An ever expanding secret military cocooned inside the U.S. military, special operations types remain remarkably, determinedly anonymous. With the exception of their commander, Admiral William McRaven, they generally won't even reveal their last names in public, which only contributes to their growing mystique in this country.
But for a crew so dedicated to anonymity, they also turn out to be publicity hounds of the first order. In 2011, for instance, active-duty U.S. Navy Seals (first-name only please!) became movie stars, spearheading a number one box office hit, Act of Valor. It was the film equivalent of a vanity-press production, focused as it did on their own skills in battle in... hmmm, the Philippines (to prevent a terror strike against the U.S.). A team of SEALs even parachuted onto Sunset Boulevard for the film's Hollywood premiere.
It was a mock assault on terror watched by thousands of Tampa residents, all timed to the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, also in town and swarmed by 8,000 attendees, including McRaven. Its goal: to bring together special operators from around the world and the industry that arms and accessorizes them. (U.S. special ops forces have a $2 billion purchasing budget each year for all the gadgets the defense industry can produce.)
Oh, and if you want a measure of how hot the special ops guys are these days, how much everyone wants to horn in on their act, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke before the conference, offering, according to Danger Room's David Axe, "a vision in which shadowy U.S. and allied Special Operations Forces, working hand in hand with America's embassies and foreign governments, together play a key role preventing low-intensity conflicts." And if those conflicts aren't prevented, then the Foreign Service, Clinton assured her listeners, will be happy to lend its "language and cultural skills" to the fighting prowess of the special ops troops. Diplomacy? It's so old school in such a sexy, new, "covert" war-fightin' world.
The basic principle is simple enough: if you see a juggernaut heading your way, duck. As TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, editor most recently of The Short American Century, makes clear, war American-style is heading back "into the shadows" and it's going to be one roller-coaster of a scary ride. (To catch Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses what we don't know about special operations forces, click here or download it to your iPod here.) ~ Tom
Unleashed: Globalizing the Global War on Terror
read full article here The Golden Age of Special Operations by Andrew Bacevich and Tom Engelhardt