Publication:
Perception is reality: Special Operations Forces in the gray zone

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Authors
Coffman, Sean R.
Shumaker, Rob J.
Givens, Jeff M.
Subjects
Special Operations Forces
Gray Zone
irregular warfare
U.S. policy
bureaucratic politics model
Somalia
Philippines
Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P)
Advisors
Blanken, Leo
Sepp, Kalev
Date of Issue
2016-06
Date
16-Jun
Publisher
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
As conflicts increasingly fall within the Gray Zone--that is, outside the traditional peace-or-war construct--the U.S. military must understand how to succeed in this ambiguous environment and counter its threats. A key challenge is understanding how to employ the tools available in the Gray Zone--the primary tool being Special Operation Forces (SOF). This research finds that policymakers and others outside of SOF have often misapplied this tool, due to limited understanding of SOF roles and competencies. This limited understanding or misperception of SOF may have a detrimental effect on the ability of the Unites States to reach its foreign policy goals. This research analyzes U.S. SOF employment in the Gray Zone, breaking down constituent components and identifying those of greater importance. Characteristics of the Gray Zone and irregular warfare are considered, and a holistic approach to the use of irregular warfare in the Gray Zone is proposed. Graham Allison and Morton Halperin's bureaucratic politics model is used to discern the factors that shape the perception of SOF. Two historical cases are viewed through the lens of the bureaucratic politics model to show how SOF capabilities must be well understood and properly employed to achieve desired U.S. policy goals.
Type
Thesis
Description
Series/Report No
Department
Defense Analysis (DA)
Organization
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NPS Report Number
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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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