Special Operations News Update – Thursday, June 4, 2020

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Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.

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Action Films – and The Hero. Luke Ryan, a former Army Ranger, takes a look at several films that use the common theme of the action man with a dark past or troubled past shielding the child from danger. Read “The Protector Archetype in Action Films: An Analysis”, Coffee or Die Magazine, June 2, 2020.

SOST Member Receives Decoration. A surgical technician assigned to a six-member Special Operations Surgical Team was recognized for his life saving efforts while deployed to the CENTCOM AOR. (24th SOW PA, May 20, 2020).

AFSOC Tests New Bomb. Air Force Special Operations Command recently tested a new bomb dropped from a MC-130J Commando II. The Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicle with Extended Range (CLEAVER) provides some unique capabilities. Read “Why U.S. Air Force’s CLEAVER is A New Type of Bomb”, Forbes.com, June 3, 2020.

SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch Aircraft. The United States Special Operations Command is looking for some new planes to buy. A number of aircraft types are being considered. Learn more in “SOCOM Multi-Mission Plane Competition Heats Up“, Breaking Defense.com, June 2, 2020.

SOF’s ‘Smart Sight’. Special operations personnel based at At Tanf, Syria have been using (perhaps on a trial basis) an advanced optical sighting system for their M4A1s. The system locks onto targets, tells the shooter where to aim, and can even fire the gun for them at the right moment. (The Drive – Warzone, Jun 1, 2020).

Crum's Sauce

National Security

Changes for PME. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have released new guidance for officer professional military education. The new vision calls for a change in philosophy and it ties performance to assignments. The new guidance was published on May 1, 2020. Read more in “Joint Chiefs Vision Changes Military Education Philosophy”, DoD News, June 1, 2020.

Info Wars – The U.S. is Losing. Tara Sonehsine, a former U.S. under secretary of state for public diplomacy and a fellow in public diplomacy at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, offers her perspective on how public diplomacy functions at the Department of State need to be revitalized. Read “Americans Should Fight Propaganda, Like We Used To”, Defense One, June 1, 2020.

Great Power Competition

Russia’s PMCs. Paul Stronski provides us with the details of Russian firms that provide a cheap, low-risk front to carry out its activist foreign policy. Read “Implausible Deniability: Russia’s Private Military Companies”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2, 2020.

NATO’s Role with China. Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization recently declared that “. . . China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.” A diplomatic way of saying that China’ economic encroachment, disinformation campaigns, cyber espionage, and other activities are posing a challenge to NATO. Read more in “NATO’s role in a transatlantic strategy on China”, Atlantic Council, June 1, 2020.


Proxy Forces – The Good and the Bad. Two retired military officers provide their perspective on the use of proxy forces. They use case studies to illustrate what can go right and wrong and highlight the challenges to conventional forces in urban warfare. Read “Proxy Forces Undermine Conventional Strategy”, Association of the United States Army, May 26, 2020.

Gates on ‘Overmilitarization’. Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense, worries about the waning global leadership of the United States. In addition, he believes that the U.S. “. . . has become overly dependent on military tools and has seriously neglected its nonmilitary instruments of power . . .” Read his commentary in “The Overmilitarization of American Foreign Policy”, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2020.

SF Lafayette Square D.C.
Photo: Members of a SF unit deployed in Lafayette Square, D.C. (June 3, 2020, Twitter).

Protests, Riots, and Leadership

Coronavirus has now been replaced in the news by the violence several cities are experiencing due to rioters destroying property. Of course, what better time for the political parties to battle it out than with a new crisis. The Trump administration has come under fire for being too ‘militaristic’ in its approach to the rioters and protesters. Even the SECDEF has distanced himself from the President – indicating he was not happy about a recent Trump photo op in D.C. and saying that he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act. See “Secretary Says He Does Not Support Invoking Insurrection Act”, DOD News, June 3, 2020. Is there a new SECDEF in our future?

The military has been caught in the middle of all this. Several retired senior officers of the U.S. military have spoken out about the role of the military in quelling protests and riots. They include Admiral James Stavridis, General Martin Dempsey, General John Allen, General Tony Thomas, and others. Here a a few of the articles below.

Mullen on Leadership. Retired admiral Mike Mullen – and the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – has spoken out about the current leadership in the White House and his fears of the politicization of the U.S. military. Read “I Cannot Remain Silent”, The Atlantic, June 2, 2020.

Mattis on Trump. The former Secretary of Defense and retired 4-star general left the Trump administration in December 2018 after resigning over President Trump’s Syria policy. Since then he has been quiet on the president’s performance . . . until now. Read “James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution”, The Atlantic, June 3, 2020.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

Former Secretary of State James Mattis, June 3, 2020.

And from President Trump responding to Mattis:

“His primary strength was not military, but rather personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do, and battles to win, but he seldom “brought home the bacon”. I didn’t like his “leadership” style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!

Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed to “Mad Dog”.”

President Donald Trump, Thursday, June 3, 2020, Twitter account.


Troubles in Mozambique. There are a complex mix of both internal and external problems that have created a fertile ground for insurgents in Mozambique. Ringisai Chikohomero contends that that intervention is needed to help the country deal with its terrorism problem. It is argued that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) needs to have a clar plan to avoid further instability in the region. Read more in “Can SADC come to Mozambique’s rescue?”, Institute for Security Studies, June 2, 2020.

Mercenaries in Africa – Not a New Thing. The president of Mozambique is trying to tackle a jihadist insurgency in the northern part of the country. He first turned to Russia’s Wagner Group but now has gone with a South African firm. Read “Why African governments still hire mercenaries”, The Economist, May 28, 2020.

Sahel – ISIS and al Qaeda. Wassim Nasr provides a little history and context on the cooperation and competition between two jihadist groups in West Africa. Read “ISIS in Africa: The End of the “Sahel Exception””, Center for Global Policy, June 2, 2020.

Upcoming Events

Webinar – Indo-Pacific Terrorism, Special Operations, and the Coronavirus: Current Dynamics and Future Considerations for the Region. Featuring Dr. Zachary Abuza, Col (Ret) David Maxwell (SF), and Alexander Bein, Commander, U.S. Navy (SOCPAC). Register here.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020

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Books, Pubs, and Reports

Book Review: Save Your Ammo. George Fust provides a summary of a book published this year by Louise Rasmussen and Winston Sieck entitled Save Your Ammo: Working Across Cultures for National Security. Read his review of the book in “Thirteen Tips for Working With Allies and Partners: A How-To Guide”, Modern War Institute at West Point, June 2, 2020.

Report: China Moves on Hong Kong. Much of the world is consumed with news about coronavirus and the U.S. is struggling nightly with protests and riots. This would seem to be a good time for our competitors on the world scene to make some unpopular moves. China is making one now. Read more in China Moves to Impose National Security Law on Hong Kong, Congressional Research Service (CRS), June 4, 2020, PDF, 3 pages.

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Podcast – The Islamic State in Their Own Words. Aaron Stein, Craig Whiteside, and Haroro Ingram discuss the new book The ISIS Reader: Milestone Texts of the Islamic State Movement. May 29, 2020, 40 minutes.

Movie Trailer – Operation Overlord: OSS and the Battle for France, by the OSS Society. To commemorate the 76th anniversary of D-Day, the OSS Society will release a film on June 6th that tells the story of Allied special forces whose daring exploits changed the course of WW2.

Video – The Irregulars Within Hybrid Warfare. Australian Army Research Centre, May 28, 2020, 30 minutes.

Video – ARSOF Recruiting. Are you ready to join the U.S. Army’s Special Operations elite team of men and women? (Posted June, 2020, 1 min)

Video – Air Commandos Conduct Close Quarters Training. U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron conduct close quarters training at Hurlburt Field, Florida. (Posted June 2020, 2 mins).

Guest Writers for SOF News


Photo: SOF snipers at ISTC Basic Sniper Course Hohenfels, Germany. 8 Dec 2017. Photo by SOCEUR.

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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.