The United States Special Operations Command, or SOC, is comprised of elite military units that perform mostly covert missions in hostile territory. SOC has around 54,000 active-duty personnel from the Marines, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard. In April 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Adm. William H. McRaven commander of Special Operations Command.
SOC has been responsible for a number of dazzlingly successful missions in the recent past, including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May and the rescue of two kidnapped aid workers in Somalia in January. Since then, Admiral McRaven has requested that his group be allowed to operate outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels. Through a quiet lobbying campaign, SOC is pushing for more independence as well as expanded roles in places like Latin American, Africa, and Asia.
Proponents of more autonomy for Special Operations Command argue that small groups of specialized fighters represent a better type of military style for the world’s ongoing conflicts. They point to the the success of the Osama bin Laden raid and hold that large-scale wars with massive amounts of ground troops, like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, are unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive. Instead, they would rather special operations forces take out key operative targets quickly and efficiently.
Opponents contend that giving autonomy to a small group of elite groups would undermine the current defense system. Bureaucracy is the real threat to the pace of military action, and going around the problem instead of fixing it is the wrong solution, they argue. They also worry that an independent SOC could get involved in conflicts too easily if not checked through proper channels, possibly sparking wars that could have been avoided.
Should Special Operations Command be given more autonomy? Here’s the Debate Club’s take:
Michael P. Noonan Director of Foreign Policy Research Institute's Program on National Security
Douglas Macgregor Combat Veteran and Author of Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting
Mackenzie Eaglen Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute