By placing the Israeli experience in a comparative perspective, I explore the circumstances that led to the debut of present-day special operations forces and the mechanisms that allowed these units to overcome operational and organizational obstacles and ascend to their current prominent status.
The recent crossing of four different vectors, namely the rise of asymmetrical wars, technological leaps, heightened sensitivity to military casualties, and the professionalization of armed forces provided a highly conducive environment for the rise of Special Operations Forces (SOFs).
Small teams of professional operators, equipped with cutting edge technologies, can rapidly deploy and carry out missions of strategic significance that in the past required massive military campaigns.
An analysis of an original global database of SOFs provides support for the trend. Indeed, the last three decades were marked by a steady rise in the size and influence of these actors in the international arena.
However, a closer look into the data unveils that the seeming linear trend line is a façade, and that in reality, a small number of units account for the alleged global proliferation of this branch. The desire to solve this puzzle brought me to the field and so far I discovered a subsequent list of equally important issues.