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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications


How Do SOF Contribute to Comprehensive Deterrence? by Robert Haddick


In this concise monograph, the author argues that U.S. SOF use their skills, capabilities, and relationships to provide planners and policymakers a unique deterrence tool. Mr. Haddick first provides a brief overview of deterrence theory as a baseline for presenting his viewpoints on this neglected special operations role. Then, presents a case study that effectively highlights how U.S. adversaries have adapted their tactics to exploit gaps in our current deterrence framework, thwarting or bypassing our legacy deterrence structure. The Joint Special Operations University is pleased to offer this monograph to inform policymakers and the SOF community of the deterrent value of both direct and indirect special operations. 


The Death of the Golden Hour and the Return of the Future Guerrilla Hospital by Warner D. “Rocky” Farr


Colonel Warner “Rocky” Farr has made an important contribution to the body of SOF knowledge with this well-researched monograph. He advances the understanding of the many challenges and accomplishments related to guerrilla warfare medicine—care provided by predominantly indigenous medical personnel under austere conditions with limited evacuation capability—by providing a survey of the historical record in UW literature. Colonel Farr relates manyhistorical experiences in the field, assesses their effectiveness, and lays a foundation for further in-depth study of the subject. The Joint Special Operations University is pleased to offer this monograph as a means of providing those scholars and operators, as well as policymakers and military leaders, a greater understanding of the complex and complicated field of guerrilla warfare medicine.


Property Rights and Social Justice as an Indicator of Stability: The SOF Nexus by Bill Mandrick.

The role of economics in the generation and mitigation of grievances is well documented and understood. Likewise, the reliance on economic documents forms the basis for credible economic systems worldwide. For the Special Operations Forces (SOF) professional, however, the issues of property rights, economic development, and the generation of wealth are more nuanced and central to the successful completion of SOF missions in failing and failed states. As Colonel Bill Mandrick demonstrates in this monograph, a nation-state's failure to have in place a system for the equitable access to and the sharing of economic activity is a guarantor of grievances, anger, and instability. So too is the failure to enforce an existing system of property rights and economic opportunity. He argues that an awareness of the economic records of a nation-state provides useful insights into its stability and can provide important intelligence to expand SOF situational awareness and support SOF mission planning.


Transitioning from War to Peace: Post-Deployment Support for Special Operations Forces by Jennifer M. Hazen

The complexities of transitioning from war to home are myriad, and Dr. Jennifer Hazen’s monograph not only describes many of the complex factors associated with post deployment adjustment of Special Operations Forces (SOF), but elucidates what can be done to improve the ways in which the Services reach SOF Service members and families. For SOF, the complexities associated with reentering civil society following wartime deployments may be exacerbated by the frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of special operations deployments. The author observes that many current programs are designed as “one-size-fits-all” interventions and are often of little value to the participants. Consistent with USSOCOM’s views on this matter, Hazen suggests that programs need to be tailored to accommodate the unique characteristics of individuals and units.

Occasional Paper

Reconceptualizing Radicalized Groups and Their Messages by Paul Lieber and Yael Lieber

In this new JSOU Press occasional paper Dr. Paul Lieber and Dr. Yael Lieber explore alternative approaches for Special Operations Forces (SOF) to engage with radicalized groups through comprehensive engagement in the narrative space to defeat the effects of ISIS in the psychological and sociological aspects of the human domain. Rethinking this problem from a joint social psychology—notably realistic conflict theory (RCT)—and social network analysis approach can yield unprecedented insights on the inner workings of radicalized groups and their penchant for political violence. The authors explore conflict theory through the lens of the Robbers' Cave experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif. The authors posit that in general, radicalization, and hopefully de-radicalization, may be said to follow a similar process whereby groups that are culturally, religiously, and/or racially diverse perceive each other as in competition for scarce resources such as employment, housing, education, and benefits--in-groups and out-groups. This paper continues with an analysis of the roles that are essential to promulgating and sustaining message influence within an in-group social network—group communication norms. Within these pages are tremendous insights, relevant to the SOF community, on ways to rethink counter-radicalization efforts.

Occasional Paper

Countering the Islamist Insurgency by Jonathan Carroll

In this paper the author, a retired special forces colonel, discusses political violence, radicalization, terrorism, and insurgency--some of the greatest security challenges the United States and its allies face today. Despite the fact that the United States Government (USG) has developed an exceptional counterterrorism (CT) capability to find and neutralize terrorists, the threat continues to exist. In fact, the problems only seem to be getting worse, with more and more attacks happening in the United States and Western Europe, and groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda recruiting thousands across the globe. The author discusses several reasons the United States isn’t more successful in its CT efforts. First, most policymakers fail to truly appreciate the nature of the problem. Second, in many cases the contemporary USG CT approach is flawed. Finally, the USG must continue to rethink Special Operations Forces employment to maximize their effectiveness against irregular threats.

Occasional Paper

Unconventional Warfare as a Strategic Force Multiplier: Task Force Viking in Northern Iraq, 2003 by Timothy D. Brown

In this paper, retired Air Force Colonel Timothy Brown describes the necessity to prepare for both conventional and irregular warfare (IW). Preparing for one or the other does not have to be exclusionary—competence in both can be complementary and symbiotic. Proficiency in one, backed by proper theory, doctrine, training, planning, and preparedness, can bolster proficiency in the other. Through a historical account of the unconventional warfare (UW) campaign in northern Iraq in 2003, the author provides an example of how UW, an activity of IW, is valuable to the nation and can, when properly applied in conjunction with a thoughtful plan, be a significant force multiplier. The historical example shows that despite considerable and nearly crippling geographic and political obstacles, the UW campaign in northern Iraq successfully aided the coalition advance to Baghdad. 


Special Operations Theory edited by Peter McCabe and Paul Lieber, with a foreword by Professor Colin S. Gray

This monograph is the third of three volumes that follow from an August 2016 JSOU symposium, Theory of Special Operations. This compendium of articles is not a comprehensive or exhaustive treatment of special operations theory. Rather, it is intended to continue the conversation and, at least, bring to a culminating point the argument over whether a theory of special operations is necessary and if the suggestions are suitable, feasible, and acceptable. The editors of this compendium, JSOU resident senior fellows, highlight opposing views and conclude with an academic, joint special operations perspective on the status of the theory argument. No matter where you stand on the subject, this is worth your time and consideration.


Special Operations Contracting: 21st Century Approaches for Service and Technology Acquisition  by Benjamin Tkach, Ph.D.

"Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics." This quote is attributed to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert H. Barrow in 1980. The observation is especially relevant to the USSOCOM enterprise due to the command's dual role as a combatant command and an organization with legislated military department-like authorities. One of the chief tasks under those military department-like authorities is the procurement and fielding of SOF-peculiar equipment. Certainly within the past 15 years, many in the special operations community will argue that technology that is acquired and fast-fielded can save lives. Therefore, Dr. Tkach's monograph is an important read for SOF professionals. Dr. Tkach wrote this monograph for all professionals who study logistics and enable Special Operations Forces (SOF). As you review the work, consider how you can ensure SOF continues to receive the effective support it needs to carry out its mission.


Outside the Box: A New General Theory of Special Operations by Tom Searle, Ph.D.

In this monograph, volume two of three, Dr. Tom Searle articulates a general theory of special operations. In his view, robust special operations are not niche specialties, but unconventional operations that may range to the full extent of military authority and capability. He argues that this thinking reduces friction and clarifies the nature of special operations such that conventional forces are free to focus on fewer tasks. Searle also dedicates an appendix to illustrate how his general theory relates to other efforts. Readers are encouraged to examine all three volumes (Rich Rubright, Ph.D., Tom Searle, Ph.D., and the compendium edited by Peter McCabe, Ph.D.) with an open mind. These three volumes provide an opportunity for the reader to challenge their own preexisting positions, incorporate fresh perspectives, and perhaps think differently about what is necessary and sufficient for a special operations theory.


Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco: Change, Instability, and Continuity in the Maghreb by Roby Barrett, Ph.D.

An increasing proportion of Special Operations Forces (SOF) have an interest in Africa, and especially the Maghreb, which borders the Mediterranean and is where the Arab Spring started. In this monograph, Dr. Roby Barrett provides a regional historical analysis of how the people of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco have developed their views toward government legitimacy and religious authorities. SOF personnel from the U.S. and other countries have to be particularly mindful of the area's French colonial legacy (one of many attempts by outside powers to control these countries), as well as the dichotomy between coastal and interior populations, when considering how foreign involvement in the region and democratic institutions may be perceived by its inhabitants. This publication is an important look at how and why past efforts at secular democracy have failed in this region, and why they are likely to do so for the foreseeable future.

Research Topics 2018

Special Operations Research Topics 2018

This publication highlights a wide range of research topics collaboratively developed and prioritized by experts from across the SOF community. These research topics are organized to support the USSOCOM Commander's three SOF priorities: win, transform, and people. To develop this topics list, recommendations were solicited from the USSOCOM headquarters staff, the theater special operations commands (TSOCs), component commands, SOF chairs from the war colleges, and select research centers and think tanks. This list and the accompanying topic descriptions are a guide to stimulate interest and thinking. Topics may be narrowed or otherwise modified as deemed necessary (e.g., to suit school writing requirements or maximize individual interests and experiences). The researcher should explore and identify doctrine, capabilities, techniques, and procedures that will increase SOF efficacy in addressing them. At the same time, the research on these topics should be used to inform policymakers, the larger military profession, and the public of the issues and challenges facing the SOF enterprise.

Occasional Paper

Preserving Sovereignty in a Borderless World by Charles W. Ricks

In this paper, Mr. Charles Ricks explores the post-Cold War geopolitical environment--one that has evolved into a dynamic, churning environment in which flows of populations, transnational crime, violent extremism, and threats from open-source networks and the global commons have affected both the domestic and international environments. The reemergence of national identities and grievances long buried within the relative stability of the decades following World War II, along with mass migrations, has presented political leaders with serious challenges to their governance and, in many cases, sovereignty. The fact is that the distinctions between domestic governance and international engagement have blurred because the events in places like the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America regularly have direct effects on governance issues faced by American political leaders--from villages and towns to the federal level. It is within this context that the cultural acumen and expertise SOF possess may be an important source of knowledge for both military and civilian leaders looking for ways to anticipate, not simply react to, these emerging events.


A Social Marketing Analysis for Suicide Prevention Initiatives in USSOCOM: A Framework for Future Research and Success, by R. Craig Lefebvre, Ph.D.

After more than fifteen years of conflict, the fact that suicide persists as a command issue in the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is heartbreaking and serves as a clarion call to redouble efforts by individuals and institutions to invest in programs that demonstrate effectiveness in reducing suicide, eroding the stigma associated with seeking treatment, and increasing the use of behavioral health care (BHC). In this monograph, Dr. Craig Lefebvre offers a social marketing perspective that reveals insights and actions to enhance existing programs. A central theme in Dr. Lefebvre's monograph is that no one is powerless if sufficiently aware. But experience shows that the task at hand is more than encouraging individuals to pursue available resources. Assistance and treatment options exist and they have proven to be effective when pursued. The path that emerges in the pages that follow exposes the reader to the context, theory, content, and practical history of suicide and suicide prevention.


A Unified Theory for Special Operations, by Richard W. Rubright, Ph.D.

As part one of a three-part JSOU Press series on special operations theory, Dr. Rubright articulates what he calls "a unified theory of special operations." His theory is simply expressed in ten words: "Special Operations are extraordinary operations to achieve a specific effect." This single sentence is a gateway to a rich discussion which will force readers to think critically about special operations and the role that they should serve in the pursuit of strategic objectives. No matter which side of the argument you take up, Dr. Rubright's monograph is an excellent start towards forming an academic position on special operations theory. These three volumes provide an opportunity for the reader to challenge their own preexisting positions, incorporate fresh perspectives, and perhaps think differently about what is necessary and sufficient for a special operations theory.

Occasional Paper

Enhancing the Global SOF Enterprise: A Consortium Concept, by Walter L. Christman, Ph.D.

In this paper, Dr. Christman proposes a means to better organize Special Operations Forces (SOF) worldwide to meet the " and collective brew of wicked problems...a world of panarchy...defined here to mean the competition of new actors in the gray zone, as described by SOF leaders, and accelerated even more by the unpredictable consequences of continuously evolving technology." To do this the author discusses a means to connect the global SOF enterprise so that U.S. SOF can effectively collaborate with the SOF from any nation willing to work with the United States and its regional partners. Dr. Christman proposes a consortium approach, through a Global Special Operations Consortium, to solve problems while avoiding a U.S.-centric solution set that is not always embraced by our international partners. This consortium approach would also include an array of defense, development, and diplomacy tools (for '3D' security) within a framework for success.

Occasional Paper

Special Operations Forces as Change Agents by Jessica Glicken Turnley, Ph.D.

Dr. Turnley examines Special Operations Forces (SOF) through a cultural anthropologic lens to explore the socio-cultural aspects of the SOF community and their ability to perform as change agents. As the author explains in her introduction, "Well-positioned or particularly persuasive individuals from the SOF community have been able to use personal connections and social networks to catalyze and institutionalize change in a wide range of communities, stimulating individuals to coalesce around ideas presented through charismatic players." Through the use of historical examples, such as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II or the more recent Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines (JSOTF-P), Dr. Turnley guides the reader through explanations of organizational change and the modern day SOF operator who is creative and performs as a change agent within established bureaucracies. She arrives at the conclusion that, "SOF bring to the military the potential for change, realized through an ability to create, stimulate, and work through social networks and the power of individual personalities."

Occasional Paper

U.S. Special Operations Forces in a Period of Transition by Dr. Francisco Wong-Diaz, Esq.

Dr. Wong-Diaz, an expert in international security law, looks at the effects of the post-cold war strategic environment on Special Operations Forces (SOF). After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 there was hope for a more peaceful world order. That all changed after the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  A resurgent Russia and a rising communist China, along with failed states, humanitarian crises, and ungoverned spaces, creates a strategic security environment that is complex and dangerous. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey once stated, "We now face multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups..." Dr. Wong-Diaz looks at the threats to our U.S. vital interests, our strategy for dealing with those threats, and our reliance on third offset technologies that are innovative, disruptive, and advantageous to the United States. He concludes with a look at the human dimension of SOF within USSOCOM and the Global SOF Network (GSN). The GSN strives for interoperability and is a key component of the indirect approach: an interoperable network of networks to achieve operational success.

Occasional Paper

Preventing Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation-Leveraging Special Operations Forces to Shape the Environment by Colonel Lonnie Carlson, Ph.D., and Margaret E. Kosal, Ph.D.

U.S. Army Colonel Lonnie Carlson (Ph.D.) and Dr. Margaret Kosal argue that WMD expertise must be built within the SOF enterprise and that SOF must collaborate with government organizations (both U.S. and partner nation) to conduct WMD counterproliferation-related building partnership capacity (BPC) and operational preparation of the environment (OPE) activities. The authors look at SOF attributes and assert that it is within the irregular warfare domain that SOF have the greatest opportunity to improve WMD counterproliferation effectiveness. The authors present a brief explanation of WMD classifications, present an inventory of countries who possess weapons-grade nuclear material, and graphically present the potential cost versus probability of use for WMD types. Colonel Carlson and Dr. Kosal conclude that the U.S. Government and Department of Defense must build and leverage the global SOF network through CWMD OPE and BPC activities. Those activities can lead to the early warning needed to mitigate fleeting opportunities to eliminate catastrophic WMD risks.

Russian Hybrid Warfare

Russian Hybrid Warfare, by Victoria Barber, Andrew Koch, and Kaitlyn Neuberger

Note: This is a Capstone project prepared for USSOCOM by graduate students in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

The purpose of the research project was to provide a comprehensive review of the emerging threat of hybrid warfare, with a particular focus on the use of hybrid tactics by Russia against those states that were part of the former Soviet Union and contain what Moscow describes as having "near-abroad" Russian populations. The objective of the study was to examine the extent to which hybrid warfare represents the future of interstate conflict and the ramifications of Russian hybrid warfare against these states for NATO, the U.S. government, and particularly USSOCOM. The authors present three historical cases and one fictional, but plausible, scenario, which will be of benefit to wargame events. The authors provide a thorough review of the threat of hybrid warfare and conclude with nine specific recommendations for Special Operations Forces and USSOCOM.

Break the Paradigm: Prepare Airpower for Enemies' "Most Likely Course of Action"

Break the Paradigm: Prepare Airpower for Enemies' "Most Likely Course of Action," by H. Mark Clawson

Note: This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of Air & Space Power Journal

This article argues USAF leadership remains too focused on developing the force based on an outdated paradigm of advanced state actors fighting force-on-force on uncluttered battlefields. It postulates that the USAF "next generation" fighter proponents ignore their own, combat-hardened force warnings of the complexity of asymmetric warfare. Years of combat have uncovered a glaring need to conduct a new type of close air support (CAS). This new CAS or "gunship effect" is the direct result of changes in warfare and can be analyzed by examining the AC-130 gunship and its high demand. We investigate enemy tactics to avoid our force strengths and intermingle with noncombatants who are attacking our forces piecemeal. We review the strategic center of gravity, "collateral damage," and how our enemies focus on eroding public support-at home and abroad-by exploiting our inability to identify their actions on a complex battlefield and respond appropriately. In summary, critical analysis unveils the true nature of twenty-first century warfare and the need to develop a balanced force, using proven aircraft and future systems capable of this new CAS, defeating both the enemy's most dangerous and most likely course of action.