From the commandant
By Maj. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick
Originally published in the July-September 2012 edition of Special Warfare
While the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have preoccupied much of the Army’s — and the media’s — time and attention over the past 11 years, it has been easy to overlook the fact that Army Special Operations Forces have been conducting very significant operations in support of our nation’s defense in regions all over the world.
On Jan. 5, we were reminded of that fact when the new National Defense Strategy was announced. The new strategy rebalances the nation’s global posture and presence by placing a greater emphasis on operations in the Pacific. This makes sense.
The Pacific realm is home to more than 3.4 billion people and encompasses about half the earth’s surface. The region, though plagued with many of the same problems we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Iraq — violent extremist organizations trying to disrupt the governance of many countries — has been something of a stabilizing influence in the world. The new strategy points to the fact that the region is growing in importance to the United States in terms of our economy and national security, and puts a premium on the use of forces that can build capacity in our partners and allies.
This is what ARSOF has been doing in the region for a number of years. A lesser publicized, but extremely successful, campaign in the Philippines throughout Operation Enduring Freedom has led to greater stability in the country as it counters the destabilizing effects of VEOs like Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. Working through and with our partner forces in the Philippines, our Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Soldiers have built a stronger Philippine force. That sort of deliberate action has been at the base of actions by ARSOF throughout the region, and underscores the importance of sustained and persistent cooperation and collaboration.
Even as we build partnerships and maintain relationships, we must be mindful of our largest adversary in the region: China.
China’s military budget increased by about 11.2 percent this year and stands right around $106.4 billion. That’s the second largest military budget in the world. As China has increased its military, it has also increased its global presence, with China’s influence spreading beyond the Pacific realm into Africa and even own backyard in places like Panama.
In this issue, you will read about our operations in the Pacific realm, but you will also read about the threat of China to our national defense, and where ARSOF can help minimize that threat.
Special operators like to quote Sun Tzu, and it seems appropriate that I do so here: “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
It is imperative, as our nation’s focus shifts to the Pacific that we understand the threat of China, but more importantly that we understand the role of ARSOF in combating it.