Why Russia, China, India, Iran, would be foolish to trust the United States
United States Special Operations
    You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and
the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the
rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, they
instruct, yell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In
many places, more than their particular brand of camouflage, better boots, and
designer gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat and
gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or third-world bars.

These men — and they are mostly men — belong to an exclusive military
fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the nation. Typically, they’
ve spent the better part of a decade as more conventional soldiers, sailors,
marines, or airmen before making the cut. They’ve probably been deployed
overseas four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their mid-
thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more schooling than
most in the military. They’re likely to be married with a couple of kids. And day
after day, they carry out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes
covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda,
Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, Belize to
Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most
elite troops — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — and odds
are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index
finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.

The Wide World of Special Ops

    This year, U.S. Special Operations forces have already deployed to 135
nations, according to Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations
Command (SOCOM).  That’s roughly 70% of the countries on the planet.  Every
day, in fact, America’s most elite troops are carrying out missions in 80 to 90
nations, practicing night raids or sometimes conducting them for real, engaging
in sniper training or sometimes actually gunning down enemies from afar. As
part of a global engagement strategy of endless hush-hush operations
conducted on every continent but Antarctica, they have now eclipsed the
number and range of special ops missions undertaken at the height of the
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, Special Operations forces (SOF)
were reportedly deployed in only about 60 nations around the world.  By 2010,
according to the Washington Post, that number had swelled to 75.  Three years
later, it had jumped to 134 nations, “slipping” to 133 last year, before reaching a
new record of 135 this summer.  This 80% increase over the last five years is
indicative of SOCOM’s exponential expansion which first shifted into high gear
following the 9/11 attacks.

Special Operations Command’s funding, for example, has more than tripled from
about $3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion in 2014 “constant dollars,”according
to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  And this doesn’t include
funding from the various service branches, which SOCOM estimates at around
another $8 billion annually, or other undisclosed sums that the GAO was unable
to track.  The average number of Special Operations forces deployed overseas
has nearly tripled during these same years, while SOCOM more than doubled its
personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 now
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