SPECIAL FORCES….William Arkin reports that congressional Democrats are working to shift the priorities of special ops forces:

The House Armed Services Committee has directed the military to place more emphasis on unconventional warfare and less on “direct action” missions aimed at individual terrorists. (Thanks to Richard Lardner of the Tampa Tribune for the reporting.)

The committee, in its report on the fiscal 2008 defense budget, proposes a change in legislation that would give greater priority to the indirect mission. The new legislation ranks 12 missions for special operations forces, moving direct action from atop the current list to No. 5. Unconventional warfare, the new top mission, includes the “softer side” of special operations, from training to engaging local populations in the battle for hearts and minds.

I can’t find any further detail about this, so I’m just tossing it out as an FYI. Here’s a bit more from Lardner’s piece:

U.S. Rep Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat who chairs the committee’s terrorism and unconventional threats panel, said the intent is not to force a kinder and gentler approach to the terror war. There is now and always will be a need for substantial direct action capabilities, he said in a telephone interview, but kicking in doors and killing the enemy is just one part of the broader solution.

….When Smith talks to Socom officials, he said they emphasize the importance of unconventional warfare and other “indirect” approaches.

This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but a lot has changed in the 20 years since special ops priorities were last set. These guys are a lot more than the ninja teams of popular culture fame, and it’s nice to see evidence that the Democratic takeover of Congress is finally starting to get people thinking about how the military ought to work in the 21st century.

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