Perilous Options: Special Operations as an Instrument of U. S. Foreign Policy / Edition 1

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In the past three decades, the United States government has used special operations repeatedly in an effort to achieve key foreign policy objectives, such as in the overthrow of Fidel Castro in Cuba and the rescuing of American hostages in Iran. Many of these secret missions carried out by highly trained commando forces have failed. In Perilous Options, Lucien Vandenbroucke examines the use and misuse of such special operations through an in-depth analysis of four operations—the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Sontay raid to rescue POWs in North Vietnam, the Mayaguez operation, and the Iran hostage rescue mission.

Drawing extensively on declassified government documents, interviews with key decision makers and participants in these episodes, and other primary material, Perilous Options identifies recurrent problems in the way the United States government has prepared and executed such operations. These recurrent problems, outlined by key participants in these four special operations, include faulty intelligence, poor interagency and interservice cooperation and coordination, inadequate information and advice provided to decisionmakers, wishful thinking on the part of decisionmakers, and overcontrol of mission execution from outside the theater of operations. Vandenbroucke also explores the extent to which recent efforts to revitalize the U.S. operations capability have addressed these problems, identifying additional changes that can improve the government's ability to plan, evaluate, and execute such operations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Very well researched and presented. Combining recently declassified materials with extensive interviews and a wide range of secondary analyses, Vandenbroucke is a treasure trove of information for someone interested in special operations generally or in one of the specific cases."—Choice

"We must all be grateful for this thoughtful, fair-minded and disillusioning assessment of special operations as an instrument of American foreign policy."—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., City University of New York

"A most fair and objective analysis. I hope that this book is read closely by all who may become involved in planning future such operations, from the President on down."—George P. Steele, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Former Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet

"Perilous Options is must reading. The author vividly brings out the lessons of America's special operations in the past. I highly recommend it."—Roy J. Manor, Lieutenant-General USAF (Ret.), Former Commander JCTG, Sontay, 1970

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195045918
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lucien S. Vandenbroucke is a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. He is a former Brookings Institution Research Fellow.

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Table of Contents

1 Patterns of Failure 3
2 Plotting against Castro 9
3 Debacle at the Beachhead 19
4 Raid to an Empty Camp 51
5 Last Fiasco in Indochina 72
6 There Are No Snakes on Koh Tang 94
7 Hostages of the Ayatollah 114
8 The Helicopters That Couldn't 136
9 Why We Failed 152
Notes 183
Selected Bibliography 227
Index 249
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