Why on earth did the Navy need commandos who could raid anywhere on it?

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Jocko Willink recently interviewed fellow former-SEAL Ben Milligan about his new book, By Water Beneath the Walls: The Rise of the Navy SEALs, which introduces the SEALs as a unit that should not exist:

How did the US Navy create a unit whose operational center of gravity is not only directed at a mission performed on the 29 percent of the earth’s surface that its ships cannot touch, but one so fraught with difficulties that most units of the Army and Marine Corps — the US military’s traditional tenants of its land operations — are not able to perform it with anywhere near the same proficiency?

Most everyone who has ever tried to casually account for the Navy’s inland creep in special operations has explained it away as simple evolution — essentially, a nearly thoughtless process of natural selection in which the Navy responded to a changing environment by inevitably adapting to new operational opportunities. As I saw firsthand, the problem with that theory is that the US military’s various branches — and no less the US Navy — are legendarily hierarchical, thus legendarily stagnant, and thus require more than just a changing environment to turn the steam pistons of inevitability. In other words, these turns are not inevitable; at least not without the backs to crank-start their own evolution in the direction their own brains decide. Which brings us to the next explanation.


Why on earth did the Navy need commandos who could raid anywhere on it?


  1. Sam J. says:

    “SEALs as a unit that should not exist”

    I’m not sure why anyone would say this. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet. Maybe I will change my mind but something like 80% or more of the Earth’s population live within 80 miles of the Ocean so being able to operate on the Ocean with land capabilities makes perfect sense. You infiltrate from the Ocean to the population centers close to it which is most of the population.

  2. Bruce Purcell says:

    The Navy needs sailors who can swim, frogmen. When you separate a specialty into two new specialties, lots of people get promoted. When Navy frogmen separated into EOD frogmen who know explosives and how to swim around propellers, and SEAL frogmen who know how to swim ashore with small arms, lots of people got promoted. D-JFK was president around then and he was nuts about ‘special forces’.

  3. Hoyos says:

    Nobody questions sailors operating in a littoral environment. My understanding is until the fifties most sailors received some basic infantry training because they might have to operate on shore for brief periods. The Navy having frogmen, operating in an amphibious manner, none of this is weird.

    SEALs in Iraq and Afghanistan operating far far away from a large body of water without a scuba tank in sight is weird.

    First chapter is interesting, basically details marines going from naval infantry to Army 2: The Sequel. Kind of like army aviation developing close air support helicopters after the Air Force spin-off and didn’t want to provide the CAS the army wanted. The navy kind of lost its infantry so things like the SEALs gained more prominence being the implication.

    Related detour, there’s been talk about Special Operations Command spinning off into its own service. I feel like key questions aren’t being asked like “what are we actually trying to accomplish here?” Might be a good way to slosh money around is my fear but I might be thinking too cynically.

  4. VXXC says:

    When the SEALS get told to march over mountains in wet suits, carrying O2 tanks, marching in flippers..

    …then they’ll be in the Army.

  5. Felix says:

    Off topic: Where is Kirk? I hope he’s OK.

  6. Szopen says:

    Why maritime power have navy special units is one thing, but why country such as mine apes SEALs and creates Formoza, is completely another thing.

    They seem to exist only to have cool looking photos (and to capture some Iraq facilities twenty years ago).


  7. Sam J. says:

    “SEALs as a unit that should not exist”

    I’m listening to the Jocko interview and now I understand why they shouldn’t exist. Other units had the capability, but it looks like the people at the top just did not want these crazy deranged warrior-type people.



    They look bad ass!

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