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Spec Ops

01 Jul 2015

I was looking for books related to the history of unconvential warfare, and Spec Ops kept popping up. This book presents a theory for how to have a successful direct action mission with a special operation force and uses eight case studies starting with World War II to demonstrate these principles.

There are many interesting stories in the history of warfare, some of these I knew the basic details and others were new to me. The theory that is presented makes a lot of sense with a few simple principles that are essential to success. The first insight is that although a small attacking force is usually always considered to be inferior to a large defensive force, it is possible for the small force to temporarily achieve relative superiority. The six principles of special operations that allow the force to achieve and sustain relative superiority long enough to be victorious are: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed, and purpose.

The eight cases studies were mostly successful, some more so than the others. I think what would have made the book better would be to analyze some missions that are generally considered to be failures. The SF raid on Son Tay to rescue POWs in Vietnam is analyzed in this book. It might be considered by some to be a failure both politically and because no POWs were rescued. However, the mission was definitely a success in terms of getting in and getting out without a loss of life by a small attacking force against a much larger defensive force. The intelligence was a failure, but the mission itself was a success. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is the attempt by Delta to raid the embassy in Tehran, but they never even got close to beginning their assault due to crashing in the desert.

This is a good piece of history with a solid theory that is backed up by some compelling historic analysis. It would be nice if the author later did a write up of the Osama bin Laden raid which he was part of in terms of strategy.


Category: book