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2017 | Book

Special Operations from a Small State Perspective

Future Security Challenges


About this book

“Over the past dozen years special operations forces (SOF) have been one of the few areas of growth and expansion in a number of militaries. This growth and expansion, however, has not been mirrored by a comparable one in academic inquiries into the subject. Special Operations from a Small State Perspective - Future Security Challenges, which contains a wide range of perspectives from both practitioners and academics, makes a unique contribution to the literature and offers fascinating insights into the opportunities provided by and challenges confronting small states such as Swedenin their evolutionary development and use of SOF.”

Dr James Kiras, Associate Professor, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, The Air University,

Alabama, USA.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
The importance and use of special operation forces (SOF) have grown considerably in the Western world during the last decades. Also, an increased focus on SOF and special operations (SO) has materialized in almost all types of military contexts, within the wide variety of states and within the whole spectrum of conflict. This development holds for differing military contexts and states, ranging from military superpowers (e.g., the US), but also for small states with limited and/or developing military institutions. However, the existing literature is mostly concerned with the use of SOF from the perspective of a military superpower, e.g., the US. Thus, there seems to be a gap in the scholarly literature regarding the field of SOF and SO regarding how small states can relate to, make use of, and develop SOF and SO capabilities—both at a tactical, operational level and as a strategic instrument for a small state in the modern complex security environment.
Gunilla Eriksson, Ulrica Pettersson, Urban Molin
2. Swedish Special Operations Forces: How It All Started
The second chapter, Swedish Special Operations Forces: How It All Started, presents the history of SWESOF. The author displays constraints and possibilities that affect the development of a complex military capability in a small state. Further, the chapter entails a discussion of why, relatively speaking, it took so long for Sweden to develop an instrument for special operations and what consequences followed. The author also describes the challenge of balancing between staying small and innovative or expanding and the risk of gradually becoming conventional similar to the rest of the Armed Forces. Where is the tipping point, where for financial reasons you no longer are lean enough to be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and thereby maintain the edge? The gap between the Special Forces, the tip of the spear, and the conventional forces will inevitably become narrower.
Colonel Hans Ilis Alm
3. Contemporary Hybrid Warfare and the Evolution of Special Operations Theory
The third chapter elaborates the theory of special operations against the backdrop of hybrid warfare, viz., the kind of war pursued by Russia in Ukraine. The author stresses that hybrid warfare is not new. However, contemporary Russian warfare has some distinct features as it involves eight phases, the first five of which are covert. It is further argued that contemporary hybrid warfare applies a mix of conventional and unconventional measures. Further, Gyllensporre argues that research by Arreguín-Toft provides a possibility for small states since it postulates that the use of indirect measures increases the likelihood of success significantly. Like a chameleon, the application of defensive strategies needs to continuously adjust to the environment and tailor special operations against enemy actions so that asymmetry is ensured.
Dennis Gyllensporre
4. The Utility of Special Operations in Small States
The author of Chap. 4 utilizes Colin Gray’s earlier work, where he explores the strategic utility of special operations. Gray’s conclusion, like most literature on SOF, is argued on the experience of larger Western military powers’ use of SOF. The sole focus on larger powers limits the value of such a theory for smaller nations since there is an inherent contradiction between larger powers’ use and utility of SOF and that of smaller nations due to divergence in ambitions and national or political interest. This chapter examines the strategic utility of SOF in a Nordic context through an empirical case study. The empirical case study is conducted on two states’ experiences of developing and utilizing SOF in special operations during the last decades.
Colonel Ronny Modigs
5. Swedish Special Operations Forces in a Global SOF Network—Challenges, Recommendations, and Benefits
The authors argue that the character of today’s conflict, and presumably of tomorrow’s, requires SOF in small states to generally enhance their commitment in networks. However, the commitment within a global SOF network also holds challenges for the small state with limited resources. The fifth chapter explores the Global SOF Network initiative and USSOCOM’s perspective and identifies challenges for the resourceful lead organization of the global network. The chapter also expands the perspective of the small nation SOF—what are the challenges and potential actions to meet those challenges, and, finally, what are the potential opportunities that accompany an active network membership? The chapter is argued on specific Swedish conditions; however, many of the potential challenges and recommended actions can also be applied to other GSN partner nations.
6. Do we Need to Get Smarter? Small State Leadership
In Chap. 6 the author argues that one universal SOF truth is that people are more important than hardware. Furthermore, another essential need is trust in commanders as well as the command relationship. The arguments imply the need for not only strong but also skilled leadership. The leadership outlined in this chapter explores common cognitive pitfalls that can interfere with and limit military assessments and decision-making processes. Furthermore, the chapter also frames a theoretically desired learning environment and describes the behavioral changes that support and foster dynamic thinking and adaptive problem solving in a military organization. The cognitive abilities within the leadership of SOF in a small state will definitely be of the essence for an unpredictable and uncertain future of warfare.
7. Managing Special Talents
In this chapter the need for talent management is outlined within Special Forces of a small state. The constantly changing environment, conflict context, and technology development raise the requirements of Special Operations Forces personnel, especially since they are expected to embody top-of-the-line competencies in a broad range of areas, without exceeding the limited economic resources within the small state context. One accepted SOF truth is that training is a highly prioritized activity with the purpose to maintain and learn new skills. The chapter reviews how SWESOF talent management has evolved since the unit’s formation in the mid-1990s until the present day and what challenges will possibly arise in the future.
8. Does Methodological Superiority Lead the Way for SOF into Cyber Operations?
The author of Chap. 8 addresses direct action from a new, contemporary, and most relevant perspective—he suggests cyber operations might be a conceptually new way to conduct direct action in future conflicts. Further, a new argument is made: the conceptual similarities between direct action and cyber operations make a theoretical foundation to which the concept of relative superiority can be adapted, therefore providing an equally important understanding of cyber operations through “methodological superiority.”
The study shows that special operations theories cannot explain cases of cyber operations. However, the theory has individual elements that might contribute to a theoretical framing of cyber operations. These elements might also be able to support the explanation of offensive cyber operations and make up an element in a cyber theory. This way, cyber operations can find support in the operational focus that can be found in a developed special operations theory.
9. Irregular Warfare—A Strategy for Small States?
Based on the last decade’s changes concerning the strategic situation in Sweden’s surroundings, in combination with decreased resources to sustain a reasonable conventional defense force, it is most relevant to question the current military strategy. The intention of this chapter is to illuminate the potential for small states to improve the effect of their military, in peacetime, crises, and wartime, by adopting an irregular strategy to uphold deterrence and to withstand a military attack. The author elaborates on the logic for a small state to consider an indirect strategy and also to utilize the current conventional military force in new ways.
Based on the last decade’s changes concerning the strategic situation in Sweden’s surroundings, in combination with decreased resources to sustain a reasonable conventional defense force, it is most relevant to question the current military strategy. The intention of this chapter is to illuminate the potential for small states to improve the effect of their military (in peacetime, crises, and wartime) by adopting an irregular strategy to uphold deterrence and to withstand a military attack.
10. Framing SOF Intelligence
Special Operation Forces are both a consumer as well as a provider of highly detailed multisource intelligence. Detailed intelligence is needed to destroy or capture high-value targets, rescue hostages, seize an objective, or conduct a high-risk raid of some sort. Usually, this intelligence is provided by the various higher echelon intelligence or intelligence services and then further developed by SOF intelligence collection elements.
The author of Chap. 10 displays the future necessity of continued Special Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities in complex conflicts. The author also describes how future Special Operations Forces mission and Special Operations Forces intelligence most likely will be able to contribute with a highly detailed and sought after intelligence product to the intelligence consumer.
11. Conclusion
Throughout the different chapters of this volume, we have displayed and discussed some specific characteristics and current debates concerning special operations and special operations forces from a small state perspective. Some of the debates are of course not unique to SOF in small states; rather they are closely related to wider debates about SOF. However, in most cases the specific context for SOF of a small state poses a number of constraints.
Ulrica Pettersson, Gunilla Eriksson, Urban Molin
Special Operations from a Small State Perspective
Gunilla Eriksson
Ulrica Pettersson
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