A journalist's scattershot survey of the elite military and police units Western governments employ for their dirtiest jobs. Drawing largely on his own reportage, Arostegui (who's a former consultant on counterterrorism) offers vivid hit-and-run briefings on a small army of special forces in action against terrorists or rival troops. Cases in point range from Britain's SAS versus the Muslim fanatics holding Iran's London embassy through the derring-do of America's Green Berets and SEALs in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Also covered are the exploits of lower-profile outfits like Australia's SAS, France's GIGN, the French Foreign Legion's CRAP, Germany's GSG9, and Spain's BOEL. In addition, the engrossing text fairly bristles with rough-and-ready commentary from Charles Beckwith (Delta Force), Peter de Billiäre (ex-SAS), Bo Gritz (a retired Green Beret colonel and self-appointed spokesman for the far-right paramilitary movement), Richard Marcinko (of Rogue Warrior fame), and a host of lesser lights. When not engaging in unconventional combat or undercover operations, storming hijacked airliners, carrying out assassinations, or otherwise dealing with enemies of the state, special forces prepare for their next missions. En passant, the author provides painfully detailed rundowns on their training regimens, field doctrine, weaponry, and esprit; he also offers a full ration of raunchy anecdotes on the off-duty antics of these nonesuch men-at-arms. Save for quick takes on the WW II origins of the SAS and John F. Kennedy's role in getting the US into the special forces game, however, Arostegui devotes precious little attention to how and why special units were created, let alone the ways in which they serve variant notions of national security. In short: a fine collection of consistently absorbing war stories, which lacks the perspectives that could yield a coherent picture of the many mortal dangers still faced by the Global Village long after the Soviet Union's collapse.
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