Special Operations and Strategy: From World War II to the War on Terrorism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Special Operations and Strategy

From World War II to the War on Terrorism, 1st Edition

By James D. Kiras


248 pages

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James D. Kiras shows how a number of different special operations, in conjunction with more conventional military actions, achieve and sustain strategic effect(s) over time. In particular, he argues that the root of effective special operations lies in understanding the relationship existing between moral and material attrition at the strategic level. He also presents a theoretical framework for understanding how special operations achieve strategic effects using a unique synthesis of strategic theory and case studies.

This study shows how the key to understanding how special operations reside in the concept of strategic attrition and in the moral and material nature of strategy. It also highlights major figures such as Carl von Clausewitz, Hans Delbrück, and Mao Zedong, who understood these complexities and were experts in eroding an enemy’s will to fight. These and other examples provide a superb explanation of the complexities of modern strategy and the place of special operations in a war of attrition.

This book will be of great interest to all students and scholars with an interest in special forces and of strategic and military studies in general.


'With Special Operations and Strategy, James D Kiras offers a rare scholarly analysis of the ways in which SO can – and cannot – contribute to strategic success. In so doing, Kiras warns policymakers against making costly and tragically common errors under the influence of theoretical concepts which, whatever their value in other types of operations, are inappropriate for this type of warfare.'

Dr Thomas M. Kane, University of Hull, UK

'…this monograph has great value to policy makers and soldiers, conventional and unconventional.'

Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Thomas P. Odom, Small Wars Journal

Table of Contents

1. Special Operations and Great Raids 2. "Seeing ‘Black Lights’ Before Sinking Into Oblivion": Theories of Strategic Paralysis 3. "A Dark Picture of Destruction": Special Operations, the Persistence of Ideas, and Dambusting Dambusting: Raid or Special Operation? 4. Death By A Thousand Cuts: Special Operations, Attrition, and the Nature of Warfare 5. Case Study: "Looting a Burning House," The SAS in the Campaign of Attrition in Normandy, 1944 6. Conclusion: Special Operations and the Nature of Strategy

About the Author

James Kiras is Assistant Professor of Comparative Military Studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, and has over 10 years of experience in the realms of academia, defense policy, and national security. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a Master’s degree in History/International Relations from the University of Toronto. Dr. Kiras successfully defended his PhD dissertation at the University of Reading in 2004. He is a recognized author on the subject of special operations, terrorism, and irregular warfare with numerous book chapters and articles to his credit.

About the Series

Strategy and History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / Strategy
HISTORY / Military / United States