A history of the Joint Special Operations Command, one of the most elite and little-understood pieces of the American military.
While most people know about Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, few have heard of their umbrella group, JSOC. The secret organization was first designed to rescue American captives during the Iran hostage crisis, and although the crisis was resolved before JSOC could unleash its elite units, the group grew exponentially over the next two decades. Naylor (Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, 2005) provides a whirlwind tour of the organization’s many covert operations, from apprehending Manuel Noriega in Panama to hunting war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. But the author’s primary interest is the war on terror, beginning with 9/11. Not only does he characterize JSOC as the allied forces’ most essential wing, but he also describes the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as a major opportunity for American task forces. As Lt. Col. Pete Blaber put it, “At this point, the staff of our higher headquarters was ready to approve just about anything we brought to them—and they did.” Naylor delivers an unquestionably comprehensive history, but the prose sometimes drowns in names, dates, and clinical anecdotes. Occasionally, the author provides vivid visual descriptions, but most of the book is devoid of human faces. The prose is written in emotionless Army-speak, and many of Naylor’s sources spoke, as can be expected in such a book, on condition of anonymity. As one nameless official describes JSOC, “It was so, so top secret that it was extremely difficult to do our job.” In the prologue, the author admits that this secrecy slowed his research. His information is strong, but his story is monotonous, and the final chapter dully peters out.
Packed with anecdotes that will appeal to dedicated military buffs, but the encyclopedic prose will lose average readers.