Special Forces

From The New York Times:

Cover-600 If I were Donald Rumsfeld’s son, I’d give him “Horse Soldiers” for Father’s Day. During his tenure as George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Rumsfeld championed a mode of warfare that relied on limited numbers of soldiers armed with high-tech equipment and backed by precise, devastating air power. The Rumsfeld doctrine clashed with the Powell doctrine, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s theory that wars are best won with overwhelming ground forces, specific political goals and a clear exit strategy. Rumsfeld carried the day, and has left us in a hell of a fix in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Back in early 2002, though, Rumsfeld’s idea looked pretty good. In late 2001, small units of elite Special Forces soldiers, working with C.I.A. operatives and Air Force bombers, joined forces with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance to defeat the country’s ruling Taliban. They didn’t need tanks and 100,000 troops. They rode into battle on horses. Doug Stanton tells the story of that brief shining moment in “Horse Soldiers,” a rousing, uplifting, Toby Keith-singing piece of work. This isn’t Afghanistan for those who enjoy (I use the word loosely) Iraq through the analytical lens of a book like “The Assassins’ Gate,” by George Packer. It’s for those who like their military history told through the eyes of heroic grunts, sergeants and captains. Think of Stephen E. Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” or Stanton’s own best seller, “In Harm’s Way,” the story of the survivors of the cruiser Indianapolis, which sank in shark-infested waters during World War II.

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