9/11 and Operation Enduring Freedom
The horrifying acts of terrorism on 11 September 2001 against the United States have affected the world in a manner normally reserved for cataclysmic events such as the outbreak of the global wars in the twentieth century. As Booth and Dunne note, ‘It is curious how a specific date – not a year, but a specific month and a specific day – have almost universally come to define a world historical crisis’ (Booth and Dunne 2002: 1). In a political sense, the impact of 9/11 has been devastating, nationally, regionally and globally, especially in terms of the American psyche and its resulting effect on the policies of its elected representatives. Nevertheless, though often out of the limelight, its military implications were just as far-reaching, and the breathtakingly asymmetric methodology underpinning the attack heralded a style of warfare for which the vast majority of conventional armed forces in the United States were inapposite with one notable exception: Special Forces. The War on Terror is peculiarly suited for these types of unorthodox forces; however, in the face of a conventional-dominated military establishment in the United States and unusual courses of action by the Bush administration in its strategic direction of the campaign (especially the decision to invade Iraq), the logical response to make Special Forces the tip of the spear has not always occurred. Nevertheless, the subsequent campaign to attack Al Qaeda in its sanctuary in Afghanistan under the auspices of Operation Enduring Freedom is the closest to this ideal situation and provides an illustration of what Special Forces are uniquely capable of delivering in the twenty-first century.