Unconventional Warfare as a Strategic Foreign Policy Tool: The Clinton Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan
Linnington, Abigail T.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Abstract: While there is much literature on the operational and tactical military histories of U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) within security studies, little analysis exists of their primary mission, unconventional warfare (UW), and its implementation within a ... read moregreater national security strategy. As the primary and founding mission of Army SOF, UW receives scant attention as a tool of American foreign policy that supports our national interest. This paper assesses U.S. unconventional warfare strategies employed during the 1990s in Iraq and Afghanistan and concludes that the United State ineffectively utilized UW as a strategic foreign policy tool in those two instances. It begins with a brief history of the development of UW doctrine, UW institutionalization within Army SOF, and the integration of SOF and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for UW operations. The Clinton Administration's decision to implement UW with limited CIA assets is analyzed using prospect theory - a theory of decision-making under risk. The Administration's strategic objectives, while sound, were diminished by the president's lack of commitment to foreign policy, aversion to military solutions, and turbulent domestic politics. In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, the president considered four foreign policy options, settling on limited UW. Operating in the domain of losses, President Clinton pursued risk prone behavior by intervening within a hostile state despite risk averse tendencies resulting from past military failures. Ultimately, the decision to implement a limited, disjointed UW campaign outside a greater national strategy contributed to mission ineptitude. Ultimately, further comprehensive strategic analysis is necessary to ensure that the lessons learned from past U.S. successes and failures inform better use of UW assets as an asymmetrical fighting force against like-minded U.S. opponents.read less