November 23, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Allow me to re-introduce myself: My name is Andrew Exum, and I have edited and authored the "Abu Muqawama" blog since February 2007. After much deliberation and consultation, I have decided to stop daily blogging. I owe it to the readership to explain both why and also how it will affect this site.

First off, I have steadily grown dissatisfied with blogging as a medium since returning fulltime in December of last year. The best bloggers I know -- the ones I read and enjoy, like Spencer Ackerman, Tom Ricks and Andrew Sullivan -- are either also journalists or started out as journalists. They are much better at offering on-the-spot commentary and analysis on the events of the day. My friend and boss Nate Fick, meanwhile, accurately described me last week as being someone who enjoys taking a more deliberate approach and digging deep down into an issue before offering comment. Blogging forces me into more or less split-second reactions to complicated policy events before I have had the opportunity to research and weigh opposing views. In addition, the AD/HD nature of this medium -- as well as its format -- has harmed both my research abilities as well as my ability to write in the long form. Blogging, like any medium, is one you get better at with practice. As I have become a better blogger, my long-form writing skills have atrophied.

Second, since starting at CNAS and taking up a more public profile, I have grown concerned over the reaction to my blogging and public commentary. A few months ago, Lady Muqawama, after reading one of the comments threads here, asked me, half joking and half serious, "Are you going to be assassinated?" And when I had my phone turned off today for a CNAS offsite event, I turned it back on to a text message from her asking if I had been kidnapped by a disgruntled reader. (Again, only half joking.) I know that sounds ridiculous, but unlike me, my girlfriend and my mother read all the comments on this site, and they also read posts on the internet like this one. Sorry, but this is simply no longer worth it. I may have a certain talent for writing clever 200-word blog posts and offering sound bites on television, but I enjoy neither doing so nor the effects of doing so. In my heart, I would much rather do research, read more books, play more rugby and take on a more active role in my community than be some public figure sprinting from television interview to radio spot, twittering in the cab along the way.

So how will this blog change? First off, let me tell you how it will stay the same. This blog will remain an active website hosted by CNAS, and it will remain a home for Londonstani's awesome field reports from such dangerous places as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the ends of the Victoria Line. Second, I aim to use this blog in a different way than I have so far done. I look to friends like Marc Lynch and Reidar Visser and admire the way they use their blogs to highlight ongoing academic and policy research. I aim to do the same, which means you can expect me to post far less often but in a more considered way.

I want to thank the loyal readership for all its support. I treasure the community of people who read this blog, offer non-crazed commentary, and have reached out to become friends and drinking partners. I appreciate your continued support and hope you stay in touch.