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Absolutely. But as the world gets more connected and complex, controlling people becomes far less easy. Unchecked acts of pure power-plays without any at least seemingly overlying altruistic reason will in the long run weaken the integrity and reputation of such forces, and in turn stunt both recruiting and funding.
The world is a different place, and a 2000 lb bomb through the roof of their parliament, Taliban or not, would have secondary effects that you or I can not foresee (and certainly not for the better) from both “enemy” and “ally”. *Gunboat diplomacy* had it’s place. It works wonders at first for defeating a certain enemy or accomplishing a certain goal, but especially in the wasps nest that is the ME, it would spell disaster. Much like Americas foreign policy the last decades. And sure, claiming this spawns from a lack of understanding of the deeper lines and culture is not necessarily true, but it certainly is short-term policy with some immediate profit, with long-term failures.
It would maybe work as an out when there are no other options. If this approach had been taken in 2001, I can almost assure you the situation would have been even *worse* than it is today.
Also important in your example to remember that, as fundamentally flawed some of these people are, they are good at what they do. High-ranking AQ operators had *exceptional* tradecraft, never underestimate the enemy motivated out of fundamental belief with nothing to lose, when it comes to thinking you can always flush them out with money/materialism/power or a fear of death/pain, the CIA made this mistake one too many times in Afghanistan.
If in 2001 one had launched more targeted missions against HVT with a higher focus on gathering intel, both by SIGINT/GEOINT/OSINT, but also a heavier focus on local HUMINT, aswell as a broader use of the more clandestine forces from NATO WITHOUT the mass “invasion”. You could probably have taken out the people you needed, both for a “getting the bad guys” perspective, as well as satisfying the political part of it all, without turning a shitty place into an even more unstable hole.
I get the merit to keeping an enemy present, for whoever always profits, but that certainly is not the world I want, nor the world the vast, vast majority of the people actually doing the fighting wants. It saddens me seeing the work many people did, not only to the best of their ability, but damn near the best possible work, only to see the long-term being a negligible change. I mostly have experience with British and Norwegian forces, but I think the sentiment is the same around NATO; and so it certainly seems like. Earlier in Afghanistan a lot of people were on the edge, ready to jump on either side, NATO failed and too many radicalized. Excessive use of force will always lead to this, and the examples you give IMO would lead to radicalization to an extreme amount (Maybe not the Assad example, but that would have its own clusterfuck of shitty ripples). As hard as it can be to admit, the classical use of force does not work well in defeating the modern enemy, or solving the modern conflict. And the way I see the world evolving, these are the type of conflicts we are going to see as they fill the holes left by the wars.
I can’t see your other comment anymore, but I got the jist of it. IMO the people who are in SOFs around NATO, be that American, British, German, Norwegian, Canadian, Danish, Polish etc, are generally very upstanding people, with an intellectual capacity way above normal. They understand the mission, and sometimes it’s near impossible spin, but they certainly want to help (be that the locals or own country). Admiral McRaven who lead the JSOC (probably the most easily criticized of all these tier 1 forces) said; “To build a better world”. I can promise you this is the motivation and intention of many SOF operators.
When it comes to this whole “ISIS Front” “Their own tactics” thing, this was me quoting the media. Of course this is not the case.
And yes, I agree operating in the area now is more or less the same in terms of the risk certain operations had over the last 10 years in the region.
“As for night raids… don’t get me started. It’s good when you’re after someone important, but when you’re running 50 raids a night then you’re creating terrorists not arresting them.”, This is exactly what I’m saying. Combat experience is great, hell, stopping terrorist attacks is great, killing terrorists is mostly good, but the constant low-intensity conflict, and the misuse of especially the American SOFs is not great. I agree with your point, but IMO combat experience alone is not today a valuable enough reason for a war. The thing is what we are talking about here is becoming more and more present in SOFs around the world as well as in US and NATO CoC, and stuff has changed over the course of the Afghanistan war for the better.
“And we should be very careful about how many little boys and girls in shithole villages grow up to hate America”, Yes, we should. And that is just one of several reasons why one should not ruin the life of the innocent people that actually are collateral here.
To end this rant off, a SFOD-D operator said “We’ve built the worlds most powerful hammer, and it will constantly search for a nail”. This sums up the case here, atleast from the far-removed political standpoint. This is not the world that the actual operators or regular soldiers want or imagine. Yes, we are seeing a positive improvement, but many of the macro policies (and ideologies) are from both a warrior and a humanitarian perspective, completely fucked except for a few people who always profit.
Of course this being said I naturally don’t have all the answers, but I think there is a generally large consensus on where to atleast start.
And lastly, we do, as with everything, tend to focus on the lives taken and not the lives said, there are countless examples of NATO forces from conventional to unconventional in even the most criticized of operations doing great, valuable, intelligent work. All the respects to them, the issue lies in a larger political and economical sense that effects MUCH more than foreign policy or international operations and conflicts.
Edit: And yes, your part on the recruiting, as I said in elite units people mostly are very far from your “dumb-ass kids”, in fact IMO you can never even reach that level, training-wise, while being a “dumb-ass kid”. However this is very different from country to country. In the US where there is a quota and it is not met, a lot of people can simply enlist with very little ability or qualifications, while in my country there is a much higher bar set for someone who simply wants to “enlist”. This being said when it comes to elite forces this is universal (across NATO), there are high standards, at times *extremely* high. And yes, unsuccessful applicants can go back to other branches or units, they are not “blacklisted” in any way generally. Though I know individual examples where that has happen. Certain units like the SAS and the FSK (AFAIK it’s still like this) can blacklist. If the reason for being dropped from selection is due to mental/character flaw instead of example; physical level / injury / learning speed / training-level drop. One concrete example I have is in the Norwegian Naval SOF, MJK, instructors simply asked candidates not to try again if the reason for a drop was the type of flaw that can not be fixed with training or time. In this regard it seems you kind off to underestimate the SOF community and the people within.