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Unconventional Warfare


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Susan L. Marquis is a division director in the office of the Secretary of Defense in Program Analysis & Evaluation.


This remarkable case study, based on personal interviews, congressional records, and other official documents, shows how defense policy is made and how difficult it can be to implement. The primary focus is the decade-long effort to reform the U.S. special operations forces community. After a long struggle "of dramatic highs and lows," this process culminated in legislation creating the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in 1987. Marquis, a Defense Department employee who first wrote this as a Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton, covers the catastrophic rescue mission in Iran in 1980, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and Iraq. There are some graphic but brief combat scenes. This amazing story deserves our attention as much as any war.‘John J. Yurechko, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C.

Most major nations, and a few minor ones, have maintained elite special forces trained in unconventional warfare. Marquis concentrates almost exclusively on the U.S. forces, which started with Wild Donovan's OSS, later to be succeeded by Rangers, Green Berets, and the navy's Under-Water Demolition Teams‘the Seals. The purported function of these groups has been to defend the nation against external and internal threats both real and notional. The units have had their ups and downs and in the late 1970s were almost disbanded. But various administrations have resorted to special operations, and in the mid-'80s the emphasis changed to reform, specifically by means of instituting a joint command and control organization that would be able to coordinate special operations forces. Marquis, division director of the Secretary of Defense in program analysis and evaluation, does not spare the forces their embarrassments and gives detailed analysis of what went wrong and led to the hostage fiascoes in Tehran and Lebanon and, of course, the whole sorry Vietnam adventure. She also chronicles the resistance to elite forces by many regular officers and the skepticism in Congress about the cost. The book is accessibly written, with an admirable dearth of jargon, but be forewarned‘it is dense with detail. (June)

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