June 12, 2009


Well, that was exhausting. I am still recovering from the CNAS annual conference, but I wanted to thank all of the readers who walked up and introduced themselves yesterday. The Afghanistan and Pakistan panel in which I participated was awesome. We set up a murderer's row of panelists to dissect our new report, and the panel obliged. LTG (Ret.) David Barno -- legend of the light infantry -- had some great criticisms, as did Col. Chris Cavoli (Princeton '87), living proof that Ivy League officers can thrive in the infantry past the rank of captain. But the day belonged to Prof. Andrew Bacevich's broadside of the entire adventure in Afghanistan, which was kinda the reason we invited him. (Some people missed the fact that Bacevich was an invited guest brought in specifically to offer the criticism he did and not some guy off the street who bravely stood up to the CNAS juggernaut. Say what you want to about us, but we're intellectually honest enough to invite opinions contrary to our own.) My only regret, though, is that we did not have a separate panel discussion on the future direction of U.S. foreign policy, because his comments were probably better directed toward that subject than the largely operational focus of the paper. And I think we got bogged down in the whole "why are we there" question -- an important one, no doubt -- that I did not hear as much as I would have liked from Chris in particular until a more informal discussion later in the afternoon with T.X. Hammes, Yochi Dreazen (C '99), and Lt.Col. Neil Schuehle. I actually have a lot of sympathy for some of the professor's arguments, so it felt odd being more or less obliged to offer counter-arguments. That would have been a role better played by Robert Kagan or even Steve Biddle, who has an excellent and sober new consideration of the effort in Afghanistan due to be published soon in the American Interest.

That said, it was a great day, and many thanks to those of you who participated.