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By Geoff Metcalf

August 18, 2003

Two key �lessons learned� contributed significantly to early U.S. military successes in Iraq.

1 Mission critical use of assorted Special Operations assets: The U.S. military enjoys an eclectic highly specialized contingent of special operations personnel covering a wide spectrum of strategic and tactical applications. Special Forces, Rangers, Seals, Force Recon, ParaRescue et al�each have specific tasks they are expert in executing.

2 The ability of the on the ground commander to exploit contemporaneous combat intelligence and ACT upon it without being compelled to send the intelligence through a long chain of command who delay, obfuscate, and politicized the decision process.

SpecOps have been at the nexus of all the high profile successes in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the foundation of hundreds of other successes we may never see reported.

The strategic and tactical importance of these elite forces is indisputable. The ability to perform is enhanced by relative autonomy and total flexibility.

When Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld told Congress the Bush administration is expanding the use of Special Operations Forces it made sense. However, when he said $1.5 billion had been added to the budget �statesmen� devolved quickly into �politicians� questioning �how do WE get a taste?�

The �perception� of Operation Iraqi Freedom to many military observers was that the administration got it right for a change:

1 Civilian leaders established the policy, goals and objectives.

2 THEN let the war fighters do what was necessary.

3 The �perception� was that the administration gave the military a job, promised to provide the resources needed to achieve the desired results

4 �.and generally stayed out of the way. �Tell us what you need and when you�re done.�

Politicians, and career bureaucrats have a highly developed skill of �snatching defeat from the jaws of victory�. If the dialectic starts off with �Thesis: Military competence��the inevitable �Antithesis is Political meddling��any homogenized Synthesis is a different flavor of failure.

When Bill Gertz reported in the Washington Times �Congress to restrict use of Special Ops� it was evidence that the inmates ARE running the asylum.

The congressional brain flatulence would impose restrictions on the use of Special Operations Forces �that for the first time will require a presidential order before deploying commandos in routine but hidden activities.� And Homer Simpson said, �DOH!�

It requires unique experience and skill to muck up an erotic dream or a one-man parade. However, Congress consistently had demonstrated an unbridled capacity for exceeding that goal.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom of �if it ain�t broke�don�t fix it� Congress seems fixated more on power, control and bragging rights that on results.

In addition to petty partisan posturing a goodly portion of this congressional abuse of power and process is grounded on ignorance.

Congress critters insinuated the damning restrictions in the wake of consulting with Stephen Cambone, the defense undersecretary for intelligence.

The Defense Department sent a memo to Cambone in June delineating the distinctions between clandestine �military� activities that require a presidential finding that those that don�t. Simply stated, CIA covert actions require a presidential finding�traditional military activities do not.

According to the memo (here we go with FACTS again contradicting preconceived opinions or prejudices), the covert-action definition specifically excludes traditional intelligence and counterintelligence work and "traditional diplomatic or military activities or routine support to such activities,".

If (God Forbid) the new proposed rules survive, before the military could deploy SpecOps types they would be burdened with the requirement of getting a presidential �finding� or directive.

Instead of a military commander being able to exploit contemporaneous combat intelligence and acting on it immediately�the broken paradigm returns:

1 Report through the chain of command (Company to Battalion, to Brigade/Regiment, to Division, to whatever higher HQ, to Pentagon, to Congress�
2 THEN wait for the return trip of an answer

o After assorted mitigating factors
* Personal
* Political
* Career
* Astrological

Ostensibly congress is attempting to redefine traditional military activity as covert action. Why? Partly perhaps because they flat out don�t understand what SpecOps does�or partly because they DO understand what SpecOps does and desire to either reduce their effectiveness or �get a piece of the action�.

The increasing success of SpecOps has been the ability to deploy in minutes and hours instead of days, weeks, or months. The congressional mistake of embracing the �Cambone Misunderstanding� requires delays that reduce effectiveness. The Senate doesn�t know �Jack� about war fighting. Gifting them with deployment decisions that make it more difficult to find and kill terrorists is (from the terrorists perspective) better than giving Osama his 72 virgins without requiring the trip to Paradise.

� 2003 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. . Visit Geoff's Web Site: While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book!  E-mail:







"Politicians, and career bureaucrats have a highly developed skill of �snatching defeat from the jaws of victory�. If the dialectic starts off with �Thesis: Military competence��the inevitable �Antithesis is Political meddling��any homogenized Synthesis is a different flavor of failure."