Inside America's'perfect Hammer'in the Terror war,In the pipeline,Rooted in religion,Critical Analysis Collected

By Wallace, Alan | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

Inside America's'perfect Hammer'in the Terror war,In the pipeline,Rooted in religion,Critical Analysis Collected


Wallace, Alan, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


America's approach to fighting the post-9/11 war on terror has raised the public profile of secretive U.S. special forces and their missions, whose story is told in exhaustive detail by Sean Naylor's new book, "Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command" (St. Martin's Press, available Tuesday).

An Army Times reporter from 1990 to 2013, Naylor, now Foreign Policy magazine's intelligence and counterterrorism reporter, tells the story of JSOC ("jay-sock") from its creation after the failed 1980 attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

Initially tasked with a far narrower mission than it has today, JSOC first focused on short-term counterterrorism efforts and guarding against trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, according to Naylor. But after 9/11, JSOC became America's anti- terror "weapon" of choice, deeply intertwined with the U.S. intelligence community.

Naylor provides a step-by-step, mission-by-mission, behind-the- scenes account as special operations units under JSOC's umbrella, such as Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, along with its use of drone aircraft to monitor and attack terrorist targets, became better known than JSOC itself. Along the way, he offers numerous revelations.

Among them are the CIA's placement of a hidden video camera inside the vehicle in which U.S.-born al-Qaida propagandist Anwar al- Awlaki was riding when he was killed by a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen. There's also an unanswered call that someone made to a mobile phone inside Osama bin Laden's compound when SEAL Team 6's two stealthy helicopters were just minutes away, and the fact that those SEALs would have preferred to parachute in -- just one instance of internal JSOC tensions that Naylor documents.

"Relentless Strike" also covers how JSOC's expanding scope has made apparent its limits, which are defined by the rigors of special- forces training and combat, as well as by a mission that JSOC isn't designed for: holding territory. Naylor writes that JSOC's leaders "had designed and built the perfect hammer," but "(t)he risk was that as a result, successive administrations would continue to view too many national security problems as nails."

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412- 320-7983 or awallace@tribweb.com).,"Taking a Stand: Reflections on Life, Liberty, and the Economy" by Robert Higgs, foreword by Andrew P. Napolitano (Independent Institute) -- The author is senior fellow for political economy at the Independent Institute. Most of the 99 concise pieces this book collects come from the institute's quarterly journal, The Independent Review, which he edits, or its group blog, The Beacon. It would be putting it mildly to say he's critical and skeptical of partisan politics, politicians (who definitely don't govern with his consent), big government, bureaucracy, government's economic interventions and statistics, Keynesianism, the welfare state, academia and war-making. …

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