Announcing the "Is Counterinsurgency Stifling the Debate?" Debate

  • August 24, 2009
  • Abu Muqawama

I am at my wit's end. I re-read this post from yesterday and have no idea how it used "Cheneyesque tactics to delegitimize dissent." Yet that's what one reader accuses me of doing. In fact, there is a chorus of people out there -- some of them quite smart -- who accuse counterinsurgency proponents of stifling the debate on everything from the war in Afghanistan to defense policy. To read the comments section of this last post -- go ahead, read it -- you would think that we "COINdinistas" (as one of my readers named us) are wrecking people's lives, turning them down for jobs, poisoning their dogs, raping their cattle and stampeding their women.

The reason this frustrates me is because -- if you have been reading this blog since it started, in February 2007 -- I kinda thought I had been doing more than my fair share to publicize those critical of contemporary counterinsurgency doctrine. I figure a guy like Gian Gentile, for example, gets an extra few thousand readers every time he writes something on account of links from this blog. Do I disagree with what he often writes? Sure. But I link to it and engage with the subject matter. And I firmly insisted upon an open comments thread when this blog moved to the cnas.org site because the comments from readers are what makes this blog worth reading. So in my mind, I am not stifling any debate. But maybe I am like the King Arthur character in this scene -- on the one hand, maybe I am presiding over an unfair and oppressive system and have been too stupid and intellectually incurious to have realized it. On the other hand, maybe these people are %$#@ing nuts. (Or maybe the answer lies somewhere in between?)

Since I have no interest in being the subject of Walt and Mearsheimer's next book, I am inviting readers to write in to the afghanstrategy@gmail.com address and answer whether or not proponents of counterinsurgency doctrine are stifling a debate. If the answer is yes, then you can't just use shorthand like "COINdinistas" -- you have to define who, exactly, you are talking about and then how, exactly, they are stifling debate. ("Being good at arguing policy" or "running witty blogs" are not acceptable answers.) If the answer is no, then explain -- in your own words -- why some critics think debate is stifled, why they are wrong, and offer evidence to support your claims. 

Okay, now if your initials happen to be "BF" or "GG", I'm not going to publish your submissions if you write one. It's nothing personal -- but I am trying to determine whether or not this complaint of yours is one advanced by just a few people or one that is more widely felt. (And also, you guys -- like me -- have made your points already. Though, please, participate in the comments threads.)

[For those in the readership who have no interest in this debate, here's one for you: should Ricky Ponting remain Australia's captain after this past weekend?]

Abu Muqawama debates his critics: