The seventh in a series of books by Tom Clancy offering in-depth "tours" of the U.S. military, Special Forces
surveys the soldiers who "are perhaps America's most professional and capable warriors." Who are they? They are the men--and only men, for women are not allowed to become SF soldiers--who are "specially selected, specially trained, specially equipped, and given special missions and support." The Army Special Forces--known to much of the public as Green Berets--are often the first troops on the scene in a crisis. They're also incredibly versatile: "If you're looking for a Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, don't expect to find them in today's Army Special Forces." That's because specialized missions--involving anything from psychological operations meant to undermine enemy morale to guerilla warfare in remote jungles--require flexibility. "Specialized missions (paradoxically) require a broad range of general capabilities and skills," which means SF soldiers, "while physically fit, tend to be more balanced (like triathletes) than specialized (like marathoners and weightlifters)."
Clancy and his coauthor, John Gresham, describe how SF soldiers are recruited, trained, and assigned. There are plenty of interesting notes about SF culture: They don't especially like being called "Green Berets," for instance, even though most units carry a copy of the John Wayne movie The Green Berets in their traveling video libraries. They are typically in their 30s, divorced and remarried, intelligent, interested in the news, and able to speak more than one language. There are also lots of details on weaponry, chronicles of training missions, and plenty of maps and pictures. The book ends with a fictionalized account of an SF mission in 2005 and 2006.
Special Forces is replete with Clancy's tough-guy prose: "The overall media presentation of the Army Special Forces has generally been one of contrived crap." And the book is essentially a celebration of a premier fighting force, rather than a critical treatment of it. But this is not necessarily a weakness. Special Forces will appeal to anybody interested in the modern military, and it may bring civilians closer than they'll ever come to these important troops. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
His now legendary reputation in military circles gives Clancy as complete access to events and sources as any civilian can expect. This is the seventh in Clancy's series investigating key institutions of the contemporary U.S. armed forces (Armored Cav; Fighter Wing; etc.), and the most comprehensive overview of the U.S. Army Special Forces available to general readers. Clancy, writing with regular series collaborator John Gresham, begins with a softball-tossing interview of Gen. Hugh Shelton--books like Clancy's are not written by antagonizing four-star generals--and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman establishes Special Forces evolution from the "snake eaters" of the Vietnam era to the "quiet professionals" described in the rest of Clancy's mostly first-person narrative. The first person is a big selling point here; discussions of equipment, "extreme" training and what Special Forces detachments actually do in peace, war and the gray areas in between are based on Clancy's own reportage often enough to maintain the "guided tour" conceit. Special Forces are shown training Venezuelan internal security forces, acting as coordinators for fire-support missions in Kuwait, cooperating with conventional U.S. units and, in a near-future scenario, defeating a nuclear-tipped terrorist revolution in Indonesia. Clancy's language slips into jargon often enough to confuse the target audience of interested generalists, and others may be disturbed by the implications of a military instrument able to do the things described here. But despite the drawbacks, Clancy remains a consummate storyteller, and this book is no exception to his oeuvre. (Feb.)Forecast: Pluses: It's a book by Tom Clancy in a series that regularly debuts on paperback bestseller lists. Minuses: It's not really a start-to-finish narrative, but a collection of field notes, albeit highly detailed and often compelling ones. Nitpick: the repeated phrase from title to subtitle reads badly.
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