Academic journal article Military Review

MASTERS OF CHAOS: The Secret History of the Special Forces

Academic journal article Military Review

MASTERS OF CHAOS: The Secret History of the Special Forces

Article excerpt

MASTERS OF CHAOS: The Secret History of the Special Forces, Linda Robinson, PublicAffairs, New York, 2004, 416 pages, $26.95.

"Humans are more important than hardware" is a Special Forces truism that informs this riveting account by Linda Robinson, a respected journalist with an extensive background in military affairs. Robinson bases her informative and penetrating book on in-depth research, numerous interviews, and firsthand observations of the U.S. Army Special Forces in the field. Avoiding the breathless prose too often used to portray those who wear the Green Beret as Rambo-like supercommandos, Robinson depicts her subjects as flesh and blood. The reality is impressive enough.

The book's subtitle is misleading. There is nothing "secret" here; this really is just a history of the last 20 years or so of an organization that is now more than 50 years old. These specially selected and trained soldiers certainly are "masters of chaos." While all battlefields are chaotic, Special Forces often find themselves in particularly complex operational environments. Only a special breed of person can operate far beyond the reach of supporting ground forces and live among indigenous peoples while training them in guerrilla warfare or conducting strategic reconnaissance and direct-action raids. Those best suited to these demands typically display a unique blend of toughness, sensitivity, independence, and self-discipline.

Robinson introduces the reader to two-dozen officers and noncommissioned officers who qualified for Special Forces in the early 1980s. …

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