Date of Submission

Fall 10-10-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Volker Franke

Committee Member

Dr. Joseph Bock

Committee Member

Dr. Christopher Marsh


Conventional academic discussion vis-à-vis America’s Special Operations Forces, is largely focused at the tactical and operational level of analysis. This means the emphasis on explaining outcomes is placed on personnel (recruiting, assessing, selecting, and training), cutting edge equipment, innovative tactics, or advanced command and control procedures. Addressing this long-standing trend, I argue that factors well beyond the widely accepted explanations for success or failure are in play. Additionally, these factors are understandable, are manageable, and may have as great or greater an impact on the outcome of a campaign as any tactical consideration. Using the narrowly defined and discrete special operations mission of Unconventional Warfare (UW) as a platform, this dissertation looks beyond the traditional explanations to expand our understanding of the role that executive level organizations play in achieving success or failure.

The central research question is: How do the organizational actions at the executive level of government impact the success or failure of unconventional warfare? This study builds from a foundation of five hypotheses that each attempt to address a segment of the totality of the question and form a complete answer. The hypotheses include – decentralizing control, intent coherence across stakeholders, a unified effort from those stakeholders, continuity in key personnel, and the impact of the President’s attitude toward special operations. Analyzing the cases with a combination of index scoring, key aspects of Lay Epistemic and Groupthink Theory, and contextual deconstruction in the spirit of critical hermeneutics, provided the intellectual rigor to substantiate the findings.

Ultimately, the evidence demonstrates that Intent Coherence is a necessary condition for a successful outcome. Unity of Effort is also necessary but is pinned to intent coherence. Delegation is important and considered a sufficient condition because it contributes to the likelihood of success. The findings also confirm the validity of the key aspects of Groupthink Theory and Lay Epistemics / Cognitive Closure.

Key Words: Unconventional Warfare, Decision-Making, Strategy, Policy, Syria, Guatemala, Bay of Pigs, Cuba, Angola, Tibet.

Recommended Citation.: Joseph E. Osborne (2020), Strategic Consequences: How Executive and Organizational Decision-Making Impacts the Outcome of Unconventional Warfare, PhD Dissertation, Kennesaw State University