August 30, 2005

I Love the 'Why Didn't I Publish This' self-flagellation

It's not often I get to read something in the New York Times that talks about an idea I was kicking around a couple of years ago as 'The Hot New Thinking.' But (if I might be excused for blowing my own horn) I got to do that today.

Any of my MIT colleagues who argued with me about that idea are welcome to start arguing again. :-) :-) Dave? Chris? :-)

Let's be fair: this is not new. It's part of an ongoing debate between 'kill count' and 'zone control' that's been going on in counterinsurgency circles since, oh, the first colonial wars, probably.

But the only reason this article is 'now making the rounds' in Washington is because the solution runs directly counter to the 'transformative way of war' that Donald Rumsfeld etc. were busy selling during the initial Iraq war planning. Their problem (as some folks outside the Washington agency navelgaze have always yelled) is that that 'new way of war' was really a 'really good way to fight militaries that looked like ours.' It speaks not at all to the problems of actually handling nation-building (oh right, we weren't going to do that) or of providing after-war stability(see, that would have required having a plan other than 'Iraqis will throw roses at us').

Posted by jbz at August 30, 2005 4:18 PM | TrackBack


Has there been any decent theoretical work done in your corner of the world on what 'good' nation-building would look like? Right conditions under which it should occur, strategies/tactics, etc.? It seems likely that we're going to do this again, eventually (whether or not it is a good idea), and it seems like maybe next time we should, you know, actually try to succeed.

Posted by: Luis Villa at August 30, 2005 6:32 PM
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