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How to build useful forces to fight in Libya

There is a good piece in Foreign Policy by Roger Carstens about what it actually takes to spin up a special ops capability in Libya that might actually do some good. It is easy to talk about this, and make powerpoint slides and speechify. But the ground truth is it takes time and focus and those are too often lacking from plans that try to put band aids on the sucking chest wounds that are our national security issues.

In an era of decreased U.S. defense spending and a dwindling appetite for large overseas commitments, building the military capacity of our partners so that they can take care of their own security problems makes a lot of sense. And creating a host-nation Special Forces capability is a cost-effective way to build that capacity.

But there are pitfalls to creating such a force -- especially if it is done too rapidly. Taking shortcuts or trying to go too fast can result in a poorly trained force that is just as likely to commit human rights violations as it is to combat militants. In the wake of the Benghazi attack, it is important to remember that one of the Special Operations Truths states: "competent Special Operations Forces (SOF) cannot be created after emergencies occur."

Amen to that. It takes years to build relationships, create real capabilities and put in place a unit that will actually be able to do something more than model the cool new gear we bought for them. The first thing to do is figure out how to figure out who the good guys and bad guys actually are. We sure haven't managed that in Afghanistan and we have been there for a decade. It will take a long slog to get a clue in any of the newly Islamicized countries that were Arab sprung. I hope the powers that be can look past the political aspects of this and do some actual strategic thinking and acting, but I am not holding my breath.