Review of International Studies

Research Article

The (Arrested) Development of UK Special Forces and the Global War on Terror



The use of force in international relations by the West is increasingly witnessing a greater reliance on Special Forces. This trend has profound implications for state action because Special Forces represent a very different kind of soldier and they possess the inherent ability to transgress traditional boundaries in peace and war. The development and participation of UK Special Forces in the Global War on Terror provides a microcosm of the positive and negative dimensions of using secret military units as the force of choice against insurgents and terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and indeed on the streets of London.

Alastair Finlan is a RCUK Academic Fellow in Strategic Studies in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University. He has published widely on the Falklands and the Gulf War, together with warfare and strategic culture. His most recent book is Special Forces, Strategy and the War on Terror: Warfare By Other Means which was published by Routledge in 2008.