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Archive for October, 2007

Thursday, October 25th, 2007


I attended an interdisciplinary-but-history centered conference on Monday that included some presentations by well regarded scholars like David Kyvig and Artemus Ward. However, I was most intrigued by a sociologist who was recounting the evolution of CAPS, which is Chicago’s community policing program. In essence, CAPS is COIN doctrine carried out by civil agencies. Anyone who has read John Nagl or David Kilcullen or follows the tenets of the 4GW school, will immediately recognize the premises of CAPS, though my intuition is that the OODA Loop has been much slower with the City of Chicago than it has been even with CENTCOM.

Amusingly, the professor, a younger, urban hipster-type female, reacted with visible anxiety when I pointed out the similarities with counterinsurgency doctrine.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007


Jedburgh of The Small Wars Council posted Arab Insight, Fall 2007 (PDF) which has the theme “Do We Hate America? The Arab Response”. Definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007


Reinhold Niebuhr

The Atlantic Monthly has a sometimes thoughtful, at times irritating, article by Paul Elie on the late theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the political struggle being waged by the Left, Middle and Right over his intellectual legacy. An excerpt:

“The biblical sense of history can make Niebuhr seem like something other than a liberal. In the ’60’s, his religiosity made him suspect on the New Left, and in the years after his death, his work resonated with the thinkers who were turning against that era’s liberal reforms”

It wasn’t Niebuhr’s religiosity that made him suspect with the New Left but his anti-totalitarianism, something that a movement deeply afflicted with an authoritarian certitude and spasmodic nihilism could ill abide; indeed, they still seem to despise Niebuhr for his unwillingness to equivocate about Leftist tyranny. Elie is correct though, that the original Neoconservatives (the ones who actually made an intellectual journey from Left to Right) such as Norman Podhoretz had high regard for Niebuhr’s writings. I myself first heard of Niebuhr from reading David Stockman’s bitter memoir The Triumph of Politics. Stockman may have repudiated Ronald Reagan but he remained true, almost adulatory, to Niebuhr:

“The scales fell from my eyes as I turned those pages [ of Children of Light, Children of Darkness – ZP] Niebuhr was a withering critic of utopianism in every form. Man is incapable of perfection, he argued, because his estate as a free agent permits-indeed ensures -both good and evil…Through Niebuhr I dimly glimpsed the ultimate triumph of politics” ( Stockman,24).

I do not profess to be an expert on Reinhold Niebuhr or his philosophy, having read only one of his books, but the polemical war over Niebuhr that Elie critiques has, in my view, an air of ahistoricality to it. Perhaps with not the completely unhinged lunacy of the similar debate over Leo Strauss, but like Strauss, Niebuhr has been lifted by both sides out of the mid-20th century intellectual context that illuminated his ideas, in order to serve as a barricade for the political battle over Iraq and the Bush administration.

My gut reaction is that Niebuhr, were he alive today, would be writing things that would not sit well with some of his would-be reinterpreters and with more nuance and wisdom than for which his contemporary critics give him credit.


Peter Beinart, who comes in for much criticism from Elie for the following link, on Reinhold Niebuhr.

Monday, October 22nd, 2007


Away today at a history conference – ” 21st Century Freedom” – a refreshing combination of GWOT from a historian’s perspective combined with Web 2.0 changing society and the discipline of teaching history. Back later tonight.

Monday, October 22nd, 2007


First, I’d like to welcome two fine new blogs to the economy-sized Zenpundit blogroll:

Kings of War

The Grand Strategy Blog

And now, on to the recommended reading portion of our post.

SWJ BLOG – “COIN of the Realm

Wizards of Oz – “Trafalgar Day

Citizen Netmom -“Liveblogging: EdEvangelist Ian Jukes

Curzon of Coming Anarchy – “Technology lessons from the Iraq war” and “Superstates

HNN – “The Beginning of the End of the Facade of Russian Democracy

Russia Blog – “Does Putin Seek to Retain Poweror Preserve His Legacy?” and “Kremlins: KGB, Gulags, Putin is Evil…blah, blah, blah…

Ross Mayfield – “Choice Drives Change” (hat tip to Chris Anderson)

Thoughts Illustrated -“Innovation-What’s Luck got to do with it?

History Unfolding -“Rivers in Egypt

Charlie Rose TV interview of Col. David Kilcullen ( Hat tip to John Robb)

That’s it!

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