Special Operations night Afghanistan size0-army.mil-80009-2010-07-14-060748WASHINGTON: The future of Special Operations Forces may look less like Zero Dark Thirty and more like Lawrence of Arabia or Rudyard Kipling’s Kim – with just a dash of 007. It’s a future that builds on the last ten years of raids and advisor missions, then adds solo operators in foreign lands, proxy wars with nuclear-armed rogue states, and stealth aircraft infiltrating commando teams to sabotage high-tech defenses.


That’s the vision from the influential Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments which rolled out a study on the future of SOF, “Beyond the Ramparts,” this morning. CSBA is arguably the Pentagon’s favorite thinktank, and its briefing in Congress’s Rayburn Office Building was headlined by House Armed Services Vice-Chairman Mac Thornberry, who’s pushed for new legal authorities for SOF, and Garry Reid, deputy to Michael Sheehan, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and low Intensity Conflict. The meat of the presentation, though, came in co-authors Jim Thomas’ and Chris Dougherty’s distillation of their 144-page report.


What’s counterintuitive about Special Operations nowadays is how much its biggest backers try to deglamorize it and even make it a little boring. (Hint: It’s not). Admittedly, in real life, as opposed to movies, a lot of special ops is long slogs through the dust to distant villages, whether to gather intelligence on a “high value target” or to train local militia. It’s not all jumping out of helicopters and kicking down doors. (Unless you’re an Army Ranger: Those are generally younger, less experienced commandos with less language and culture training who spend almost all their time on “kinetic” missions, which they think is awesome).


So Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that got Bin Laden and is himself a Navy SEAL, likes to talk of SOF rebalancing, reducing the last decades’ emphasis on strike missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and instead reemphasizing its traditional training and advising role around the world, although SOF has always done a lot of both. McRaven’s top priorities are strengthening the regional SOF headquarters known as “Theater Special Operations Commands” – which some insiders see as a power grab at the expense of conventional-force commanders – and building relationships with friendly special operators from Colombia to Poland to Australia.


McRaven’s personal favorite pundit, Linda Robinson, adds a recommendation of more personnel management authority for SOCOM. Mac Thornberry and HASC’s top Democrat, Adam Smith, are examining new, streamlined legal authorities for worldwide special ops beyond the patchwork of narrowly focused powers created after 9/11. And all the services, both special and conventional, are looking hard at “counter-WMD,” the high-stakes task of securing weapons of mass destruction in failing states, from Syrian chemicals to, potentially,  Pakistani or North Korean nukes.


CSBA’s study, “Beyond the Ramparts,” reiterated most of these important, sober recommendations, but it added some intriguing wrinkles of its own. It agrees Special Operators need to emphasize training and advising friendly forces to fight al-Qaeda spin-offs, narco-terrorists, and the like. But it adds they must also “regain their readiness for major wars” against sophisticated nation-states such as China or, to a lesser degree, Iran, whose multi-layered “anti-access/area denial” networks of sensors and long-range missiles will keep conventional forces at bay – at least until cyber-attacks and SOF infiltrators can sabotage the A2/AD system. This is where those stealth transports come in, as well as “identity-masking technologies” to deceive biometric scanners that compare an individual’s facial features to a database of suspects.


What’s more, CSBA predicts that as A2/AD defenses proliferate, as well as nuclear weapons, regional powers will stalemate the U.S. and one another in the conventional arena. That stalemate, they said, will displace head-on conflict into a new era of proxy warfare. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds force, the authors noted, are arguably doing this already with their support for the Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon.


In an endearing display of nerdity, lead author Jim Thomas’s choice of historical analogy was not how nuclear-armed superpowers resorted to proxy conflicts during the Cold War but how Great Britain and France spent much of their effort fighting in their far-flung colonies, not in Europe, during the Seven Years’ War – which most Americans know as the French and Indian War anyway. His second analogy was the 19th century “Great Game” between the British and Russian Empires in the regions now known as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.


In remote regions beyond either Russian or British ability to project large conventional forces, open and covert agents dueled for influence over local potentates. That conflict required highly independent operators with the linguistic and cultural skills to immerse themselves among a foreign people for years. Translated from the Great Game into modern terms, said Thomas, that requires SOF to be able operate in “very small teams, smaller than an Operational Detachment-Alpha,” the 12-man unit, aka an A-Team, that is the traditional building block of Special Operations.


Potentially, Thomas said, you could go “down to single operators of the T.E. Lawrence/Lawrence of Arabia variety, where one man or one woman parked in one location can persistently engage and have a strategic impact,” mobilizing or assistance local forces to assist America’s strategic aims, much as Lawrence aided the Arab Revolt against Britain’s enemy, Ottoman Turkey.


Such operations require a new breed of special operator. “It’s not someone with a different haircut,” Thomas said. “It’s coming up with essentially a new career plan for them, where the goal may not be a group command in either the SEAL or the Special Forces community… It could be spending most of their military career devoted to a single country….going back again and again.”


“Until recently, this would have been considered a career killer,” Thomas noted: The force will need new incentives and promotion criteria to make it work.


Finally, he said, Special Operations will need to recruit differently, including from first-generation immigrants who know the language and culture of their home country. Today, he said, SOF are “overwhelmingly Caucasian and almost exclusively male.” They don’t blend in a lot of places. To prepare for a new era, Special Operations needs to take full advantage of America’s diversity.


Edited 2:15 pm



  • Carter

    Are we not seeing something similar with the Af-Pak Hands program (also labeled a career killer for officers)?

  • Thatguy96

    “…that requires SOF to be able operate in “very small teams, smaller than
    an Operational Detachment-Alpha,” the 12-man unit, aka an A-Team, that
    is the traditional building block of Special Operations.”

    Which has only been happening since Special Forces were created and likely by its predecessor units. This is nothing knew. The 12-man ODA structure, which has persisted for half a century now, is specifically designed to be broken in half if required. The use of 6-man teams and smaller to act in an advisory capacity has been common in unconventional warfare from its earliest formalized origins in the previous century. This is hardly new.

  • Mike

    SF are mostly trained to go into areas and work with the locals to bring about needed ,military offensive and defensive operations… They assimilate into the local population, look like them and behave like them and speak the local languages… They become as one with the local populations…. Had the Russians come through the Fulda Gap between the 1960’s and 1987, dozens of SF A-Teams would have dropped behind the Russians with tons of fighting supplies to cut off the Russian supply of munitions, water fuel and food. Those teams would speak the local languages and know the local customs. They would have organized local guerrilla bands and very effectively starved the Russians before they got to the interior of France..

    .Rangers and Seals on the other hand, are trained to act alone to carry out convectional and unconventional operations against an enemy on a platoon or company level….

    All three are very effective and all three have some of our best, brightest and toughest soldiers……

    • Lop_Eared_Galoot


      I would offer that the Allied SOE experiences of sending agents into SS/SD controlled Eastern Europe in WWII was less than inspirational.

      That said, Europeans going into European areas stultified by decades of living under ‘everyone is equal, some more than others’ Communist rule would be akin to Santa Claus showing up at an orphanage, especially if they brought little black duffels stuffed with cash like they usually do.

      The exception to the rule being the certainty (of Desert Storm experience) that a Russian armored force which outnumbered NATO,10:1 and had 40 years to prepare to use the excellent German road network would hardly take much longer than the 72hrs we did in 1991 from leap off to a finished fight from the barren wastes of the Saudi Empty Quarter.

      Nobody wants to help the losers and nobody wants to exacerbate a war long since passed Westwards by rear area partisan actions which brought on police state retaliatory consequences at home.

      Anymore than they would willingly accept escalation of battle towards threshold release of theater nuclear forces. ‘Tons of fighting supplies’ may or may not arrive in time and will not include the weapons which would defeat main-force threats.

      In this, I believe the author makes key mistakes in going even further back in time because this is not an era where WE are the magical creatures from ‘beyond the Khyber’. The whole world knows us. They have our technology and so cannot be bought off by cheap trinkets. And they -still- have to live with the ‘everyone knows it was you’ consequences of aiding outsiders in lands where Islam rules with some pretty draconian punishments for apostate traitors to the faith.

      I do not trust local talent, they are tainted by the very experiences as culture doping which give them an edge.

      I also do not trust those who let themselves go native to the point where they are more comfortable (empowered) ‘acting as lone representatives’ of our interests, where they are at.

      If I wanted to do any or all of the above, I would use Farm trained CIA.

      We should be very wary of assigning so much power to SOF that they become a bureaucracy of their own with ‘Commands’ separate from and thus forcibly infrastructured towards, self-autonomy. People with power tend to become money grubbing, influence peddling, pushers in the maintenance of same. What makes SOCOM a magical, apolitical, place to be for the moment is that they are pragmatic and humble.

      Once upon a time SOF themselves knew this and questioned the utility
      of sending in fighting forces as ‘Engagement’ Teams (then under the
      local theater COMCINCs) when they were simply teaching brutal killers to
      be more efficient in their slaughter.

      It may well be that we need to determine how much cross-cultural interdependence, on a global scale, we want to have with with nation states whose societal philosophies are not our own. In this, assigning more power to SOF is akin to someone seeking job insurance through night courses at the local community college. How much you gain vs. how much you get back is questionable. America is on a slippery slope towards a long backslide as our debt driven economy crumbles and our Founder population ethnic dominance is lost. I would suggest that a build down from our present position rather than a vain attempt to retain influence at current power levels is in order.

      OTOH, if you want to nation build on a global, OWG, level, you need to create force structures to support the activity as a division sized Peace Corps on mechanized steroids, to do _just that_.

      If you don’t want a 20 year investment with people you can’t stand (or who don’t really like you) akin to getting a woman pregnant, it is probably better not to commit with an organizational body which is instead coming from a school of dirty tricks as much a diplomatic embassy.

      The mindset as much as skillset just isn’t right for the mission.

      While the question of ethnic commitment to the level of discipline that the SOF requires of it’s recruits is a definitely there as a ‘caucasian thing’, the fact remains that if you want to do business in parts of the world where a white face is counterproductive, you are better off going with unacknowledged mercenary units on contract callup with a PMF intermediary.

      These units -are- ‘kinetic’ but they are also deniable. Which is something else that celebrity status JSOC is rapidly losing it’s protective cloak of anonymity on. If a president perceives a ‘Clear and Present Danger’ he is NOT going to go to SOCOM first but to the CIA who recruit and handle these kinds of units and the ex-military people who cadre` them.

      If SOCOM wants a retirement plan wherein they can quit when their knees go and make twice as much money as ‘consultants’, then that is the route to take. We have enough uniformed hands reaching into the budget kitty as is.

    • Mike

      Have you ever “been there done that”? Who in God’s name do you think makes up the majority of CIA “boots on the ground” other than prior SOF? Certainly not the desk riding analytic prep boys from Princeton, Harvard and Yale! What you might find interesting is that “poor boys” from all over the world tend to understand each other one hell of a lot better than those of the “upper classes”. Who the hell do you think ALWAYS does all the death and dying?

      The United States SOF training center is by far one of the best in the world. Nowhere else are people so well trained that they can blend into the local populate and live as they do while knowing the customs and speaking the language……

      In closing, one hell of a lot of big wars would have never happened had the use of SOF been perpetrated early .. Sadly, it is long overdue when our boys are inserted because the desk riding analytic boys from the CIA failed to understand the long range problems before they were obvious to everyone…

      In my opinion, if CIA has a weakness, it is in the analytic area where more than a few of the very brightest of the SOF injured should be riding desks and making real world decisions because of their experience and exposure, which incidentally, is incredibly insightful

      • Lop_Eared_Galoot

        In _Kill Bin Laden_ and _No Easy Day_ there is a huge split between even the field agents and the Teams appraisals of what’s real and what ain’t (‘Flowing White Robes’).

        Some of the CIA guys turned out to be right ontop of things when it came to profile evaluations of Afghan warlord and tribal dispositions.

        But from the fact that they had to be introduced to the Delta commander who was assigned to help these Afghanis roll back Tora Bora, in pursuit of his own targeted assassination mission; I would say that, at least in this instance, they were strangers.

        One of the ‘translators’ was said to be an ex-Marine as if that made him ‘almost worth talking to’.

        Added to the fact that, read-between-the-lines, the Afghani’s intentionally sabotaged our efforts to push into the hills and get UBL before he got out over the passes into Pakistan and ‘nobody had a clue how to convince them of the urgency of the situation’ (the excuse was they they were afraid our snake eaters would get hurt…awwwwh), I would say that if these in-country field agents were all ex-whatever from the community, they did a frighteningly bad job of translating prior work experience to mission needing accomplishment at hand.

        Maybe because what they had been taught didn’t apply as much as you seem to think it does. Maybe because they were not SOCOM at all.

        I have nothing against SpecWar. I think that they may well be the blackjack we need for a lot of targets where a caveman club might be a little too overbearing.

        But I do not see them shifting to adapt their small unit warfare tactics to hitting bigger targets in a manner that counts. Which both limits their utility in the Pacific Pivot against littoral Near Peers and makes it questionable that they understand that we are not there to ‘understand’ the plight of locals.

        But rather to accomplish a specific and limited range of foreign policy objectives which preclude anything but gloss over treatment of local issues.

        Since the Special Forces exist (survive) based on the relationship they have with the snake, teaching it to be their friend, this compromising of their principle engagement as stabilization function is hazardous to their health and to their ability to do the things they -can- accomplish, through mounted kinetics, in a high intensity environment where they are **politically viable** as fundable.

        As for the rest of the article, I remember reading a book, _Shadow Wars_ I think it was, by a female author who spent time on the ground in the Balkans, the Kurdish Protectorate and in Africa, with the teams in their forward compounds.

        Her descriptions of things like U.S. hookups with various other-nation SpecWar communities were already ongoing at the time I was reading, in 1998 or so and her description of the use of SOF as replacements for nation building was something that disgusted the operators because they KNEW that they did not have the resources to be ‘building capacity’.

        So half of what is said above is _nothing new_ and must therefore be taken as standard broadhead pontification.

        What is new is that there is apparently no longer a Team assigned to each theater Command CINC to serve as his personal trouble shooters in keeping the lid on regions which we don’t want to pay attention to that particular month, year or decade.

        Instead, we have the standup of indvidual, regional, (i.e. separate chain of command as political stovepiping) JSOC HQs. Which smacks of separate-funding-line politics as redundant command hierarchies.

        As soon as you are more about the organizational chart than the mission, you become nothing more than a strap hanger.

        SOCOM has never been afraid of the night but they are heading down a very dark road away from their nation’s interests I’m afraid.

  • Lop_Eared_Galoot

    In 2006, Hezbollah launched a cross border raid to snatch and grab a couple Israelis for the standard bit of kidnap, torture and humiliation that is how you lash out at a threat you cannot defeat, militarily.

    The IDF mounted an ’emergency’ (24hrs too late) counter raid as external to cut off lines of escape and get their people back. They went into a prepared defense along a narrow choke lane with look down threats all around them and no security screen as Aufrollen protection. Predictably, they and the Chariots they rolled in on got bogged down and stalled in place.

    At the same time, the Hezbollah made a political statement, making it seem like the Israelis were the aggressors who ‘earned’ a subsequent multi day rocket bombardment of their cities and specifically that IDF could not defend their populations from a war of their own making.

    IDFAF promised a rapid solution and could not even find the rocket launchers, being reduced to a more conventional campaign which made them no friends among the Lebanese population.

    It finally took Israeli Commandos ‘visiting a certain house’ in Northern Lebanon, to put a stop to this nonsense by pulling the knight move in jumping beyond the linear battlefield and killing a personality of interest.

    But that is where the innovation stopped. Because they did it the same old way, coming in via helo and do a patrol into the target, on foot. In this, they were hardly masters of the high tech battlefield (no Trophy on the Merkava to defeat old AT-4 Spigot, no advanced mission capabilities to strike targets without having to walk up on them, limited mobility beyond the insertion point, limited ability to create multipoint assault vectors on ‘suspected enemy rocket positions’ in civilian-dense areas without committing ground forces.)

    All of which screams at me that BEFORE we commit more money to making SOCOM just another vested interest in the Defense Pie Chart budgetary arena; we need to make sure that they are ready for a Hybrid War in which their chief characteristic is rapid response into a limited intelligence condition with enough survivability that they are not instantly made into another Operation Redwing example of obsolescent tactics as ‘exampled’ targets.

    That we don’t seem to have much in the way of innovative (who’s who, where to get them, what they fight for) corporate knowledge base as to what’s really going on in Syria tells me that we are shy of some necessary technical solutions in getting this.

    Nobody walks to the sound of gunfire. Because that slows your tempo down, limits your light-is-right ammo load and forces you to engage threats you would otherwise normally bypass or blocking force shove off in pursuit of a gap. See: Neptune’s Spear as the landing noisy helicopters on UBLs compound rather than make a safe = silent approach from a couple miles away through civilian neighborhoods. Why are our SpecWar forces not routinely riding in Gator golf carts when the CH-47 and CH-53 can both carry six or eight of these vehicles internally? Why are they still taking target sites by direct entry when they could be using VLS SPIKE missiles to put shots into them from afar? Why are we not investing more in MULE/CRUSHER style automation so that we can ‘crash parties’ with LRDG gun-truck equivalent, UGCV and force the enemy into responding to OUR thrusts without putting troops in the line of fire?

    I think it has a lot to do with ‘personalism’. You can’t read a single book on the Teams without hearing the equivalent of humble pie as closet pride:

    “There were times I was in it just until lunch. Come on body, just get me through to lunch.”

    This variation of the wanna-be-the-best-I-can-be idealism is noble but it is also foolish. Because if you are giving 110% to get the job done and then things /get harder/ you have no reserves and are exposed to whatever the attrition laws say you deserve from a given weapons effect. Such is NOT how discretionary warfare is best done.

    And it’s getting worse. The NSOC dismissed the 179ft PC-1 Cyclone as ‘too big’ for their mission set. So twenty years later they are getting the 418ft LCS instead.

    Which is alright because it has a big helo deck and lots of mission bay space as the ability to bunk a large insertion force. Except, wait up, is that what you want? Do you want to roll hot into some country with a full squadron or company sized SOF element?

    Never mind, we can only put 2 V-22 or S-92 on deck anyway so that limits us.

    What about integral fire support? Well, you’ve got the A-160 and the MQ-8 with APKWS and Griffin. Neither of which can keep up with the transports they are designed to escort and neither of which can hold at a useful radius and neither of which can -ever- leave the trashfire envelope where they are vulnerable to everything up to and including tossed rocks.

    Which is okay because both of those programs are now officially sequestered on their way to cancellation. Which means that any trouble you run into has to be dealt with by two AGM-114 and a door gunner with an M240. While the SOF troops are still onboard.


    We don’t have Netfires so we can’t reach more than a few hundred yards beyond the beach to support our forces in coastal marine boundary where 73% of the world’s population live.

    We don’t have direct escort platforms organic to the SpecWar support/delivery system.

    They cannot drive to the fight and thus they cannot carry the kinds of heavy standoff weapons that even enemy amateurs used to blow up Israeli Saar-5 gunboats with.

    I am /wondering/ what kind of ‘high tech hybrid’ war we intend to fight with a Robin Hood mentality of footborne shooters.

    For SOCOM to enter into a new world means acknowledging that they have to do things other forces cannot do, not necessarily as a capabilities set but rather simply because they are -there- where conventional units cannot base in.

    That means developing a high tech list of capabilities that looks decidedly more mechanized even as it is organic to the Teams than is now the case.

    It took our principle enemies 30+ years to learn that RPG vs. Airpower is a hair, teeth and eyeballs outcome. 10+ years of fighting us in the mountains of AfG and the deserts of Iraq has similarly inculcated in them the certainty that at least our SOF are also quite skilled warriors.

    And as their learning curve steepens, so does their competencies. Which means that we will be ‘seeing’ less and less of them as direct combatant threats. Rather, they will try to slip past us on a fluid battle space where sorting sheep from goats is all but impossible because /even the sheep/ don’t like us.

    Our only advantages will be persistence and low profile. As the ability to employ cheap overhead (hand launched UAV) and long range strike to find targets without going door to door and -hit them- without coming to direct fires range.

    It is exactly that kind of ability which we could surely use to leverage the Syrian rebels right now. If only we didn’t have a specops community dedicated to SUW as a personal rather than organizational expression of best-of-the-best.

    Because the manned shooter is a risk to the strategies he is there to enforce as a foreign policy tool of the United States government. The moment he has to use his personal combat skills, he has -failed- to stay a proactive player on a larger level.

    And that is why ‘From The Ramparts’ doesn’t go halfway towards explaining the future of the discretionary warfare community after SWA. Because it may not be the same force at all.

    • Mike

      Now you are talking a different war approach…..Nobody does it better than the Israelis… You might want to sit and watch what happens with Iran now that Putin has decided not to supply those anti-aircraft missiles…

      Luckily, huge gas fields have been found off of the coast of Israel… And now money talks as Putin does not want Israel selling to Europe at much lower prices than the Russians.

      Top that off with Obama’s feeling about how the “Arab Spring” has brought the Muslim Brotherhood into power rather than secular Islamic governments…. Israel has long had a shopping list of needed weapons systems… Looks to me like that shopping list is going to get filled…

      When you consider that the majority of Islamic terrorism is being funded by Iran and Iran is now quickly trying to build nuclear weapons, what do you figure Iran’s future is now going to be?

      • Lop_Eared_Galoot

        SIr, I am not a big fan of the Israelis.

        I would be the first to tell you that the Arabs are no better but I do not like the reasoning by which what happened to the Jewish people in 1934-45 somehow justifies what Israel did to secure her own Lebensraum in 1948. The Palestinian Arabs were dispossessed for the crimes, not of the Nazis but of the Romans and I don’t see much point in carrying over a Right Of Return for 2,000 years if the Palestinians cannot do so after 60.

        IMO, it is furthermore _not our business_ to prop up a failed state with 2 billion a year in FMS credits and another 10+ in under the table (forced) industrial contracts guarantees which our own companies are not allowed to fairly compete for.

        I wish I could tell you how many billions more are laundered through charities and hedge funds as Israel uses deep contacts in the U.S. finance industry to play the currency markets through bonds and short term loans.

        I can say that some 242 billion a year in GDP doesn’t buy you a first-world class airforce and a modern society on the amount of useful land as industrial potential Israel has to work with. She will NEVER stand on her own and that makes us accomplices to her landgrab. Forever.

        I resent this. A lot.

        If it wasn’t right when we did it to the Native Americans, it’s not right now…

        Beyond which, I do not expect Israel’s shopping list to be filled anymore than I expect major programs like JSF to survive what amounts to a massive debt relief effort (too little, too late) to sell to the IDFAF at 50% discount for no real participation in the earlier R&D tier-1 program effort. To expect ‘special treament’ with no contribution is typical of Israeli expectations of their relationship with us and is such hubris on their part.

        Having said this, I believe that the entire Arab Spring is, in fact, one last gift to the Israelis by the CIA ‘doing what they do best’ as coup de tat overthrow of what were largely stable regimes and I agree with you that the replacement of them by amateur hour revolutionary college kids with only Fundamentalist Sharia driven conops for a new government is going to backfire in all our faces, creating massively despotic, intolerant and violent follow-on cascades into anarchy.

        Such as Egypt is even now enduring.

        What more can we expect given the profound influence of a warrior religion whose Haditha and Koran both read like they were written by the same author as _The Anarchist’s Cookbook_? These people were not ready to enter the 21st century.

        Unfortunately, I also believe that we are done, as a nation and a world power. It is only going to be a few more years before oil stops being traded in USD and the end of that ‘black gold standard’ will leave the world saturated with uselessly overeased dollars to the point where you won’t be able to pay for a loaf of bread for the price you used to buy the refrigerator to put it in.

        Our solution will be similar to that of Stresseman in 1925 at Locarno; restarting the country on a new currency which is -massively- devalued and putting our standard of living back closer to the 1800s than the 1900s.

        This alone will make the support of our military industrial base impossible and demand the demobilization of vast numbers of untrainable, undeployable, troops essential as raw labor in an American commercial market which has much more in common with horse and buggy level sustainment of basic food production.

        When all of this happens, China will normalize her currency, decoupling it from the USD and interest rates will no longer be suppressible by The Fed to effectively 0-1% levels. Overnight you will see 3-4% and within a year 9-11%.

        Which will make our ‘interest free for the first sixty years’ social welfare state debt unpayable.

        China will surge ahead to world dominance, buying up our bad commodities certificates as leveraged purchasing credits from her enormous, civilian dominated, production market.

        And among those she first extends her hand to will be outcast nations like Iran who will eagerly sell their oil in Renmimbi.

        It is because of this and the Chinese wisdom inherent to: “The strong dragon watches from the mountaintop while the Two Tigers fight on the slopes beneath…” understanding of what a client state is for that you see such a strong Korean/Chinese/Iranian/Pakistani cooperation under the table on nuclear systems.

        This is ‘safe’ for China because Iran doesn’t want nukes to bombard Europe or the U.S. with her Al Shahab missiles. That would be suicide. She wants them to hostage her own territory against any direct intervention. i.e. To raze her own earth (and possibly Israel’s) in defense of her FREE RIGHT to sell oil in whatever currency she chooses to. Whether that breaks our trading monopoly or not.

        We don’t like that and so we supply Israel with weapons and a false justification (Iran already -has- nuclear weapons, she just doesn’t have the Chinese supplied triggers or bus systems installed on suitable delivery vehicles to use them) to attack.

        In this, were I an Israeli citizen, I would be mightily irritated with my government for being such willing dupes as pitbulls for the follies of U.S. oil economics.

        The problem with attacking the Iranian nuclear industry being that they, unlike the Iraqis and Syrians who were a bunch of rednecks with their quick-step breeder reactor facility purchases, are a very professional bunch who took the time to develop their own nuclear industry from the engineering ground level up.

        And now can fabricate anything they need using home industry to avoid export safeguards. Add to this that they are quite clever in the hiding of their shadow vs. declared nuclear industry as dispersed sub facilities so that even if we wanted to make a ‘good show of it’ our false motives (see what happened to Saddam when he threatened to try and sell in other than USD in 2001); neither we nor the Israelis could, in a single raid of some 900nm radius, put any real dent in the Iranian’s dispersed centrifuge based refinement systems.

        What we WOULD succeed in doing is rousing all of Islam as our enemy, making the second and third and twentieth return trips all but impossible, thanks to the flood of advanced aircraft (Mirage 2000-09 and F-16E/F to name but two) which we have already sold to the nations which lie between any ‘coalition of the willing’ and our targets.

        Can we come from outside the region as to say Whiteman or Diego? Sure.

        But again, the experts like Timmerman out there say that there is a 50:50 chance that Iran already -has- nuclear weapons, and have done so since at least 2005 when his book was published.

        They are simply disasembled to component level to protect them from ‘letter of the law’ violating IAEA’s prohibitions.

        Bomb Iran just once and even that basic level of oversight will be lost as those weapons come together in a hurry and are USED in backpack fashion, wherever the Iranians perceive an anti-access weakness in our PG presence.

        And that would be only the beginning as these weapons will be assembled into forms whose economic warfare applications we may not like. When Iran started dropping mines outside the Gates of Hormuz, Lloyds put a stop to the first Gulf War which had raged for nearly a decade in three weeks.

        No such ‘force de mein’ will apply when suicide swarms of PCIs close the Gates with nuclear fire in their bellies. Love to see LCS try and deal with /those/ boghammars using 30mm SUW package guns.

        IMO, it is not our right to try and keep our failed ‘free market’ economy on life support by suppressing the commercial self-interests in other States. This despite the fact that I know -exactly- how bad an actor Iran has been on the global Terrorism stage.

        So let’s look at practicalities.

        When Israel began Operation Babylon/Opera to strike Osirak, she launched from the Southernmost corner of her state, out of Etzion AB, using aircraft which were 4-6,000lbs over MTOGW and had to be prelined up on the runway to avoid burst MLG tire sidewalls during taxi.

        Approximately 12 aircraft flew down to somewhere between Elat and Sharm Al Sheikh, topped off from a tanker and then flew a further 550nm at bunny sucker heights, before half the force (F-15s with ALQ-131 long ECM pods) popped up to form a BARCAP an standoff jammer force to suppress the local SA-6 batteries around the facility so that the strike force could make ONE RUN before egressing to the west.

        On sheer gall rather than finesse, this went off like clockwork and the Israelis turned for home, in full view of everyone, as they climbed out to 20,000ft for the trip back.

        Headwinds at 40K kept them from returning at best cruise profile and so the F-16s, even clean-winged of all tanks and pylons, landed back at Etzion with as little as 400lbs remaining fuel.

        Less than their totalizers could realiably measure.

        What’s more, these jets which had been stroked and prepped for a week beforehand and flew the mission without any fault at all (the strike leader changed jets to the ground spare when his first ship faulted), suddenly ALL turned up major gripes even as the rest of the IDFAF stood to in preparation for an Arab counterstrike.

        We will NOT see that kind of free ride in a trip to Natanz. And we will NOT get any better reliability out of damaged jets and tired aircrews after a mission profile more akin to that which the F-111s flew to Libya. We will get a military and diplomatic mess.

        Given that Israel has, at most, 70 aircraft, divided between Raam and Sufa, which could even make the trip. And further given that they will each be carrying a maximum of TWO Popeye class standoff weapons to avoid having to suppress Iranian IADS if they can (which means a further datalink on the centerline, robbing a tank), that is only a total of roughly 140 aimpoints they can service from likely a -thousand- or more on their fragmentary target lists.

        Alright, what about more car bombs, motorcycle drive bys and ‘mysterious computer viruses’? Also not going to work. Iran was arrogant in thinking that there weren’t disaffecteds among her population who would harbor even Jews who wanted to disrupt their national scheme for a return to Persian preeminence ala Cyrus The Great as national autonomy through nuclear weapons.

        They will not allow such a mistake to happen again. I’m sure that every one of their key industrial people has been re-vetted and cloistered far and away from ANY reachable contact with _anyone_.

        Los Alamos was a suburb compared to the likely security arrangements now in place within the Iranian nuclear industry -that we know of-.

        Many key scientists will already have been hidden by the further compartmentalization of the shadow industry systems.

        Okay, so what about SpecWar coming from the multitude of semi-covert bases we have built on the Western Border of AfG?

        Possible but what would they do? If there isn’t a rebellion in place, the notion of jumping off an MH-60 with a few crates of weapons will mean nothing. In fact, did push come to shove I would expect to see infiltrators coming -the other way-.

        Packing nukes to make it clear that Iran is not Laos.

        From the sea? Ainh. The Quds/Pasdaran ‘navy’ is a lot better than it was in 1989 but still less than a real force and they have an enormous coastline to cover, that I will grant.

        But they don’t need to stop you at the whitewater, only monitor all entries to and from the regional cities to which a covert entry team has to pass through. This they can do with as little as traffic cams and registry checks.

        At most, you might instead see a decapitation strike against the Iranian ‘advisory council of old men’ pseudo parliament by Type 209 subs with cruise missiles launched from somewhere near the headwaters of the PG. That will likely total no more than 6X2 (bigger torpedo tube) shots from two boats or twenty four missiles in air.

        Which is also not enough to make more than a passing difference to our picture but which would utterly enrage the entire region against us for trying to kill a leadership target and leave the remaining die hards firmly in charge of the national defense. It will be Iran’s Pearl Harbor.

        And it will -mean nothing- because the Parliament is exceeded in it’s authority by both the military and the secret police who are in turn in the pockets of the President and Ayatollah respectively.

        Fail to get the right men at the top (also living in protected communities with no outside access) and it won’t change or disrupt the chain of command enough to bother, even if you decide to send in the entire Marine Corps as Forced Entry team.

        Such is what happens when you have to play games with world perception as opinion of your ‘intent’ (not nukes, which already exist, but oil as currency power) under a post-OIF environment of ‘where’s the beef?’ on WMD has cast a constant doubt over our motives.

        Whereas, to the Iranians themselves, we are a very real threat on the most obvious level that they can deal with openly based on an immediate endangerment of their sovereign rights as a State.

        If we invade their country, even with mobile group SOF, they will have every right to nuke their own lands to evict us. And the world will see the integrity of that self-determinism and ignore the reality of Iranian nuclear arms to applaud the underdog.

        There is simply nothing to be done, militarily, against Iran, as I see it.

        We are on the backside of the power curve and if the coming economic meltdown foreshadowed by Sequestration is as bad as I think it is going to be, we are going to remain that way for a long, LONG, time to come.

        By the end of which, global proliferation of nuclear technology will lead to a scenario equivalent of Wild Wild West in that everyone will have their hand in their pockets and be ‘extremely polite’ to each other based on what each other’s hand might be holding.

        Not least the international corporatized terrorist groups.

        Israel can shake in her boots at that thought. But the U.S. doesn’t need to worry as much, provided we begin to realign ourselves towards mission sets (conventional warfare with a near parity threat using high tech weapons systems and -small- unconventional capabilities oriented back towards Embassy Rescue and the like) which are clearly harmless if wasteful.

        We may actually even be able to afford it, once we cut the meat to the bone on existing force structure models from the Cold War. BUR sure didn’t.

        To return to the subject of this discussion, SOF will suffer in this retranchement, just as they did after SEA. But since SOF has chosen to see itself as a militarized SWAT team of elitist SUW shooters when the predominent currency of a Pacific Pivot will be mobile forces with smart weapons, they don’t really have a say in what is coming to them.