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OTB Roundtable on Afghanistan (Dave Schuler)


As I’ve observed here before I opposed the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 largely on prudential grounds and because I foresaw a situation not unlike the one we face now: the difficulty of achieving and maintaining a worthwhile objective by invading at a cost and in a timeframe that the American people will accept. Along […]

Why “Befuddled”?


Leslie Gelb, distinguished diplomat, journalist, and scholar, professes befuddlement over President Obama’s strategy with respect to Afghanistan: I’m lost on President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan policy—along with most of Congress and the U.S. military. Not quite eight months ago, Mr. Obama pledged to “defeat” al Qaeda in Afghanistan by transforming that country’s political and economic infrastructure, […]

Quote of the Day – COIN Edition


“[General Stanley] McChrystal is not inclined to draw attention to his storied history as a special operator. But when he tells you that it’s impossible to kill your way out of this war, you believe him — because Lord knows, he’s tried.” – Andrew Exum, reporting back to Abu Muqawama after a month working on […]

Operation Khanjar Launches


I do a massive roundup of the news coverage of the massive show of force in Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley that kicked off in the wee hours this morning in my New Atlanticist post “U.S. Launches Major Afghan Offensive.” My detailed take at the link but what’s most remarkable is not so much the sheer size […]

Doug Stanton: John Wayne Fan


Mark Safranski has a mini-review up of Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers. Not having read the book, I don’t have anything substantive to add.  I had previously mentally noted that Horse Soldiers was also the name of a classic John Wayne movie but figured it was a coincidence — until I saw the bottom blurb that […]

Abu Muqawama Moves to CNAS


Andrew Exum moved to CNAS a while back and now his blog, Abu Muqawama, has moved, too.   All your COIN belong to us and all that.  No word on whether Erin Simpson et al will be moving along with him. Update your links, feeds, and whatnot accordingly.

DoD Cutting Major Programs in Restructuring


The Defense Department is finally getting somewhat serious about COIN and other forms of nontraditional warfare, signaling major priority shifts with its new budget proposal. Gates’s aides say his plan would boost spending for some programs and take large whacks at others, including some with powerful constituencies on Capitol Hill and among influential contractors, making […]

How to Turn a Cigarette into a Knife

John Nagl’s classic book on counterinsurgency is called Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Less insightful, perhaps, but easier to implement is Neil Strauss’ survivalist video, “How to Turn a Cigarette into a Knife.” Via Noah Shachtman, who has an interview with Strauss and several other videos. (Also, one of the most annoying pop-over […]

Quote of the Day: COIN Edition


“No one who really understands COIN wants to do it.” – Andrew Exum (aka Abu Muqawama)

Jury Duty and COIN


Erin Simpson: I’m working on a longer post on “what jury duty can teach you about counter-insurgency.” It revolves around the following observation: prosecutors believe about 50 people witnessed the “urban gun battle” at the heart of the case I sat for; *3* eyewitnesses ultimately testified, all of whom had to be relocated due to […]

Tony Blankley: Bring Back the Draft


Tony Blankley, former press secretary to Newt Gingrich and editorial page editor of the Washington Times, has a new book out that, among other things, argues for reinstatement of the military draft.  Unlike liberals like Charlie Rangel or even centrist Phil Carter, he doesn’t do so on the basis of “fairness” or spreading the burden […]

Afghanistan: Defining Victory


Over the weekend, Dave Schuler closed his post “Winning in Afghanistan” with three very good questions: What are our strategic objectives in Afghanistan? What tactics will effect those objectives? What are the logistical requirements of implementing the objectives? Today in New Atlanticist, my former graduate advisor, Don Snow, gives an extensive response with “Are We […]

Iraq War Now Peacekeeping Mission?

Georgian Forces Patrol in Iraq

Michael J. Totten weighs in on the  Iraq War is Over and We Won argument and decides that, while he’s “reluctant” to answer that question in the affirmative, “The war in Iraq is all but over right now, and it will be officially over if the current trends in violence continue their downward slide. ” […]

McMaster Gets Star, ARCIC Directorship

Brigadier General H.R. McMaster Photo

H.R. McMaster has been officially nominated by the president for brigadier general and is “currently enroute to serve as director, concepts development and experimentation, Army Capabilities Integration Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Virgina.” Foreign Policy‘s Blake Hounshell reports that, The ARCIC is a relatively new center that has the potential to […]

Bloggers and Journalism: False Dichotomy

Rathergate Cartoon

Stilgherrian has attended one too many Future of Media conferences and he has a long tirade for Old Media journalists whining about bloggers and professional standards. What’s tiring about this false dichotomy is that it compares the highest ideal of journalism with the lowest grade of personal blogging about what the cat did yesterday and […]

More Language and Culture, Fewer Guns

Army Language and Culture Training

Apropos our value of foreign languages discussion earlier, Andrew Krepinevich, a highly regarded military analyst, says the Pentagon needs to commit far more resources to just that. “If the experience of the last seventeen years tells us anything, it is that we are likely to continue to find our armed forces deployed… in operations among […]

Democrats Attacking McCain’s Military Record: Is A Pattern Emerging?


Jim Geraghty is not buying the notion that Wes Clark’s attempts to diminish John McCain’s military service was done without coordination with the Democratic Powers that Be. After statements by a half-dozen high-profile Democrats and Obama surrogates, you cannot persuade me that there is not a concerted effort on the part of Obama Democrats to […]

Jindal Signs Chemical Castration Bill


Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday signed the “Sex Offender Chemical Castration Bill” hours after the Supreme Court overturned that state’s law allowing capital punishment for child rapists. It “provides that on a first conviction of aggravated rape, forcible rape, second degree sexual battery, aggravated incest, molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under the […]

Blogs Then and Now


Aaron Brazell is doing some research on the evolution of blogging in recent years and has asked for my input. [Update: The result, “Political Blogging 2.0,” is now up.] I started OTB in January 2003 and have seen a lot of change. I should note at the outset that my experience is almost entirely with […]

Reggie Love: Barack Obama’s Body Man

Reggie Love Barack Obama's Body Man

Reggie Love was a standout wide receiver and basketball player at Duke that the Dallas Cowboys, for some odd reason, unsuccessfully tried to turn into a pro linebacker. Love was occasionally flat on his back in his college days. He’s landed on his feet, working as the body man for the presumptive Democratic nominee for […]

Petraeus: Diplomacy, Not Force, With Iran

Petraeus: Diplomacy, Not Force, With Iran

David Petraeus says force should be our last option in solving our disputes with Iran. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, President Bush’s nominee to lead U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, supports continued U.S. engagement with international and regional partners to find the right mix of diplomatic, economic and military leverage to […]

H.R. McMaster Leads New Crop of Generals


The third time is the charm for H.R. McMaster, who is the most recognizable name on the list of new one-star generals selected by a promotion board headed up by none other than David Petraeus. An Army board headed by Gen. David H. Petraeus has selected several combat-tested counterinsurgency experts for promotion to the rank […]

Bob Barr Announces Presidential Run * Updated *


As has been long expected, former Rep. Bob Barr has announced that he’s running for President as a Libertarian. Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr has announced that he’s running for president as a Libertarian. His candidacy would be a wild card in the White House race and many believe it would hurt Republican Sen. John […]

The Next Right

Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffini, and Soren Dayton are launching a new initiative they’ve dubbed “The Next Right.” It’s apparently yet another attempt to create a right-of-center counterpart of the Netroots. Not yet launched, it purports to be “an online community for change-minded activists and hardcore political junkies in the conservative movement.” All three of the […]

Hillary Clinton to Surrender?


After falling further behind last night, Hillary Clinton is “returning to Washington, D.C. today to meet with advisers and discuss the future of her campaign,” Taegan Goddard reports. Given that her campaign is about out of money, can’t win absent a miracle, and most party activists want her to withdraw from the race, could it […]

NPR Had a Counterinsurgency Debate and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt


NPR’ Morning Edition calls. John Nagl the disciple of COIN’s Jesus, GEN David Petraeus.

Caption Contest Winners


The Eight Belles Edition OTB Caption ContestTM is now over.

U.S. Airstrike Kills Top Qaeda Agent in Somalia


We have killed the head of Shebab, the top al Qaeda militia in Somalia. Aden Hashi Ayro, one of Al Qaeda’s top agents in East Africa and the leader of the Islamist comeback in Somalia, was killed Thursday morning by an American airstrike, according to American and Somali officials. Mr. Ayro was one of the […]

Albert Hoffman, LSD Inventor, Dies at 102

Albert Hoffman, LSD Inventor, Dies at 102

Albert Hofmann, who accidentally invented the most popular hallucinogenic drug ever, has died. Albert Hofmann, the father of the mind-altering drug LSD whose medical discovery inspired — and arguably corrupted — millions in the 1960s hippie generation, has died. He was 102. Hofmann died Tuesday at his home in Burg im Leimental, said Doris Stuker, […]

Dissent in the Army


Phil Carter has an interesting debate with his Slate colleague Fred Kaplan about how the assignment of LTC Paul Yingling (of “A Failure in Generalship” fame) to a non-standard artillery assignment squares with SECDEF Robert Gates’ admonition to West Point cadets that “as an officer you don’t tell blunt truths or create an environment where […]

COIN, Armed Nation Building, and Peer Competitors


Joshua Keating reports on some interesting discussions at a high level foreign policy conference. Of particular interest is Anthony Cordesman’s contention that the term “counterinsurgency” ought to be abandoned altogether in favor of “armed nation-building” and his unconventional thinking on the way in which the operation in Iraq is impacting what is generally thought to […]

Alliance or Enablement?


Glenn Reynolds links, with praise, to an article about Hillary Clinton claiming that she would go to war with Iran if they attacked Israel. Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. ABC News’ Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. […]

More Iraqis Bug Out Under Fire

Iraqi Cowards Flee Under Fire

Another Iraqi unit has fled rather than fought, Michael Gordon reports. A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias. The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led […]

On Bitterness, Cynicism and Frustration


So I’m just now getting around to following “bittergate”–the blogospheric furor that has erupted from Barack Obama’s sociological observation that people vote on cultural issues because they don’t trust the government on economic issues. (My colleague James has covered this matter here and here.) For further reference, here is the particular portion of the speech […]

Combat Tours Still Too Long


Phil Carter argues that, while reducing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to 12 months from 15, it’s still too long. Far preferable would be the 7-month tours employed by the Marine Corps or the 6-month rotations the Army used for Bosnia and other deployments in the 1990s. This is an extremely long deployment, […]

US-European Relations After Bush


Henry Kissinger‘s column today makes some important observations about three major trends in international relations that will shape the debate in coming decades. There’s not much I can add to his analysis but I wanted to draw especial attention to this observation: Conventional wisdom holds that disenchantment with President Bush’s alleged unilateralism is at the […]

Death by Blogging

Today’s NYT features a rather bizarre feature entitled, “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.” A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a […]

Fixing America’s Military

Fixing America's Military

Ultimately, “fixing America’s military” will require fixing America.

Basra Tactics, Strategy, and Theory in Conflict


Ilan Goldenberg notes that, for all the United States has invested in Iraq — and in propping up Maliki — we’ve gotten very little in return in this particular episode. By most educated guesses (although by no means all) Maliki didn’t bother to seek our input before launching this messy internecine fight with the Shiite […]

Wright, Hagee, and the KKK?


It will come of little surprise that Christopher Hitchens uses the Obama-Wright controversy to take another whack at organized religion. Look at the accepted choice of words for the ravings of Jeremiah Wright: controversial, incendiary, inflammatory. These are adjectives that might have been—and were—applied to many eloquent speakers of the early civil rights movement. . […]

Solution to Florida and Michigan Problem


Steve Clemons offers an inspired solution: “I just saw No Country for Old Men. Perhaps Hillary and Obama should flip a coin?” For those who haven’t seen it, this video will provide some context:

Wright Videos and Timing


Stacy McCain questions the timing: “Is it coincidental that Jeremiah Wright’s racially provocative rants made national news in the run-up to the key primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a population that’s 86% white?” He doesn’t have any evidence but he sees the fingerprints of Hillary Clinton on both the turtle and the fencepost. I’m […]

Counterinsurgency Dulling Combat Skills?


Thomas Ricks reports that Matt Matthews, a historian at the Army’s Combat Studies Institute, has written a new report concluding that “five years of fighting insurgents in Iraq may also have dulled U.S. soldiers’ skills at more conventional combat.” The study, apparently, isn’t a case study of the U.S. military but rather the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah […]

University Administrators Outnumber Faculty

University Administrators Outnumber Faculty  Chart

For the first time in history, administrators outnumber faculty among the full-time employees of America’s colleges and universities. In the fall of 2006, for which data were released Tuesday, 48.6 percent of professional, full-time jobs in higher education were held by faculty members. Faculty jobs remain the majority among full-time positions at two-year colleges and […]

Obama ‘Steals’ from King and Jefferson


Andy Towle (shared by Chris Abraham via Google Reader) thinks Barack Obama has a Joe Biden situation: Barack Obama has been lauded over the course of this campaign for his beautiful speeches. On Saturday, in Wisconsin, Obama made a speech with uncanny similarities to a speech given by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick when he was […]

Guided Unitary MLRS for Urban Warfare


The Army’s new Guided Unitary MLRS supposedly has point target capability. U.S. company Lockheed Martin says its Multiple Launch Rocket System has point target capability in urban environments. “Guided Unitary MLRS — Multiple Launch Rocket System — is the newest variant which leverages the Guided MLRS — GMLRS — experience and investment to integrate a […]

Florida Primary Predictions

Florida Primary Predictions:  McCain and Clinton

Yes, it’s that time again: trying to make predictions in a political season that’s largely defying predictability. Polls are open today in Florida, the last primary state before next week’s Super Tuesday extravaganza, and it’s an important contest, at least on the GOP side. As for the Democrats, it’ll be a complete shock if Hillary […]

McCain’s Secret Plan to Capture Bin Laden (Updated)


Apparently, John McCain has confided to reporters that he has a secret plan to capture Osama bin Laden. So Washington Wire was wondering, what does McCain know that President Bush and the Pentagon don’t about how to sweep up America’s most elusive enemy. “One thing I will not do is telegraph my punches. Osama bin […]

Suzanne Pleshette Dies, Aged 70


Suzanne Pleshette has died. Suzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced star best known for her role as Bob Newhart’s sardonic wife on television’s long-running “The Bob Newhart Show,” has died at age 70. Pleshette, whose career included roles in such films as Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and in Broadway plays including “The Miracle Worker,” died of respiratory failure […]

Petraeus PT Job Interviews

Petraeus PT Job Interviews

Kris Alexander links a piece in, of all places, Runner’s World that gives some pretty good insights into the kind of man David Petraeus is: “When we bring a new guy in, I take him out for a run,” says Petraeus. “I’ll go out hard, then ramp it up around five miles to try to […]

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