Special Forces: America’s Jesuits

A Triple Stack of Special Ops with Flag -- Hooah!

A Triple Stack of Special Ops with Flag — Hooah! (Photo Credit: SOCOM)

W.J. Astore

Nick Turse has a revealing new piece at TomDispatch.com on the rise of Special Forces and SOCOM (Special Ops Command) within the U.S. military.  (For a telling critique of America’s excess of enthusiasm for Special Forces, see last year’s article here by Dan White for The Contrary Perspective.)

What are we to make of U.S. Special Forces being involved, in one way or another, in the affairs of 150 countries in the world over the last three years?  And, as Turse points out, just 66 days into Fiscal Year 2015, U.S. Special Forces have already made their presence known in 105 countries, a presence that seems never to wane.

One historical analogy that occurs to me (which I’ve used before) is the rise of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, within an embattled Catholic Church during the Reformation.  A besieged Church needed true believers to take the fight to heretical Protestants who were bent on the Church’s destruction.  So along came Ignatius Loyola and his church militant of Jesuit priests, sworn to believe that black was white if the Holy Church deemed it so.  Considered an elite within the Church, the Jesuits took the fight to the Protestants during the Catholic Counter Reformation in Europe and across the world.  Jesuits were everywhere, from China in the Old World to nearly everywhere in the New World, crusading for the Church and against the incursions of Protestantism and its various sects.

So, how does the 16th century shed light on the 21st?  America’s Vatican is obviously the Pentagon.  Its primary methods are wars and weapons sales and military training.  Its Loyola was until recently Admiral William McRaven, head of SOCOM.  And its Jesuit priests are America’s Special Ops troops, true believers who are committed to defending the faith of America.

In the aftermath of 9/11, in a rare outburst of honesty, George W. Bush said America was on a crusade across the world.  You might say against “protestants” and other heretics to the American way of life.  And who are our crusaders?  Who is being sent virtually everywhere (remember those 150 countries in three years?) on various “missions”?

Like it or not, America’s Special Forces are our lead missionaries, our Jesuits, our church militant.

The new head of SOCOM, General Joseph Votel III, West Point grad and Army Ranger, put it plainly back in August that America is witnessing “a golden age for special operations.”  What a telling phrase.  And indeed it’s getting increasingly difficult to recall “golden ages” in America’s past that weren’t linked to the military.

But that’s no accident when the national church is the Pentagon and its Special Ops troops are acclaimed as so many missionary heroes.

Welcome to your new golden age, America.

4 thoughts on “Special Forces: America’s Jesuits

  1. Nice analogy! I was SpecOps back when it wasn’t cool. They’ve managed to bloat up beyond manageable. The Jesuits, however, had a strict discipline and standards that the Pentagon lacks.

  2. Pingback: Why the American Military Is Doomed | The Contrary Perspective

  3. As the catechism of entry into Special Forces goes: Special Forces is the formal title of a US Army organization (USASF) formed to conduct covert and clandestine unconventional warfare operations;  training and coaching, advising and assisting. A green beret is the distinctive headgear worn by those assigned to US Army Special Forces units. It is also now captured in a qualification tab worn on the top-most portion of the left sleeve of SF-qualified Army soldiers. Let’s stop using the terms special operations forces and special forces as if they are interchangeable; it only adds to the morass of confusion about the different elements of the special operations community now organized into the inter-service SOCOM structure.

  4. Pingback: A Military Leviathan Has Emerged as America’s 51st and Most Powerful State – Abel Danger

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