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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
From today's Washington Post:
He bluntly warned Lockheed Martin that he would slice funding for the more modern F-35 jet if the contracting giant lobbied to build more F-22s. Lockheed Martin's chief executive, Robert J. Stevens, told employees he supported Gates's call "to put the interests of the United States first -- above the interests of agencies, services and contractors." That left the powerful lobbyists to sit on their hands.
I highly recommend this article on how the Obama Administration -- and Sens. McCain and Levin -- killed the F-22 program. While I was away in Afghanistan, I read the text of Sec. Gates's speech in Chicago and his comments to the press afterwards regarding the F-22. I had no idea the speech and his comments were so coldly calculated and part of a larger, well-organized effort to undermine support for the F-22. Silly me.
Also in the Post today, my boss has an excellent review of a new biography of Donald Rumsfeld. Within the halls of 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, I take it upon myself to be the one to make the most merciless fun of Nate and John, but one has to give credit where credit is due, and Nate's review is really quite good:
During the summer of 2003, a squall of snowflakes and counter-snowflakes blew through the offices of Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, the newly appointed head of U.S. Central Command, about the definitions of "insurgent" and "guerrilla warfare." Rumsfeld, over Abizaid's objections, resisted acknowledging the enemy in Iraq as an organized force because doing so would have suggested that the U.S. presence there was likely to be long and costly. But his denial merely delayed the inevitable, and, as in a real snowstorm, the cleanup began only after the last flake fell.
A new CNAS program, and a great opportunity for some of the under-35s who read this blog. Folks with "downrange" experience are especially encouraged to apply.
Abu Muqawama will be offline all tomorrow as we take part in the annual CNAS conference, kicked off by General David Petraeus and expected to attract a ridiculous 1500 guests. YOU can watch the conference LIVE at the comfort of your desk.
Nate Fick and I take the stage with our paper on Afghanistan and Pakistan around 1100.
On a somewhat related note, I apologize to all whose emails have gone unanswered over the past few days. I count over 700 unanswered emails on my Blackberry alone. I promise my schedule will slow down a bit after this week.
For those who missed it, the Politico had an interesting and lengthy feature today on defense policy debates. (And John Nagl answered questions from the Politico's readership on Afghanistan and the future of the military.)
American public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves "a perceptible shift in momentum," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview.
Mr. Gates said the momentum in Afghanistan is with the Taliban, who are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country.
The defense chief has been moving aggressively to salvage the war in Afghanistan, signing off on the deployments of 21,000 American military personnel and recently taking the unprecedented step of firing the four-star general who commanded all U.S. forces there. Mr. Gates, speaking in his cabin on an Air Force plane, said the administration is rapidly running out of time to turn around the war.
"People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we're making headway," he said. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."