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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Way better than Clancy and Woodward
The authors have provided a lot of perspective on special operations and how it has evolved as the center of the war on terror (or what ever we are calling it now). It reads a little like the reference books of Tom Clancy but rather than focusing on the sexy guns and technology angle it provides a thoughtful rundown of the policy and practices that were developed,...
Published on February 12, 2012 by Lee Dunbar

versus
63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only for those with a critical eye...
Ambinder and Grady attempt to reveal some of the activities of JSOC and in doing this they turn up some amazing information on previously undisclosed operations and activities, however, they also slip up more than once. This critique is intended as professional, rather than personal criticism but it is needed criticism. Because of OPSEC, not every incorrect statement made...
Published 24 months ago by Jack Murphy


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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only for those with a critical eye..., July 15, 2012
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Ambinder and Grady attempt to reveal some of the activities of JSOC and in doing this they turn up some amazing information on previously undisclosed operations and activities, however, they also slip up more than once. This critique is intended as professional, rather than personal criticism but it is needed criticism. Because of OPSEC, not every incorrect statement made in The Command can be corrected. This may sound like a cop out and maybe it is. It is also certain that the following is not a full critique as the author is not aware of every program and mission mentioned in Ambinder and Grady's work and can't comment on it one way or the other.

Some of the mistakes in The Command could be corrected with a careful reading of open source materials such as Mark Bowden's Killing Pablo. Take for instance the statement that Delta Force was "...in Panama where it allegedly pursued Pablo Escobar." Pablo Escobar was allegedly pursued by Delta Force in Pablo's home country of Colombia. However, Delta Force did participate in the 1989 invasion of Panama.

Other elements of The Command take some careful scrutiny to recognize as being somewhat off target. The authors detail Admiral McRaven's approach to the Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq and how JSOC had to adapt to the new Iraqi legal system. Ambinder and Grady make it out as if JSOC intelligence analysts, Delta Force operators, and SEAL Team Six members routinely provided testimony to Iraqi judges in order to secure warrants for High Value Targets. In reality, this was a very rare event. More often, a member of Iraqi Counter-Terrorist forces would provide the testimony on behalf of JSOC. This is one way that JSOC was able to mitigate the Status of Forces Agreement.

It is also necessary to subject the sources used in The Command to closer scrutiny. For example, the New Yorker article Getting Bin Laden by Nicholas Schmidle is cited extensively as a source of information. The New Yorker article in question has been derided by SEALs and Schmidle himself had to admit that he spoke to none of the SEALs involved in the raid, contrary to how he presented himself in the article. When asked about Schmidle's work, veteran SEALs call it "a work of fiction."

There are also smaller, but numerous errors throughout the book. Ambinder and Grady identify the sniper rifles used by SEALs on the Maersk Alabama hostage rescue operations as M-110 rifles when they were actually SR-25's. They write that Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) is a Tier Two Special Operations element even though it is a Tier One unit within JSOC. The authors incorrectly state that there are about 300 DEVGRU and 450 Delta operators. My advice to journalists is to simply stop guessing at the size, strength, and disposition of these two units.

Additionally, there are other mistakes such as mixing up Task Force names, and some content that I find highly questionable. For instance, they write that JSOC conducted less then a dozen raids in April of 2004. I find this highly suspect based on the amount of operations conducted by other Special Operations units during this time frame.

Mention is made to the killing of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law who was assassinated in Madagascar in 2007. According to The Command, a JSOC team infiltrated into the country to carry out the killing. Much is left hanging in the air in regards to this claim. Witnesses to the killing describe a gang of 20-30 men who bludgeoned Khalifa to death at the gem mine he owned. No mention is made of foreigners. No doubt, Khalifa was on JSOC's target deck, whether or not there was American involvement in his death is debatable until further evidence is presented.

Perhaps the most shocking claim made in The Command is that Delta Force infiltrated into China to conduct a recon operation on Chinese satellite transmission facilities to determine how to knock them out if it every became necessary in the future. Without further knowledge of this alleged operation, I find it highly suspect. You can knock out a telemetry station with a cruise missile, no need for a high-risk recce operation that violates the sovereignty of a nuclear power like China. Could the recce mission have actually been about acquiring SIGINT intercepts? It is unlikely that Delta would be used for this mission, and frankly, and it is doubtful that this mission ever took place to begin with. The authors describe how hesitant Washington was to send operators into Somalia, a lawless failed state in which essentially zero political fallout would occur in the context of international politics if an operation was compromised, yet the authors still believe that these same politicians blessed off on an incursion into China? Not likely.

Ambinder and Grady make a strong effort at uncovering the classified activities of JSOC, and present some amazing revelations in the process, but they also stumble over themselves more than once. We can be sure that JSOC is more than happy with that. I look forward to future works from these authors and will continue to follow them but humbly ask that they tighten up their shot group a bit. At this time, I would not recommend The Command to the lay person who is interested in learning more about Special Operations. For the researcher who is willing to double and triple source the claims made by the authors, it may be of some use.

The true history of JSOC and the Special Operations community has yet to be written, and as long as we have Soldiers serving overseas, maybe we should all be grateful for that fact.

-Jack Murphy
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Way better than Clancy and Woodward, February 12, 2012
By 
Lee Dunbar (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
The authors have provided a lot of perspective on special operations and how it has evolved as the center of the war on terror (or what ever we are calling it now). It reads a little like the reference books of Tom Clancy but rather than focusing on the sexy guns and technology angle it provides a thoughtful rundown of the policy and practices that were developed, piloted, and institionalized. My favorite part of the book is the critique of Woodward's assertation that a technological leap forward had a big role in turning the tide in Iraq. While it gently chides this particular view, the whole book stands in significant contrast to the typical "analysis" that gets published. It gives a good look at the people and practices, which at times is a little sobering. The authors could have inserted more political views at those points but instead leave much of the thinking to the reader. Somehow that lends their book more credibility in my view.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong history, with a few distractions, February 27, 2012
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Best summary quote, from the book: "Whatever your view of the Iraq campaign or of war itself, and whatever your tolerance for the often nebulous morality of special operations missions, it behooves you to understand how this type of unconventional warfare evolved and what it means as the U.S. military faces significant spending cuts."

This is definitely a must-read on JSOC and Special Ops. It provides very up-to-date information on the successes and falterings in the evolution of JSOC. The blow-by-blow approach of both frontline and political "back office" parallel perspectives is revealing in that it provides both context and fact. That said, It's a bit easy to get lost in the timeline and lose storyline perspective. A simple visual timeline would have strengthened the author's in-depth and painstakingly researched history of the organization. As it is, I sometimes get lost in trying to recall what was going on at the time around the world.

As for point-of-view, the book is very nonpartisan and neither points fingers nor apologizes for US global actions covered in the story. This can be disorienting at times, as you're not sure whether to view the information in a positive or negative light. But I believe it was the correct approach, in that the book remains informative to your own opinion. One criticism on voice is that the authors aren't consistent with one. The book changes from first person "let's discuss this" banter to treating the reader like an onlooker in a documentary. It's not crippling, but it called attention to itself a few times.

The book manages to explain not only how JSOC evolved buy also why it became the force it is now and is well fortified with examples, current media reference and historical perspective. Well worth the read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, February 16, 2012
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Clearly written by an astute and well connected author with well placed sources.
The speed at which JSOC is now obtaining, processing and acting on intel is particularly insightful.
In contrast to previous reviewers, I think the lack of overt political editorialising is refreshing.
Well worth reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, up-to-date, and an engaging read., April 15, 2012
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Having read dozens of "such books" in the past few months for research, THE COMMAND is one of the most on-point, up-to-date and relevant books on the world of Special Operations I've come across. My only lament is that, in order to highlight, circle and underline the important bits, I have to print it out.

The chapters are breathtakingly short and quick paced, with no loss to the amount of information presented. The style and clear outline makes for a digestible read, and the book is full of lines that will make one step back and check outside for unmarked cars parked across the street.

For the price and length there's no excuse not to check this book out, especially if Joint Special Operations Command, Special Forces, Black Ops and the like are up your alley.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing look into SOCOM, October 9, 2013
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Ambinder & Grady's "The Command" offers a thorough and intriguing look into SOCOM post-9/11 and Operation Neptune Spear. A very good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informed and balanced account of the command, May 10, 2013
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
Not a gun toting action account of Spec Ops though very informative and insightful views from commanders.
The book also talks about how JSOC has evolved and improved itself in the current time of war.

A good read for any Military or SOF personnel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I bet you didn't know this!, May 10, 2013
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
A look into the POTUS and those he has brought into the White House to help him run the government. As you read it and realize what is happening in our country, you will be scared to death. Czars who haven't been vetted by Congress. Many people from the Muslim Brotherhood that are some of the presidents closests advisors. A must read for everyone, if you support the POTUS or not you will be interested in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Command:, August 30, 2012
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This review is from: The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army (Kindle Single) (Kindle Edition)
This is an informative look into JSOC, and traces its beginning in the 1980's and how its commanders have shaped the organization. It is a short book and tersely written, which seems in sync with its mission. Perhaps it is most useful to the reader who has an understanding of the military commands to see where this part of SOCCOM fits in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will be glad you read this, February 7, 2014
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Wrk33n (Northern California) - See all my reviews
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Having worked in submarines with SEAL units and MACV-SOG during Vietnam, I was not happy to see SOF getting so much publicity. I was afraid the same might happen to Delta.
Having read "The Command", I feel much better now. Clearly there is still a great deal going on and a lot more capabilities at JSOC, CIA and the support elements that the public doesn't know about.
I've always thought the country was safer when somebody knew things that we're happening that I'd never heard of.
Unless you've operated in or with SOF units, you may not understand it all, but you'll feel better for reading it.
Read especially "When You See the Word National . . .". It's not our fathers' military any more ... Can't be . . . Different mission.
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