes down to the question of ideology.

            Look at the difference between the effectiveness of the VC/NVA complex, vs. the South Vietnamese. The VC and NVA had the quasi-religious fervor of the Communist convert to motivate and inform their forces. What the hell did we have to offer up, in opposition? The status quo?

            What we did, including in the realm of UW, did not work in Vietnam, it isn’t working in Afghanistan, and the reality is that we would need equally powerful ideological tools to really offer up a counter to either the fervent Communist, or the religiously-motivated jihadist. We don’t have those tools, and aren’t in any danger of developing them, either.

            Given this, I have to conclude that our vision of how UW can integrate into our military efforts is fundamentally flawed, and incapable of being fixed by any of us in uniform. As such, UW is not a viable pathway to engaging with these enemies, and is only going to cause us more grief in the long run.

            Hell, take a long, cold look at the actual French Resistance: Who were the most fervent, and engaged? Uhmmm… Yeah; the freakin’ Communists, mostly. The rest of the French were less than enthusiastic about actually, y’know… Doing anything. And, why? Ideology, mostly. Workaday Frenchmen were not particularly rabid about the anti-Nazi thing, now were they? How many collaborated? How many actually assisted the Nazis in finding Jews to deport to death camps, and then loot the property they left behind?

            In the grand historical sense, I don’t think that republican bourgeoisie nations such as ours are really ever going to be successful at doing the sort of ideological combat that nations such as the Soviets or the Republican French pulled off. We don’t have the necessary revolutionary fervor, and if you stop and look at the outcomes for the French and the Soviets both, the fervor simply doesn’t last. It’s like a fever that strikes, and then burns itself out like a forest fire–How many children of “committed Communist Party members” are today doing all they can to be good little capitalist exploiters as members of the Vietnamese and Chinese nomenklatura? Same thing has happened historically, when you look at the periodic boiling-over of the Islamic kettle; this generation’s fanatics become the next generation’s idle aristocracy, more concerned with their own comfort than with spreading the faith.

            I think that our overall strategy ought to be focused on what works, not what we’d like to work. What we’ve been doing, including our inept attempts at making UW “happen” in the absence of a motivating ideology? It doesn’t work. You wonder why the ARVN was so ineffectual, compared to the VC/NVA complex? Ideology. The ARVN was a status-quo, regime-supporting force, socially revanchist in nature. VC/NVA were quasi-religious revolutionaries, who motivated through attacking that same status quo, which wasn’t answering the mail for much of the Vietnamese populace. So, of course we eventually went down to defeat, because in no small part, we chose to engage on an ideological battlefield. Which we were manifestly not prepared for, or even cognizant of.

            What we should have done, I think, and what worked in Korea, was to insulate the the “zone of engagement”, and allow time for history and implication to set in. Had we done that, I’d wager long odds that South Vietnam would have followed the same eventual path that South Korea did, and North Vietnam would have wound up a stagnated economic backwater with a discredited regime and ideology, much like North Korea has today.

            I’m not interested in things that don’t work. Demonstrably, we’re horrible at nation building and the whole UW concept, these days. I think it’s way past time to go back and actually look at what did work, analyze why it worked, and then modify what we’re doing going forward. The use of SF for UW operations is, I am afraid, something that hasn’t worked the way we’ve been doing it. Maybe it can’t work, because we simply shouldn’t be engaging on that level, and should instead do what worked in South Korea and a few other places.

            I don’t think that anybody in SF are really bad folks, or incompetent; I just think that a lot of what we’ve been doing hasn’t been looked at or analyzed properly. The guys I’ve talked to who were SF UW proponents have all seemingly looked at the historical facts that support what they want to believe, and have signally ignored a lot of what doesn’t support those beliefs. I’ve yet to see any real analysis done by anyone for what happened to the Forest Brothers, and with regards to the post-WWII anti-Soviet resistance across much of Central and Eastern Europe. We know the bare outlines of that, and that the end for most of those guys came in the late 1950s. But… Little or no analysis of Soviet policy or doctrine for counter-partisan operations has seemingly gone on, and every time I’ve brought the subject up with a UW guy, the answer has been a certain staring off into the distance, and a change in the subject to something more congenial.

            Again, the long-term lack of an effective revolutionary ideology crippled those efforts; all they had to offer was a “We’re not the Communists…” set of things, and that wasn’t enough to pull in sufficient people to make UW become more than a death trap for the participants. You want to use UW, you have to do like the Partisans in Yugoslavia did, and have the ideological fervor which stems from actually having such a thing. Tito offered a future; his competitors basically were just offering more of the same old, same old.

            You want success at UW, I think you need to have a “sales tool” that’s more compelling than simply saying “Yeah, we’re not Communist/fundamentalist Islamic”. Otherwise, you’re going to be dealing with people on the other side who are far more motivated and switched-on than majority of who you can rally to your own cause.

            Which is why there was such a divergence between the performance of the ARVN and the VC/NVA complex back when, and why we see the same problems with the ANA vs. the Taliban. We don’t have to tools to create “true believers” in our cause, and I’m not sure that we can really fix that in any meaningful way.

            We are the bourgeoisie; the only thing that really motivates people in our direction is time, better lives, and a distaste for the manic-depressive monsters that come from revolutionary fervor. You have to wait for the monsters to discredit themselves at actually creating what they promised.

            I think it’s well past time we recognize that set of facts, and that we need to take an approach to all of this which doesn’t engage the enemy on ideological terrain which is inherently in their favor.

            And, because of that, I would suggest that UW as we’ve been implementing it is an ineffectual path for us to take. What has worked? Look at Greece, look at South Korea, and the Philippines: Isolation, and allowing the status quo to evolve naturally. Both Afghanistan and South Vietnam were difficult to isolate, and the inability we had in both cases to deal with the outside influences has resulted in what I’d sarcastically call “less than stellar results”.

            You want to use the tools of the revolutionary, you actually have to be a revolutionary. We’re not revolutionaries; we’re really the defenders of the status quo. The fascination we’ve had with the romantic revolutionary figures like Che Guevara and all the others, along with the fantasizing that we can somehow effectively emulate their appeal to the masses? That alone is a massive source of the problems we have dealing with the world as it is. And, I submit, that world is clearly not as we imagine it.

            • Terry Baldwin says:


              I have had long discussions about how to make UW work better. There are two successful models that I often refer to – both involving “true believers” as you say. One is the communist cadres you have mentioned. Those guys were often local zealots indoctrinated into the communist orthodoxy and sent back to convert or intimidate their neighbors.

              The other is the Catholic Church. Historically they were very aggressive about spreading their faith. They sent out priests to first recruit locals, indoctrinate those new agents, and then send them back. I suspect that the communists learned how to do it by copying that old-fashioned but very effective technique.

              Both examples worked in what later became known as the ink blot or ink spot method of insurgency / counterinsurgency. Starting small and expanding over time. If the cultural situation in the target country or social group is ripe with unrest over the status quo, this technique can substantially change a culture.

              However, both models are also based on embracing the long view. The very long view. Something our country and our military is not good at. We want those “quick fixes” but the real world tends to work differently than we would wish. We do not need to be the revolutionaries or zealots, we just have to find – or make – some that will work with us. And they have to be in it for the long haul.

              I am told that the VC had an operations order format that was not much different than ours. But they had one additional paragraph at the end. It was entitled “Celebrate Inevitable Victory.” The outcome of any single battle was of no consequence. Win or lose they were committed to the fight to the end.

              As you say, it is difficult to generate that kind of dedication from soldiers who serve leaders and a government they do not trust or feel any real obligation to defend. I acknowledge that is a challenge that is very difficult to overcome. But it is not impossible.

              I do not think that avoiding a fight because we are “not good at it” or because it is “too hard” is a viable option. Like the communists – especially the Soviets – during the Cold War, it is a metaphysical certainty that Radical Jihadist will come to kill us. We may be tired of fighting them but they are not tired of fighting us.

              Prodding, energizing and supporting locals to fight – no matter how imperfect that process – helps mitigate some of that risk. Whether that looks like FID or UW or some hybrid does not matter as much as keeping as much pressure as possible on a sometimes nebulous unconventional threat.


              • Kirk says:

                My main objection is that the way we’re trying to do it just doesn’t work. The Jesuits had a plan, and worked their plan; we don’t have an equivalent. We don’t have a set of ideological Jesuits available, and because we don’t, we’re basically not equipped to participate in this sort of engagement.

                And, when you don’t have the capacity, you need to acknowledge that fact, and then find a way around the problem. You could do that by creating ourselves some Jesuits, but the likelihood of that in our sadly diminished era? Minimal. Hell, most of the institutions that would help us with doing such a thing are suborned and corrupted past any easy redemption.

                So, that means that we need to figure out another path to take, acknowledging our deficiencies. Never engage the enemy on his strong ground. The question is, what potential areas of strength do we have, that would enable us to engage where we have the high ground?

                When you have a weakness, it does no good to ignore it; you have to acknowledge it openly, deal with it, and then adapt and overcome. What the hell that would look like, in this arena? I have no idea. But, I’m very certain that our attempts to engage in UW in the same fashion as the revolutionary Communist or Islamist movements did is a fundamentally erroneous approach–You can’t just gin up the necessary revolutionary fervor to counter those sorts of fanatics without an equally seductive opposing ideology. The early incursions by the Islamic world met with equally fervent Christian belief systems, and without that same sort of dedication to defending our ideals, well… We’re in a bit of trouble, so long as we try to do the same things our enemies do to us. Tit for tat isn’t workable; you need to take another approach, along an axis where the enemy is weak.

                We are in an ideological fight, not a strictly military one. The root problem is that we refuse to admit this, and further refuse to acknowledge the implications. With regards to the fight in Afghanistan, the facts are that we’re never going to have the same motivational force that the Taliban can muster, mostly because we refuse to grasp for the same tools that they use.

                What we really needed to do was approach this fight with the very same tools the enemy uses to recruit and motivate fighters–Religion. But, because we’re cynical secularists, that option was never on the table. We needed to find our own mullahs, who would oppose the enemy’s religion-based ideology with an equivalent ideology of our own, based in culturally appropriate terms for the Afghani population we were appealing to.

                Unfortunately, that just isn’t happening, for a multitude of reasons. So… We need to find another approach. What the hell that might be, I don’t know. I’m not a smart man, but I know we have some out there, on our side, and they need to start looking at doing things other than the way we’ve been doing them. It didn’t work in Vietnam, or with a whole other swathe of similar Communist movements. Acknowledgement of that fact, and a rational response to it is far past due.

                • Terry Baldwin says:


                  I am largely in agreement with you analysis of the problem.

                  We managed to wage the Cold War with the requisite fervor for decades. Our faith in our political system against their faith in the communist system. Fortunately, that meant that we were dealing with a generally symmetrical challenge. Alliances against Alliances, nation states against nation states, political ideologies, conventional and nuclear forces against similar counterparts.

                  Moreover, the fact that the Soviets also represented an existential threat lent the necessary urgency and clarity to the threat assessment. It was easy to see all aspects of the threat and therefore the logical countermeasures were fairly obvious. The good old days.

                  Despite 9/11 we have still not articulated a logical strategy a la “containment” that would work against the Radical Jihadist threat. Of course, the fact that the problem is now asymmetrical makes it a more complicated problem set to solve. However, I reject any notion that it is impossible.

                  Our current tactics have been described as “wack a mole.” There is some truth to that, but I think that the situation is more analogous to what firefights deal with in the Western U.S.

                  They rush to each site of a fire, battle it into submission locally, and then wait for the next fire to break out. That obviously does some good; but it addresses just one component of a larger problem and is only one element of a potentially effective solution set.

                  What is not there is the strategy to eventually make those fires less likely and – at the very least -easier to contain when they do break out. In other words, we can beat Daesh or any other Jihadist threat handily enough – when and if they choose to expose themselves. By definition that always cedes the initiative to them.

                  We are simply not taking effective steps to reduce the likelihood of that eventuality and take back the initiative from them. In terms of military tasks, I would again say that UW and / or FID can be one essential element of that solution but has to be linked to other elements of National Power working in concert. That has not happened yet.


                • Steve says:

                  Maybe if we outfitted our G’s with lafette tripods…

    • miclo18d says:

      Interesting view. You didn’t mention any of the modern conflicts Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria. I’m not saying we were conducting UW, but guess who was leading the fight? It wasn’t the base guarding regular army. It wasn’t “black” SOF. It was the ODAs with indigenous units taking the fight where ever we could find them. When SF got into a fight the regular army guys were looking to us to lead them into battle.

      Everyone else was too busy standing in line at Tim Hortons.

      • Kirk says:

        Which wasn’t a choice made by those troops, either. You want to blame the right people for that whole issue, you need to talk to the ones who were making the decisions that prioritized a Tim Horton’s over, say, defining and working towards what “victory” would have looked like.

        The troops are gonna do what you tell them to. Idle them on a FOB that you make look as “stateside” as possible, and then they’re gonna go to Timmy’s… That you provided them.

        You may want to blame the line dogs, but the root of the problem you’re getting at is not in their lane; it’s in the command/control piece that’s way up higher, and goes all the way up to the Presidential and Congressional levels.

        I would also argue that you’re not wrong, either. I don’t think that what the powers-that-were back in those years were doing the right thing, at all. We have not prosecuted this war properly, at all–From the fundamentals on up.

        It is my highly opinionated conclusion, after observing everything that I’ve seen, that what we should have done was a punitive expedition into Afghanistan, followed by turning every office of the ISI into a crater and demanding that the Pakistani government turn over the survivors for war crimes trials. We fundamentally screwed up, when it came to identifying the real enemy and their center of gravity. All this time we’ve been fighting the Taliban and others inside Afghanistan, the real enemy has always been the ISI and their sympathizers/enablers in the Pakistani government.

        • NiOe says:

          And the Saudis, the ones who funded and resourced it all.

          • Kirk says:

            Totally agreed. Both the ISI and elements of the Saudi government had to have been both knowledgeable and participating before 9/11 ever happened–Or, most of the 15 Saudi-citizen hijackers wouldn’t have been able to come to the US with clean passports and vetted background checks for their visas.

            I get why G.W. Bush did what he did–He was trying for an indirect approach, one that wouldn’t risk killing billions. The dislocations in the world oil economy would have led to untold suffering out in the Third World, and the ISI had to be regarded as a potential threat to India, with Paki nukes to play with. They wouldn’t have gone down quietly, and delivering righteous vengeance to the ISI might well have resulted in a lot of dead Indians and innocent Pakistanis, after their nuclear exchange. So… Yeah. My calculus might have worked out the same as his did, and my choices afterwards might have been no different. The indirect approach, through Iraq and taking away the jihadi playground in Afghanistan…? Well, that was a lower-risk option.

            If that was the reasoning, I just wish he’d had the balls to spell it out publicly, as distasteful as it would have been. That way, the traitors in our Democratic Party would have found it harder to attack him and undo the attempt he was making, which would realistically require staying in both countries at least as long as we did in Germany and Japan…

      • BoneCrusher6 says:

        Certainly don’t want to turn this into an inter/intra-service pissing match, but way to invalidate the decades of combat deployments and sacrifices by millions of “regular” Army folks.

        In 2008-2009, there were only about 30k “regular” Army folks in A-stan. I spent the year only crossing paths with the SF guys one time, yet we were in contact, on average, 1-4 times a day. You can imagine how difficult it was for us to close with and destroy the enemy without an ODA there to lead us into battle!

        The nametape on the left breast is the same for everyone, regardless of MOS, unit, etc. Like Attack7 said above, there’s only “military right.” The “special and different” mentality is a dangerous fallacy, and in a combat environment, it’s usually one other people have to spend years fixing after you leave.

      • Attack7 says:

        Where was SF leading conv into combat?

        The immaturity comparing yourselves to conventional forces is the very thing CSM Hall mentioned in his USASOC email to all leaders within the command back in 2005.

        If you were being begged to be led into combat, isn’t that your role as this International Drill Sergeant to then not only teach the Indigs, but to also teach your fellow Soldier ‘how to’ with the ease and enthusiasm of a big brother? What I saw too many times was the mentality you have, the us vs them mentality. This is what most of my subordinates on Lamont Road despise about the SF of today, this immaturity that Ni0e mentioned at the beginning of the comments page.

        What can fix it, proper military leadership. GEN Miller says it all the time. You can be different, but military leadership and the correct culture works!

  7. Post SWCS SF guy says:

    Kirk, your words echo a lot of what goes on in my head. Especially in relation to the Kurds in Syria, in light of recent foreign policy tweets from this month. Hmongs all over.

    TLB, I found your article quite interestingly timed, considering the recent events at the school house. There is a cabal of those who wish to dismantle, again.

  8. Ernie says:

    I can state from personal experience as a fairly senior USAF officer with broad, direct involvement in AF-wide planning in the Pentagon during the last half of the ’90s that the BS you described was not limited to the Army and was directly influenced (or directed) by the most senior minions of the Clintons. Roughly analogous BS also went on the AF regarding missions and equipment.

    Also recall that flag officers and bird colonels from 1992 on were promoted to a significant degree based on their willingness (sometimes eagerness) to implement the Clinton’s anti-military, reduced-military-capabilities intentions.

    Obviously I’m not qualified to comment on the Army’s/SF’s issues of the time; my only two points are that it’s highly likely the nonsense you describe was at least to some degree a result of the Clinton White House’s direct or indirect involvement. I experienced it first hand in the Air Force.

    • Terry Baldwin says:


      I obviously have less than positive opinions of the SWCS leaders I was talking about in this case. I don’t know if any one of them was a Clinton supporter. I kind of doubt it. Besides, this “initiative” really picked up momentum in 2001 and G. Bush was the President by then.