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The Inevitable Consequences of Sending Special Forces on Missions in 120 Different Countries-- Endless Conflict Around the World and Blowback on U.S. Soil

The expansion of U.S. special forces to conduct covert warfare sacrifices long term interests in peace, stability and the rule of law for short-term political gain.

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The United States has suffered three widely acknowledged military disasters since the end of the Second World War: in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The American public responded to each crisis by electing new leaders with a mandate to end the wars and avoid new ones. But in each case, our new leaders failed to make the genuine recommitment to peace and diplomacy that was called for. Instead, they allayed the fears of the public by moving American war-making farther into the shadows, deploying the CIA and special operations forces in covert operations and proxy wars, sowing seeds of violence and injustice that would fester for decades and often erupt into conflict many years later.

Six months after taking office, President Eisenhower signed an armistice agreement to end the Korean War. But three weeks later, he unleashed the CIA's first covert operation, to overthrow the elected government of Iran. The nationalization of Iran's oil industry was reversed and U.S. oil companies gained a substantial share of Iran's oil production. Problem solved, right? Not exactly -- the U.S. coup and its support for the Shah's despotic rule led to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and a hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy. Now the long-term breakdown of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran threatens to explode into a new American war.

A year later, the CIA followed up on its "success" in Iran by removing another elected leader, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman of Guatemala. The coup rescued United Fruit Company's ownership of 42% of the agricultural land in Guatemala from Arbenz's modest efforts at land reform, but the 42-year civil war that followed killed at least 250,000 people.

The U.S. defeat in Vietnam led to ten years of relative peace, in which the U.S. avoided open warfare anywhere in the world. But once again, this concealed what senior U.S. military officers have called the  "disguised, quiet, media-free" approach to war in Central America and Afghanistan. Proxy forces armed with American weapons and supported by small numbers of American "advisers" once again plunged millions of people's lives into chaos.

In El Salvador and Nicaragua, the political parties the U.S. fought in the 1980s have eventually won elections and come to power anyway. And in Afghanistan, mujaheddin that the U.S. armed and supported in the 1980s produced the most dramatic act of "blowback" ever on September 11th 2001, plunging America into a decade or more of war, economic crisis and global chaos that we have yet to find our way out of.

President Obama fulfilled the U.S. commitment to withdraw from Iraq that the Maliki government wrung out of the Bush administration, and he stopped the CIA from kidnapping people and bundling them off to Guantanamo. But even after his much-vaunted "withdrawal" from Afghanistan, there will still be twice as many U.S. troops there as when he took office. And he halted the parade of men in orange jump suits stumbling off American planes into the tropical sunshine in Cuba, not by restoring the rule of law, but by ordering the extra-judicial execution of terrorism suspects -- a national policy of cold-blooded murder.

Not a week goes by without news of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan or Yemen, but the U.S. also conducts assassinations by helicopter-borne special forces like the ones who killed Osama Bin Laden. The former head of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Admiral Eric Olson, told an  Aspen Institute conference that SOCOM conducts a dozen such operations every night in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The total number of night raids in Afghanistan escalated from twenty per month in early 2009 to  over a thousand per month two years later, and senior officers admit that  at least half of them target the wrong person or house.