Give them credit. As TomDispatch’s Nick Turse has so vividly reported over the last decade, America’s previously “elite” Special Operations forces — once small, specially trained units in a large military — have now essentially become a military in their own right, all 70,000 of them (larger, in fact, than many national armed forces). And they are more or less everywhere, more or less all the time. They aren’t just “elite” forces anymore; they’re America’s secret military, which, as Turse has shown, is increasingly deployed to something startlingly close to all the countries on the planet (aside from a few obvious ones like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea). They are raiding and fighting from Syria to Afghanistan, Somalia to Niger. They are training allied special ops types and other forces across the globe. It’s increasingly hard to think of places where they don’t show up, even, for instance, in a rain-soaked cave that recently trapped 12 Thai soccer players and their coach. And here’s the good news: if a bill sponsored by Congressman Richard Hudson, whose North Carolina district includes Fort Bragg (home of U.S. Army Special Operations Command), passes in Congress, the more America’s special operators deploy in combat-like ways to places that the IRS doesn’t consider war zones (but indeed are), the more likely that they and their families will… yep, get a special tax break for their efforts! (War, what is it good for?)
And they aren’t just “operators” anymore. They’re path-breakers in the “science” of war. As they fight terrorists around the globe, for instance, they’re developing “loitering munitions” in their Maritime Precision Engagement program that will act as “suicide drones” (operated from speedboats). Hey, if ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the rest of that crew have their version of suicide drones — humans with explosives strapped to them, not to speak of off-the-shelf drones — why shouldn’t the U.S. military have the technological equivalent? Or what about the “talking paper” for which the special ops group that focuses on “psychological operations” already has a prototype? That paper, somewhat thicker than the usual kind and embedded with micro-circuitry, dropped into the jungles or backlands of the planet, should prove a perfect way to deliver a 30-second recorded message to illiterate enemy troops in some embattled country about how to defect or surrender.
But let Turse take over the story now and, in his latest update on the spread of Washington’s special operators and the wars that seem to accompany them, fill you in on their latest doings on a planet increasingly made for (and by) them.