December 03, 2009

Abu Muqawama Sells Out! (UPDATED)

Oh, for goodness sake. Nathan Hodge starts by asking some fair questions about where defense and foreign policy think tanks get their money. (And has a kind word or two for this blogger. Back at you, Danger Room!) But Matthew Yglesias takes things a step too far. If he thinks this blogger -- or anyone else advocating the U.S. military take population-centric counterinsurgency more seriously -- is in the pocket of the military-industrial complex, he does not understand the acquisitions implications of an institutional move toward COIN, a form of warfare in which expensive weapons platforms like the F-22 have little utility.

On the other hand, I guess this is good news. After being accused of being a Luddite for the past three years, I must be doing something right if people are now tying me and my opinions to large defense contractors. I think you're going to have a very tough time, though, arguing that those making the case for a fundamentally low-tech COIN campaign in Afghanistan are carrying water for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, & Co. I very much doubt big defense corporations are charmed by this researcher saying things like language and cultural training matter as much as or more than the latest and greatest piece of military hardware.

I think this is another case of "they disagree with me on policy, therefore they must be intellectually dishonest". Or, hey, maybe we instead have a different set of assumptions, educations and experiences which lead us toward different conclusions. Maybe. (I'm just going to throw that out there as a possibility.) Anyway, I would ponder this question more but have to first go hop in the bathtub filled with gold Krugerrands donated to me by General Dynamics in thanks for my service to the evil military industrial complex.

Or, instead, I'm about to take the metro home to southeast DC. One of the two.

Update: Yglesias writes in.

I feel like you've engaged in a really egregious misreading of my post. I don't understand how you read the observation that "Even if you assume that nobody in the system is corrupt or dishonest, the system itself contains a systematic bias in favor of military action and against counsels of restraint" as an accusation of intellectual dishonesty. I also don't know why you read the post as specifically about advocates of population-centric counterinsurgency. At any rate, it's certainly true that spending $600 billion per anum on a military organized around COIN is less profitable for defense contractors than is spending $600 billion per anum on a military organized around heavy weapons systems. But my post was about a systematic bias in favor of military activism, rather than a foreign policy of restraint, which would be cheaper than either.

I think the headline hacked me off more than anything else, to which Yglesias replied, "Attention-grabbing headlines are perhaps not always the best way to make a point about a complicated issue." Anyway, I'm probably being too sensitive. But I should point out that a) CNAS makes the names of its corporate donors public, b) CNAS has over 100 donors and c) no single one of those donors contributes more than 5% of our budget. (And d), donors don't have editorial control. Obviously.)