Thursday, September 5, 2013

Special Operations Forces in Unlit Spaces Monograph

SOF in Unlit Spaces: Understanding the World’s Dark Spots inthe Context of SOF Operational Planning is finally available through the Combined Arms Research Library at Fort Leavenworth. This is my monograph that explores several things. First it takes a look at unlit spaces. I’ve talked about them before here, but this new research expounds upon the various definitions I placed on kinds of unlit spaces. I make some adjustments to commonly understood definitions such as failed states, fragile states, and ungoverned spaces. Since the term 'unlit space' is too general, it really has little meaning particularly when one is planning military operations. Furthermore, the various kinds of unlit spaces have vague meaning when one considers the context of that area’s condition.

Second, I take a look at how Special Operations Forces (SOF) should consider operational level planning for activities in those places. While it might seem trite to simply say “it depends,” planning truly does depend on the conditions that make those spaces “unlit.” Moreover, the hyper-attention being placed on unlit areas such as fragile states, ungoverned spaces, etc. overlooks the dynamics of those places and misses threat potentials elsewhere. In other words, all unlit spaces are not necessarily an existential threat; therefore, deploying SOF to unlit spaces merely because they are unlit makes little strategic sense.

Afghanistan and Somalia during two time periods, 1990s and 2000s, are the case studies I use to explore the nature of an unlit space. They reveal how SOF operational planners need to deeply understand the context of an area before considering the value of SOF activities in those places. This is especially true when one considers that SOF operate in a human domain. The human domain is full of nuanced peculiarities that do not fit neatly into typological molds. Therefore, certain kinds of SOF missions depend more heavily on knowing the context of a situation than do others.  

I hope to publish this in a journal or magazine somewhere, so I’m open to recommendations. Here is the link to the monograph: