There are several must-read blogs out there - the COIN nerds have some interesting insights, but let's face it, their musings tend to be a bit blinkered by self-referential navel gazing with an overemphasis on the U.S. military and what U.S. boots on the ground do. That's a limited perspective and doesn't lend itself to a complete analysis of the political, social, and economic trends happening out in the real world. Juan Cole's Informed Comment is great, but sometimes doesn't provide the widespread coverage of the region that Abu Aardvark does. And as a progressive, of course I'd be remiss in not mentioning the POMED blog (because democracy and human rights should still matter in U.S. policy) and my own organization's family of Think Progress blogs for a view on all that is just and righteous.I don't really know what to do with that. I think I agree with most everything Brian says, actually.
Q: Other than The New York Times. Do you read Web sites? What Web sites do you look at?
A: I read most of the big national papers.
Q. Do you read them in clips or do you read them in the paper?
A. No, I read the paper. I like the feel of a newspaper. I read most of the weekly newsmagazines. I may not read them from cover to cover but I’ll thumb through them. You know, I spend most of my time these days reading a lot of briefings.
Q: And television? Do you watch? Web sites?
A: I don’t watch much television, I confess.
Q: And Web sites?
Q: No blogs?A: I rarely read blogs.
Ricks cited a discussion on Small Wars Journal once and also cited some things on PlatoonLeader.org but never considered the way in which the new media has revolutionized the lessons learned process in the U.S. military. (Forget Abu Muqawama, though, because this lowly blog started around the same time as the surge.) Instead of just feeding information to the Center for Army Lessons Learned and waiting for lessons to be disseminated, junior officers are now debating what works and what doesn't on closed internet fora -- such as PlatoonLeader and CompanyCommand -- and open fora, such as the discussion threads on Small Wars Journal. The effect of the new media on the junior officers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was left curiously unexplored by Ricks, now a famous blogger himself.That got our friend (and more responsible blogging cousin) Dave Dilegge thinking, and so Dave asked a bunch of bloggers and counter-insurgency theorists to ponder the question of how the new media has affected operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and institutional learning. Folks interviewed included Spencer Ackerman, Tom Barnett, Janine Davidson, Grim from Blackfive, Judah Grunstein, Dave Kilcullen, Raymond Pritchett, Mark Safranski, Herschel Smith, Starbuck, Michael Tanji, and Michael Yon. I particularly liked something Janine had to say:
Military learning -- from the western frontier to now -- has always been enabled by what Keith Bickel calls "informal doctrine.” These sources become critical when formal doctrine is off base or lags behind new techniques and threats. During the Banana Wars, the USMC devoured the Marine Corps Gazette, where that era's thought leaders and vets were publishing their experience and insight from their tours in the Caribbean. These articles eventually framed the Small Wars Manual.I realize this post could fall under "navel-gazing" and of course appreciate people like Janine telling us how important we are, but as someone who studies the way military organizations learn, I am particularly fascinated by the way in which tactical leaders have used Web 2.0 to innovate on the battlefield. Many thanks, Dave, for submitting this RFI. I would now like to hear from tactical operators in the field. If you are a veteran of either Iraq or Afghanistan, write in and say whether or not sites like Abu Muqawama or Small Wars Journal or PlatoonLeader have affected the way you think or the way in which your unit did business on the ground. Because I could just have an over-inflated sense of my own importance. (Which would surprise exactly no one.)
Today this dialogue and debate is taking place in print and "new" media. For our community Small Wars Journal and Abu Muquama provide the key fora. These are not just places to pontificate (though we do that too) but rather sites where serious thought leadership and learning is taking place. And yes, the hosts of these sites are making an enormous difference.
Andrew Exum is a Fellow with the Center for a New American Security. He is a native of East Tennessee and joins CNAS having recently completed five months field research in Lebanon. ...Because the fact that I am joining CNAS on Monday morning will affect this blog and the way we do business, I felt the need to explain a little bit about the move and my future. So I sat down with myself over breakfast and did a little Q&A. This is a bit meta, so bear with me here.
Yeah, sorry. I actually do not start work until Monday -- I moved into my office yesterday -- and was meaning to post something on the blog explaining the move and how it will affect the blog then. But the research and support staff at CNAS -- which has really been on the ball and got me settled in nicely -- posted my bio yesterday, so I figured I owed something to the readership this weekend.2. Why are you pitching your tent at CNAS? I mean, other than to regularly poke fun at John Nagl in person rather than over the internets.
As soon as it became likely that John would replace Michèle Flournoy as president of CNAS, he began to leave harassing messages on my phone "wanting to talk." Over the past few months, I have been working in Washington, DC on a project at Fort McNair and plotting my next move. One option was to immediately enter government service in Washington. Another option was to head "downrange" to either Iraq or Afghanistan. And a final option was to buckle down and finish my PhD. I consulted with a bunch of people whose opinions I value, and the recommendation from most of them was to get my dissertation done. This made a lot of sense to me. Although I have been out of the U.S. Army for longer than I have been in it, some folks still revert to treating me like "Captain Exum" or "Ranger Exum" when I'm in a military audience. And although I am terribly proud of my military service, I am quite ready to put it behind me. Working on a staff downrange where everyone still treats you as a captain, for example, would not be too much fun. I certainly didn't want to go to Baghdad or Kabul and sit in a cubicle drafting papers. In the case of the latter, that would have been a waste of my Arabic and government resources. I eventually settled on CNAS because they offered me a very nice deal -- including health insurance, which will be a big change for me -- and I am excited to help Nate Fick and John as they bring the think tank into the post-Flournoy era. I'll be ready to enter government service either in DC or abroad when people can call me "Dr. Exum." (Although plain "Ex" will continue to do just fine, thanks.)3. So what are the terms of your fellowship, and how will this affect the blog?
Well, once Nagl and I agreed that I would come aboard CNAS, I then sat down with Nate and hammered out the terms. Both Nate and I agreed that I would get at least one day of the week set aside to write the final chapters of my dissertation and that I would also have time to travel to Israel to conduct a final round of interviews. We also agreed -- and this is huge -- that a fifth of my time at CNAS would be devoted to running this blog. Let me say this again: I am now getting paid to blog. That means the content on Abu Muqawama should increase and improve. Also, in the near future, this blog will be hosted by CNAS. So this current blogspot address will shut down.4. Woah, but won't the content have to change?
Luckily, Nate's wife Margaret is a huge fan of this blog. I don't think she would ever forgive Nate if the tone or content changed. And when I put the question to Nate himself, he said he didn't want me to change anything about the blog. When the blog moves over to CNAS, Londonstani and Charlie and our collective sarcasm will come with me. I'll be the editor, but they'll be free to post whenever they like on whatever subject they like.5. Readers already accuse you of being a shill for CNAS. And the counter-insurgency community seems a little, well, "clubby." Do you worry you're going to lose your integrity now that you're getting paid to blog for a center that puts forth recommendations on defense policy? If you disagree with something said by one of the fellows at CNAS, will you still dutifully link to it on the blog?
Over the past few weeks, some have complained this blog is not as critical of voices from within the counter-insurgency community as it should be. And that is a legitimate complaint. But let me explain that this blog was never intended to be an open forum in which all sides of the debate are given equal time. Most of us who blog here share some assumptions. One of those assumptions is that the U.S. military (and government) was and remains overly focused on conventional combat operations. More emphasis should be placed on the training, operations and equipment that support success in "small" wars or "wars among the people". Like all assumptions, if this one is proven to be wrong, we at Abu Muqawama will have to change our recommendations. But if you want to really debate that assumption, this is not your blog anymore than the National Review Online would be a welcome home for a socialist. With regard to products put out by CNAS, the same logic is at play: everyone needs to understand that I really might think quite highly of the work produced by this think tank -- which might be why I chose to join it (well, that and health care). So don't immediately cry foul when I speak highly of something written by John Nagl or Tom Ricks. I like John. I like Tom too. At the same time, I enjoy a real debate with John on Afghanistan. I, for one, worry that this great new counter-insurgency doctrine we have will drive our strategy in that country, when our tactics and operations should be determined by the policies and strategy outlined by the Obama Administration and its military advisers and not visa versa. It's one thing to promulgate COIN doctrine. It's another thing to determine what we should do in Central Asia. I suspect the differences of opinion I will bring to discussions is one of the reasons John wanted to hire me, so I plan on raising holy hell as much as possible. And Nate has made clear that differences of opinion within CNAS, voiced on Abu Muqawama, will bring intellectual credit to the center rather than harm its mission. I agree.6. Blah, blah, blah. How about France and Wales?
Wow. What a game. Mistakes on both sides meant the match never really took off in the same way that France-Ireland did, but all the same, it was a delight to watch. Shane Williams did nothing, while France's back-row forwards, led by Imanol Harinordoquy, were fantastic and outplayed a talented trio on the Welsh side. I was also impressed by the tackling of debutant Mathieu Bastareaud and the running of Maxime Médard. Bastareaud's bone-crushing tackle on the big Welsh center Jamie Roberts illustrated nicely why he was picked. (To be fair, the Welsh tackling was also fearsome at times. I had never before seen Thierry Dusautoir get driven back like that.) I watched the match with my friend Stephanie Pezard, a French scholar of small wars and longtime researcher at the Small Arms Survey who has a massive crush on Sébastien Chabal (watch from :58 of this clip). Somehow I ended up holding the rouge third of the French flag at the bar, so apologies to any of this blog's Welsh readers.
LT G: “Can I ask you guys a few questions about Anu al-Verona?”Another great post can be found here. Anyway, check out this nut's blog. He needs to write a book when he's done with this tour.
Shady McShaderson: “IPs are on patrol. No sleep. Patrol.”
Bulldozer: “Yes. No sleep. We promise. IPs are on patrol.”
LT G: “Yes, yes, I understand. IP’s zien! (Arabic for good.) IP’s zien!” (Accompanied by obnoxious American thumbs up.)
Shady McShaderson: “Zien!” (Accompanied by awkward Iraqi thumbs up.)
LT G: “The questions are not for a report. They are for my blog.”
The Unibrow: “Eh?”
LT G: “(mumbling to myself about Biggie’s questionable whereabouts.) It’s a computer thing. For back in America.”
Shady McShaderson: “Ah! Very good! Like television?”
LT G: “Kind of.”
Bulldozer: “LT will make us famous! On the television!”
LT G: “Umm … sure. Famous. Most of my countrymen don’t like reading anything more substantive than about some Hollywood starlet’s latest meltdown, but you got as good a chance as any at getting famous through my blog.”
The Unibrow: “Eh?”
Wallace Grady called police from the Town and Country Inn on E. 23rd Street to report that he picked up a black female named Felicia and agreed to pay her $25 for sex.
But he said Felicia exited the motel room with his money before she carried out her part of the bargain.
Officer Joshua P. May explained to Mr. Grady that picking up a prostitute is against the law.
Mr. Grady then advised that he no longer needed police assistance.