The recent assassination of Osama bin Laden has brought America’s covert “secret military” into the spotlight. U.S. special operations forces are now deployed in 75 countries and are expected to have a presence in 120 by the end of the year.
Living by their motto, "de oppresso liber" (to free the oppressed), special operations forces are a highly secretive group made up of the elite from all service branches. With a current budget of $6.3 billion a year, special operations forces represent a major investment for the federal government. With increased modern advancements in technology, should the U.S. continue to invest in human soldiers to combat terrorism around the world?
Although technology plays an increased role in counterterrorism, the flexibility provided by human soldiers remains unmatched. Soldiers' ability to adjust to a situation, be resourceful, and think critically in real-time makes them, in many situations, a smarter investment.
As intelligence and defense departments enter a new era with reduced spending, special operations forces provide some stability to the security of the U.S. Special ops forces are a key component of the war in Afghanistan and have a high rate of military success, so even in an economic recession, people remain the greatest asset to the military.
These forces operate a network of secret prisons across the world and engage in: counter-terrorist activities; assassinations; long-range reconnaissance; intelligence analysis; foreign troop training; and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.
Critics have continually cried foul about the secrecy of counterterrorism operations and have raised concerns with the influence of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Critics also contend that with a global presence in roughly 60% of the world's nations, counterterrorism strike forces are evidence of a rising clandestine pentagon power elite waging secret wars across the world.
The real question here is whether you trust our defense experts to authorize missions they deem necessary, such as the killing of bin Laden. While the lack of transparency of SOCOM is cause for debate, ultimately, secrecy is crucial to protecting the interests of the United States and its citizens.
Covert missions were officially established during the Cold War under President Truman, who saw a need for secrecy even then. In order to continue U.S. hegemony today, special ops forces must be expanded. They protect U.S. interests while drawing the least amount of attention. Their job is to be inconspicuous. The United States needs discretion, especially in a fragile and nuclear world.
While oversight is important for any special operation, broad oversight, such as congressional oversight, will endanger officers and counter the success of missions. Special operations forces have been an invaluable weapon of the past and will be an asset in the future for counterterrorism. America is smart to invest in them. Cuts to the defense budget should be in outdated technology and weaponry. The technological and strategic race for the security of our state depends on special operations, research, and innovations in order to move us forward.
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