Dilegge Goes Nuclear!


The genteel and usually mild mannered Editor-in-Chief of the Small Wars Journal, Dave Dilegge, momentarily steps out of the background for a quality rant that I’m reposting in toto:

Back Off Jack Keane Wannabees

Okay, everyone who’s anyone – and many who think they’re someone – inside and outside the beltway – has chimed in – did I miss anyone? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

The Afghanistan affair is quite complicated; we know that, we also can study it to death and comment until the cows come home.

How about a novel approach at this particular point in time – give the Commander in Chief, the National Command Authority, State… and most importantly, the Commanding General and his staff in Afghanistan some efing breathing room to sort this out? The guys on the ground – get it?

How much is too much?

For the all the hype about the benefits of instantaneous global communications and Web 2.0 – of which we most certainly are a part – we’ve never really examined the tipping point – the place where we become part of the problem, rather than the solution.

My two cents – and while it may come across as way, way too simplistic to many of the 2K-pound brainiacs I run into around town – you can take it to the bank that a general backing off of the noise level would be most beneficial right now.


Interesting. An unusual move by Dave.

Debate is a healthy thing – and as I stated previously, I do not think that anyone has been “shut out” of the COIN debate – but it is best if that debate is kept at a constructive level. Being far removed myself from the players in DC that Dave is familiar with, I have to wonder to what degree the temperature has risen behind the scenes? Dave’s post says to me it must be getting heated.

The defense/national security/milblogging/Intel/FP blogosphere is far larger than it was, say, five years ago but it’s still a pretty small network compared to most online communities – we’re not only dwarfed by Techcrunch types but we fall somewhere behind water polo aficianados and devotees of obscure Christian rock groups. It’s sort of a virtual village where some of the villagers also make their living at it in meatspace and the rest of us can kibbitz with less risk.  While free speech includes volume, softer words sometimes carry farther.

It’s useful for all of us to remember from time to time that most people involved in the discussion operate from the best motives and have far more ideas in common than it sometimes seems from the rhetoric being employed – and that what matters is not our rhetoric but the results.


Dave Schuler just sent me a message that he and Dr. James Joyner will have Dave Dilegge as a guest at OTB Radio from 4:30-5:30 CST (i.e. at the moment I am typing this…)

17 comments on this post.
  1. Lexington Green:

    Also, it is true that the level of civility in this community and its extended discussion is also pretty remarkable.  The people involved really do want the best outcome in life-and-death challenges for the USA, the military and people all around the world.  This is epitomized by this photo:
    We see a certain John Nagl and a certain Gian Gentile, two people who have debated in very strong terms, who are able to divorce any personality issues from that debate, because the debate and its proper resolution are far more important than the personalities of any of its participants.
    All that said, Dave DiLegge’s judgment must be respected on this one. 
    But, on yet a third hand, the current reality is that all future operations and development of doctrine are going to occur in a cloud of second-guessing, theorizing, message board discussion, email circulars, blog posts all going on in real time.
    That is simply the new environment and its strengths and weaknesses have yet to be worked out.  But it is a condition to be attended to.  It is not a problem with a solution. 

  2. Shlok:

    What he’s pissed about is the discussion of WarfareOnTheWeb hitting a ‘swamp vortex’ stage. It’s insular, its circular, its generally useless – very little innovation, very little original insight . Lots of stagnation. In a large part because it takes that much ‘yelling’ to gain any traction whatsoever.

    If he wants to get forward momentum back, he’s going to have to find a way to harness this hive mind, this intellect, this energy and channel it rather than letting it dissipate or feed back into itself and spiral off into noise. I’ve heard some pretty great ideas (Tanji, Elkus, Robb, hell, even myself) that could do exactly that.

    SWJ is positioned for it – namely it has FedLand as well as Fringe and Media traction. He’s pissed tonight, but after a stiff drink, tomorrow morning Dave should get in touch with everyone who wants to empower WarfareOnTheWeb thinkers and enable them to shape the FedLand conversation and help put together a service, a website, a think tank 2.0 that does exactly that.

    *Excuse the jargon. I’m in a Snow Crash mood.

  3. zen:

    hi Lex, hi Shlok
    I agree with you that the COIN/strategy/4GW etc. blogosphere is about 100x more civil and generally mature than the "political" blogosphere which has grown so vicious that I really don’t enjoy posting on those kinds of topics that often, despite the huge burst in traffic they generate.  However, a chunk of our blogosphere happens to know each other in real life, interact with some frequency and have careers on the line. I suppose it is understandable for them to get aggravated when an "outsider" with, from their view, nothing on the table, monkeywrenches things.
    I take it Shlok, that you see this partly as an issue of "growing pains"? I agree with you re: noise generation. I think that correlates with system size and there is a need to concentrate the signal and filter out the noise.

  4. historyguy99:

    I agree that we must give Dave a margin of respect on this call.

    That said, I also agree with you, Lex and Shlok that times have changed, from now on all conflict will be fought in a cloud of verbal counter-battery coming from all points. Finding ways to concentrate this new media into something useful is the solution. 

    Using a combat analogy, Dave always the Marine, sees the discussions coming like unaimed grazing fire rippling across the blogs without really hitting the target. I think his message in context, is to make sure the many voices really see the target before squeezing off a post. This will lead to less friendly fire and give time for target assessment.

  5. A.E.:

    I would also submit that as hobbyists/specialists/professionals the FP/defense blogosphere also is generally more interested in the subjects we discuss themselves than the respective frames from which we view them. This doesn’t mean that debate is always civil or fair–sometimes the biggest squabbles can be over the smallest of differences.

    I don’t really see the Afghanistan debate–at least in the blog world–as much of a problem. What I do see as a problem, however, as Shlok said, is the insular quality of current debate and its circular nature. Unfortunately that is probably inevitable given the small size of this community and the specialized knowledge it involves.

  6. Can anyone explain what this means? « Fabius Maximus:

    […] subject:  “Back Off Jack Keane Wannabees“, Dave Dilegge, 11 August 2009 (hat tip to Zenpundit): Okay, everyone who’s anyone – and many who think they’re someone – inside and […]

  7. Larry Dunbar:

    I can.

  8. onparkstreet:

    Well, I’m not an insider, just a regular commenter at Abu M and Inkspots. I ask a lot of questions because that is how I learn, but I confess, I don’t know the internal beltway politics so I probably miss a lot. I just see them as subject matter blogs where I can discuss and self-educate.

    I understand there must be enormous pressure, but it has been 8 years and the American people have every right to question. I guess there might be some background political stuff that I don’t know as an outsider, though, and perhaps there is some positioning by thinktankers that I wouldn’t get as a regular commenter. Unfortunately, the pressure will continue and not just from blogs. It is inevitable given the political questions.

  9. onparkstreet:

    Actually, the more I think about it, the less I like the Dilegge post.

    I started questioning the strategy on blogs some time ago only because I was confused. That is all. No secret reason, I’m an everyday person. If people are confused (and a lot of everyday people are, it’s not all thinktankers positioning), it is not their fault. The administration needs to do a better job communicating. I’m sorry, but there it is.

  10. Dave Schuler:

    The invasion of Afghanistan started in October of 2001, eight years ago.  How long will those on the ground require to "sort it out"?
    Or has the clock re-started with the incoming administration and why?  To the best of my knowledge the Obama Administration has not articulated strategic objectives for Afghanistan.  From that I’ve assumed that they accept the Bush Administration’s strategic objectives.  Please correct me if I’m wrong on that.
    What’s a decent interval?

  11. Dave Schuler:

    BTW from my viewpoint something entirely different is proceeding right now.  Discussion of ways and means is going on.  That’s part of the process of civilian control of the military.  To be honest I’m a little concerned about the Obama Administration’s apparent willingness to leave the strategic objectives to the experts, i.e. the military, because they aren’t the experts.

  12. Curtis Gale Weeks:

    I must be WAY behind the times, because I thought Afghanistan was going pretty well.  Long?  Yes. Disaster?  No.

    At least it isn’t being put on the back-burner, right?  Troop increases have occurred, right?  Taliban sanctuaries w/i Afghanistan being hit hard, right?  Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan being hit, right? Leaders killed, in-fighting occurring in Taliban, right?

    Either I’m seriously WAY behind the times, or else the current mil strat kerfluffles are some kind of manufactured "Oh Shit!" moments to fill in the hole since American Idol closed down its season.

  13. Eddie:

    While some may see it as a debate that is starting to lose its utility, others may see current trends as a time where a challenge of conventional and long-held assumptions is overdue. Exum acknowledged this in a helpful manner by initiating on The Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue which incorporates reader feedback and ideas about Afghanistan.http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawama/2009/08/maybe-bacevich-has-point-introducing-afghanistan-strategy-dialogue.html————–2—————————That said, Dillege’s comment does spark a bit of concern. Are we to believe Obama’s team is more competent or able than Bush’s various Afghanistan teams were? Are we to believe the military has an Afghan-centric plan that incorporates Pakistan and Iran into the picture? That members of Congress who can cause untold amounts of trouble and concern from across the political spectrum are feeling any more confident in what’s happening now than before? Have we seen anything that justifies that and more or are we essentially being told, "hey, after 8 odd years, we’re finally figuring it out, just give us a bit more time!". Well, its been 8 years and patience is running thin across the board. Vigorous debate, widespread idea exchanges and challenging of basic assumptions seems to have been something that has not occurred enough on the subject, or otherwise many of the failed/failing policies, programs and personnel involved would have long been addressed in a better manner than previously understood.

  14. Dave Schuler:

    It was an excellent and, as you might have expected, vigorous program.  The link can be downloaded or played back and might be worth a listen.  Just click on the OTB Radio widget and select "Play" or "Download".

  15. Jay:

    Agree with Eddie and Dave. It’s been 8 years. Beyond the blogging community as above mentioned are various war weary societies quickly losing interest and leaning toward the "who effing cares" opinion regarding Afghanistan.

    I get what Dillege is saying, give the guy a chance, but at the same time given that combined forces in Afghanistan remain leagues short of what was defined as a tenable ratio in Petreaus et al COIN manual, you have to expect a great deal of skepticism.    

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