Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of US UW

Book proposes new military service for unconventional warfare

By Barbara Honegger
Naval Postgraduate School

In his latest book, Hy Rothstein, professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, calls for the creation of a separate U.S. military service for unconventional warfare.

The 26-year Army special operations veteran wrote “Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare” as a wake-up call for the Department of Defense. Using what he calls the predictable but counterproductive effects of special operations in Afghanistan as a case study, Rothstein argues that nothing less than a fundamental paradigm shift in the DoD structure and culture is needed to win the War on Terrorism.

Rothstein shows that while the initial campaign against the then conventional Taliban was successful, using special operations forces to identify targets and call in air strikes, the U.S. military snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a conventional response towards an increasingly unconventional enemy. The pattern, he argues, is being repeated with devastating consequences in Iraq.

“A new military service dedicated solely to unconventional warfare is necessary for winning the War on Terrorism,” he said. “We need to go back to the original conception of unconventional warfare, rather than rely on attrition warfare.

“Securing and stabilizing civilian populations in areas where we’re engaged against irregular enemies is key,” Rothstein stressed, “but it’s hard to stabilize an area if your focus is to find, capture or kill terrorists.”

Rothstein, in fact, proposes resurrecting the model of the World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as the template for the new U.S. military service. The OSS specialized in unconventional warfare, including psychological operations, organizing and supporting resistance movements and supporting friendly governments fighting insurgencies. He proposes calling the new military service the Department of Strategic Services (DSS).

According to the author, changes in education and culture are critical to achieving the needed paradigm shift.
Rothstein earned a Bachelor of Science degree in general engineering from the United States Military Academy, a Master of Arts in military art and science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and a Master of Arts degree in law and diplomacy as holds a doctorate in international relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He retired in 1999 after 26 years of service as a special forces officer.

The Naval Postgraduate School Department of Defense Analysis, where Rothstein is senior lecturer, is an interdisciplinary department where the faculty represents a wide range of academic and operational specialties. It provides focused courses of instruction in the dynamics of irregular warfare, sub-state conflict, terrorism, information operations and other high-leverage operations in U.S. defense and foreign policy. The department’s special operations curriculum is sponsored by the U.S. Special Operations Command. Its Information Operations curriculum is sponsored by STRATCOM.

Barbara Honegger is a senior military affairs journalist at the Naval Postgraduate

*Pulled from*

Basic ideas:

- That Afghanistan was NOT UW- it was SOF using conventional war to defeat a conventional enemy (which was a good use of SOF in that instance, since we faced a conventionally arrayed force at first)

- Now that the Taliban has dissolved its conventional formations and gone into UW, it was wrong for us to INCREASE our conventional forces and approach to the threat

- SOF has gone more conventional since '87- because our military leaders have disliked SOF since George Washington- SOF finally figured that we should try to become more conventional (bureacratic, top-heavy, inflexible, distrusting of the guys on the ground, and doctrine-reliant)- all in order to get more money, missions, and status within DoD.

- SOF is mainly just elite conventional- Rangers use conventional tactics, all AFSOF and NAV (SOF) use conventional, and SF is going more that way (door kicking, SFAUC, etc.). SF is traditionally the UW force, so it should be the filler for a new force (OSS-like), but it needs to get back to UW and away from DA.

- DA is sexy, but USASOC needs to stop stressing it so much to the detriment of UW, and SOCOM needs to better define UW, stop being afraid to do it, and stop being afraid to have SF forces forward and always ready to go in with little prep time, strong regional skills, and no need for massive support (CSAR, logistics, airframes, generals, staffs, permissions, etc.). Embarrassing that CIA was into A-stan within weeks and SF took months to get in.

- Doctrine-reliant will kill us when facing a constantly changing threat (a la terrorists and guerillas). Have to trust our teams to do the jobs they are trained to do.

- Today SOF does conventional stuff: door-kicking, CAS, unilateral missions, hunter-killer teams, rapid reaction, fire base ops.

- Conventional is when you use attrition-style tactics, i.e.- massive firepower and where killing and destruction is your focus. Easy to i.d. objectives and measure results. Powell and Weinberger doctrines.

- UW is nebulous, hard to i.d. objectives, much more long-term, hard to measure success, and is based on using maneuver-style tactics vs. attrition-style. If you build a school, live in a town, support a mayor, train a local militia, and then one day the town brings you a terrorist- then you are doing UW.

- We must go back to the OSS prototype to be successful against the threat we face today

New Posts

Latest Threads