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Special Ops Global Whack-a-Mole

Author: Linda Robinson, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation
April 8, 2013
USA Today

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In a few weeks, the country will honor the anniversary of the daring raid by navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden.

Because of the news or films like Zero Dark Thirty, most Americans are aware of the high-profile missions conducted by U.S. special operations forces, like the bin Laden raid or the toppling of the Taliban regime after the 9/11 attacks.

But most Americans are unaware that U.S. special forces face the serious danger of being bogged down in a permanent game of global whack-a-mole rather than operating as part of deliberate campaigns that can achieve lasting outcomes.

To understand why there is this danger, one has to understand the two models of special operations—a direct approach of individual manhunting (such as the raid that brought down bin Laden) and an indirect approach of working through and with others.

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