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21st Century SOF: Toward an American Theory of Special Operations

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In the 2011 Joint Special Operations University workshop, SOF-Power Workshop A Way Forward for Special Operations Theory and Strategic Art, the attendees concluded that a healthy strategic culture and the proper practice of a SOF strategic art hinged on the development of a suitable special operations theory for the 21st century. Only a few individuals, including the current USSOCOM commander, have undertaken to offer a theory of SOF in the past. However, many others have provided insights and premises to how SOF achieve success. Not the least among these are what SOF culture and doctrine espouses based on SOF experience. In this concise JSOU monograph, Dr. Rich Yarger considers the 21st century security environment, previous work on special operations theory, and various other perspectives of SOF gleaned from his research to synthesize an American SOF school of thought, which he argues provides a foundation for developing an American special operations theory for the 21st century. He offers definitions, premises, and principles that explain modern American special operations over the last 70 years and can serve SOF well into the future. Based on his research, he identifies major areas of concern for SOF leadership. As USSOCOM confronts the challenges offered by the 21st century and policymakers continue to look at SOF as a preferred means to address numerous and complex security issues, theory is essential in determining and explaining the appropriate roles and missions for SOF in the 21st century and for building and sustaining the forces. It explains the strategic utility of SOF, bolsters the strategic art within SOF, and informs doctrine. This monograph offers a basis toward such a theory.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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