We conceived of ourselves as potential liberators of a Soviet-conquered Europe, supporting Europe’s guerrilla resistance. (That was to change with the Vietnam deployment in the 1960s, when Special Forces were given the mission of chasing guerrillas down and killing them.) We were bound by the laws of war and were expected (if only for our own protection under the Geneva Conventions) to operate in military uniform while carrying military identification.

We’ve come a long way since—both Army Special Forces and the United States’ idea of its mission in the world. Today, Special Forces have been grouped with the Army’s Delta Force, Rangers (specialized light infantry), the Navy’s SEALs and the Marine Corps’ Special Operations units, plus some air units, in something called U.S. Special Operations Command, which, according to The Washington Post, was deployed in 75 countries last year, and expects to be operating in 120 countries by the end of this year.

None of this is likely to be news to anyone who follows American policy. I bring it up to challenge such a program and policy, not simply out of considerations for national and individual morality, but for political and military policy reasons.

The global security domination program that the U.S. has followed since 2003 expresses a militarism, ruthlessness and disregard of international law that now characterizes the Pentagon.

As many of us have argued, global domination is a political policy that cannot possibly succeed. The world is not open to domination by a single state. The effort to establish it will destroy the United States itself. The reasons are evident in history.

A global policy of assassination of what are conceived to be America’s enemies endlessly creates, motivates and augments the number and determination of those enemies. It defeats itself. It is an assault upon the most powerful force in modern history, nationalism, which is composed of religion and culture, and incorporates a people’s moral identity and sense of destiny. By attacking it, the United States has automatically placed itself on the losing side of history.

William Pfaff is an American author, op-ed columnist for the International Herald Tribune and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. He served in infantry and Special Forces units of the United States Army during and after the Korean War. In 1961 he became one of the earliest members of the Hudson Institute.