Navy SEALs gone wild: publicity, fame, and the loss of the quiet professional

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Authors
Crowell, Forrest S.
Subjects
Navy SEALs
Naval Special Warfare
special operations
civil-military relations
organizational culture
commodification
social capital
military ethics
professionalism
Advisors
Simons, Anna
Date of Issue
2015-12
Date
Dec-15
Publisher
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
Over the past decade, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) has built up significant symbolic capital due to a string of highly politicized and romanticized military operations. The publicity, and the ensuing fame, helped set the conditions for the emergence of a SEAL counterculture characterized by an increasingly commodified and public persona. There has been a shift away from the traditional SEAL Ethos of quiet professionalism to a Market Ethos of commercialization and self-promotion, especially among former SEALs. At the same time, government officials, special interest groups, Hollywood, the publishing industry, and the media writ large have seen the profitability of associating their agendas with the SEAL identity. They are likewise tapping into SEAL fame and offering SEALs an outlet for the commodification of their SEAL affiliation. Such a promotional construct contravenes the dual requirements of security and surprise necessary for the success of SEAL missions. This paper analyzes these trends, and argues that the cultivation of celebrity status has incentivized narcissistic and profit-focused behavior within the SEAL community, which in turn has eroded organizational effectiveness, damaged national security, and undermined healthy civil-military relations. To redress this, all parties must work to reestablish an environment that refrains from promoting special operations for entertainment value, for profit, or for political gain.
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Thesis
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Department
Defense Analysis (DA)
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Distribution Statement
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Rights
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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