chapter  2
28 Pages

Practice

The employment of Special Forces in the post-war period has been haphazard at best. Conversely, at worst, their use has been at times utterly disastrous with little return for their investment. In the vast majority of campaigns during the Cold War, the deployment of Special Forces appeared far removed from the idealised strategic applications with a heavy reliance instead on the less effective and more obvious tactical roles. This lack of enlightenment is hardly surprising in the view of the rapid disbandment of Special Forces with the end of the Second World War. After all, only a small minority of the officer corps on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean had gained wartime experience with such units. In sum, the fragile amount of corporate knowledge in both the British and American armies about the utility of these forces was lost on several levels that included verbal information, due to the demobilisation of key officers/soldiers, as well as written information (the high classification levels of reports into the activities of Special Forces consigned much of this information to the musty environment of a government safe or archive). Consequently, the Cold War was, to a significant extent, a period of reconstitution for Special Forces not only physically but also intellectually, in order to fight a different kind of warfare that emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. These wars were unconventional in nature and pitted them against new foes labelled as revolutionaries, guerrillas, insurgents and terrorists. In this light, however, the misapplication of Special Forces by senior military officers, schooled and steeped in a conventional military culture, is quite understandable as such a state of affairs in effect provided a doctrinal tabula rasa that would take years to overcome through operational experiment and experience.