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This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Over the past decade, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) has built up significant symbolic capital due to a string of highly politicized and romanticized military operations. The publicity, and the ensuing fame, helped set the conditions for the emergence of a SEAL counterculture characterized by an increasingly commodified and public persona. There has been a shift away from the traditional SEAL Ethos of quiet professionalism to a Market Ethos of commercialization and self-promotion, especially among former SEALs. At the same time, government officials, special interest groups, Hollywood, the publishing industry, and the media writ large have seen the profitability of associating their agendas with the SEAL identity. They are likewise tapping into SEAL fame and offering SEALs an outlet for the commodification of their SEAL affiliation. Such a promotional construct contravenes the dual requirements of security and surprise necessary for the success of SEAL missions. This paper analyzes these trends, and argues that the cultivation of celebrity status has incentivized narcissistic and profit-focused behavior within the SEAL community, which in turn has eroded organizational effectiveness, damaged national security, and undermined healthy civil-military relations. To redress this, all parties must work to reestablish an environment that refrains from promoting special operations for entertainment value, for profit, or for political gain.
CHAPTER I - NAVY SEALS GONE WILD * CHAPTER II - HISTORY AND UTILITY OF THE SEAL ETHOS * A. GENESIS AND MEANING OF AN ETHOS * B. WARNING SIGNS * CHAPTER III - CULTURAL CHANGE OR CULTURAL CORRUPTION? * A. CHANGING CLIMATE * B. BOOKS * C. POLITICS AND THE MEDIA * CHAPTER IV - POLITICS, PUBLICITY STUNTS, AND MIXED MESSAGES - SETTING THE CONDITIONS FOR FAME * A. POLITICS * B. PUBLICITY STUNTS * C. MIXED MESSAGES * CHAPTER V - THE COMMODIFICATION CYCLE AND SOCIAL CAPITAL * A. THE COMMODIFICATION CYCLE * B. SOCIAL CAPITAL * CHAPTER VI - CONSEQUENCES OF PROMOTING SEALS FOR ENTERTAINMENT, PROFITS, AND POLITICS - WHY WORRY? * A. UNDUE PROMINENCE AND CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS * B. NATIONAL SECURITY * C. ORGANIZATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS * CHAPTER VII - COUNTERARGUMENTS * A. DETERRENCE * B. OVERSIGHT AND THE RIGHT TO KNOW * C. THIS IS ONLY A PASSING PHASE * CHAPTER VIII - WHAT TO DO? * A. INTERNAL APPROACH * B. EXTERNAL APPROACH * C. GRASSROOTS APPROACH * CHAPTER IX - CONCLUSION * APPENDIX * NAVY SEAL ETHOS
What would have happened if U.S. Navy SEALs had not killed Osama bin Laden, but rather he had been killed by a drone strike? Would President Obama's administration have handled the publicity differently? Would the name and location of the drone operator's unit have been released? Would the man or woman who pulled the trigger to release the missile have been lionized in mainstream American culture? Would Fox News have hired this drone operator to be a Fox News contributor, paid to comment on domestic and foreign policy? Would drone operators have materialized from the shadows to write tell-all books, star in movies, blog about sensitive drone operations, criticize the president, and run for political office on the platform that they were drone operators? (Hint: this is what many former SEALs are doing.) Such a scenario makes for an interesting counterfactual, because it may reveal something about how society views the functional role of special operations.