Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Special Forces in the News for All the Wrong Reasons

In recent years, the special forces of the US and other nations have been in the news for reasons other than their missions. Germany shut down a special forces unit in 2020 due to its members' ties to far-right parties, while another member was arrested last year in connection with a monarchist coup plot. 

In the US, while the discourse on far-right ideology in the armed forces has tended to focus on the military writ large, special forces units have seen a string of murders and drug use investigations. Last month, at least 13 special forces soldiers became the subject of a drug trafficking probe at Fort Bragg. Located in North Carolina, Bragg is the home base for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and routinely has the highest murder and suicide rates of any military base in the country. 

Intra-unit violence and drug use are well-known problems for the military as a whole. However, with the reverence and freedom of action afforded to special forces since 2011-although Moyar argues these are increasingly restrained-it is fair to ask if special forces has a culture problem, and if so, whether their position in popular culture contributes to that problem. Special forces units are naturally more secretive, closed-off worlds, but when intra-unit murders are hardly investigated, as several reporters allege at Bragg, perhaps our current conception of special forces' position in society and the military should be more seriously considered. 

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