The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have given the U.S. Army's Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, a central role in American military action like never before. Several hundred U.S. Special Forces operators helped a motley band of Afghan rebels orchestrate a stunning rout when they overthrew the Taliban after 9/11. In Iraq, as journalist Linda Robinson explains in Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
, Special Forces units were the main U.S. elements on the ground in the northern and western regions of the country, where they defeated government forces that outnumbered them many times over. Robinson tells the story of the Special Forces through the eyes of a few of its more colorful personalities, men with call signs like Rawhide and Killer. She follows them around the world from Panama and El Salvador to Somalia, Kosovo, and, finally, Afghanistan and Iraq. Surprisingly, however, she devotes only a few pages to the Green Beret-led victory in Afghanistan, even though it was arguably their greatest achievement since they were created after World War II.
Critics and supporters of the recent American interventions alike should find the technical proficiency of the Special Forces interesting and impressive. Each 12-soldier team may marshal more than a century of combined experience in weapons, foreign languages, intelligence, communications, air control, and trauma medicine. For a book about such an action-packed subject, though, Robinson's effort is somewhat dry, and she devotes more time to mundane background biographies than to the dramatic battle scenes in which the Special Forces invariably find themselves. In addition, Robinson's "secret history" is an authorized and sympathetic one, and readers may be left wondering what she may have left out of her accounts in order to maintain her access. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
This impressively readable account chronicles the role of the U.S. Army's Special Forces (aka the Green Berets, a label they do not care for) over the past 15 years. Special Forces operations included Somalia, the first Gulf War, the Balkans, Afghanistan and once again the Gulf. The latter two operations are are allotted half the book, with the ongoing presence in Iraq being the forces' largest operation since Vietnam. Based on interviews with 30-odd operators, the book is a compelling group portrait of some of America's most dedicated warriors. A journalist specializing in national security subjects, particularly unconventional warfare, Robinson mostly shows the men performing their original role: organizing and training local friendlies to liberate their countries or at least achieve American goals. Recent achievements along those lines include organizing Shiite militias in Iraq and leading Kurdish forces to tie down Saddam's army in the north. Robinson also presents in some detail the new role of the Special Forces, one of major strategic significance: calling in aerial fire support on enemy targets in support of either U.S. or indigenous forces in distant lands. Still mostly secret, she finds even after careful investigation, is their work with the FBI after 9/11.
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