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Recommended Reading

Top Billing!:New York Daily News-Dr. John Nagl We can still win the war: Things are grim in Afghanistan, but victory remains in sight

….The war in Afghanistan is winnable for three reasons: because for the first time the coalition fighting there has the right strategy and the resources to begin to implement it, because the Taliban are losing their sanctuaries in Pakistan and because the Afghan government and the security forces are growing in capability and numbers. None of these trends is irreversible, and they are not in themselves determinants of victory. But they demonstrate that the war can be won if we display the kind of determination that defeating an insurgency requires.

….Counterinsurgency campaigns are not won by killing every insurgent and terrorist. The most committed terrorists have to be killed or captured, but many of the foot soldiers and even the midlevel leaders can eventually be convinced through a combination of carrots and sticks that renouncing violence and becoming part of the political process offer a better chance for success than continuing to fight. American troop reinforcements in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the insurgency is strongest, along with more effective drone strikes and an increasing Pakistani commitment to counterinsurgency, are putting more pressure on the Taliban and giving the Afghan government an opportunity to outgovern its enemies.

I have made a number of harsh criticisms of AfPak policy recently and fairness requires some equal time to a cogent and vigorous defense, which Dr. Nagl mounts in his op-ed. This is most likely just the opening shots in what may be an increasingly heated debate as the US moves into election campaign season this fall.

Thomas P.M. BarnettHollowing out Afghanistan’s local government and Blast from my past: PNM’s “New Rules for a New Crisis”

The secnd post by Dr. Barnett is good for those readers who are unfamiliar with his influential concepts from The Pentagon’s New Map.

SWJ BlogDave DileggeThe Great COIN Debate in JFQ, Almost… (Updated)

Col. Gian Gentile vs. Dr. John Nagl at ten paces with flintlock pistols….or laptops.

Registan.net  Michael HancockUnconscionable Story

A brutal dissection of the ignorance of Ted Rall.

Abu MuqawamaAfghanistan: Graveyard of Assumptions? (Updated)

See Top Billing comments above.

GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnDThe Father Of Us All 

I once saw a professor yell “The Greeks did it all first!”. While not as extreme, this post is a pleasant nod in the direction of constructing arguments about strategic policy based on history, especially military history, instead of on theory.

WSJ.com Shelby SteeleIsrael and the Surrender of the West

Unusually firey rhetoric from Steele in defense of Israel.

Max Boot replying to Andrew Exum and Michael Cohen responding to Boot. Then Fabius Maximus responds to Boot.

Michigan War Studies Review John Shy – Review of Hew Strachan, Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography

…. In 1976, Sir Michael Howard and Peter Paret published the definitive English translation of On War.[1] Strachan admires their work, but takes issue with it in important ways. The nub of his critique concerns the degree to which Clausewitz changed his mind over two decades. Strachan believes that Howard and Paret, by the very consistency of their translation, have exaggerated the continuity of his thought, and that Paret as biographer has done the same, finding traces of every major idea in On War as early as Clausewitz’s writings of 1806. Strachan instead emphasizes that the scope of Clausewitz’s theoretical inquiry shifted with time from an overriding concern with the strategy of near-absolute war as waged by Napoleon to a broader search for a general theory of war. This search culminated late in the author’s life with a unifying stress on policy, Politik, the guiding intention of war itself, whatever particular form the war might take, whether the limited warfare of the eighteenth century or wars of national resistance–the guerrilla war as waged in Spain and as explored for Prussia against France by the younger Clausewitz in a series of lectures in 1810 at the Allgemeine Kriegsschule in Berlin.

Wow! Talk about inside academic baseball! Not only would a reader have to be intimately familiar with the strategic arguments of On War, to evaluate Strachan’s thesis, they would also have to be linguists fluent in formal and colloquial Low German of the early 19th century. Good freaking Lord, was this book written for Moltke the Elder?

Grand Strategy: The View from OregonThe Agricultural Paradigm

Alvin Toffler would like this post.

Democracy JournalAmerica 2021: The Military and the World

Some short term defense futurism from the Left, meriting inclusion on the strength of P.W. Singer’s observations. Hat tip to Russ Wellen:

PWS: We don’t seem to understand that strategy is not about identifying priorities, but setting them. In World War II, strategy was setting the priority of Europe first, saying Japan can wait, so we’re going to put more resources into Europe. The current QDR, however, says something like: Europe’s a problem and Japan’s a problem. The same lack of priority-setting happens within areas like personnel and acquisitions. Within the military structure, for example, the problem with the budget is that prices are going up in each acquisition program, which in turn is making acquisitions determine the strategy you’ll have at the end. Costs are driving strategy and doctrine out, which is the opposite of the way it’s supposed to be.

That’s it!

4 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. seydlitz89 Says:

    In regards to Shy’s review, this is an old argument.  He doesn’t mention that Strachen writes that Werner Halweg also places the undated note as before that of 1827.  I would add that Raymond Aron does as well.  Books II, VI, VII and VIII as we have them reflect the ideas mentioned in the undated note btw. 

    Also, it is the German Clausewitzians who have been talking about Clausewitz’s general theory of war for a long time, starting with Rosinski in the 1920s.  Currently the best discussion of Clausewitz’s general theory is that of Andreas Herberg-Rothe.

    The translation of "Geist" is very difficult into English because of the various and somewhat different meanings it can have.  What is important is the context, and the "feel" for the language one develops over time.  That said, it is not necessary to speak German to understand Clausewitz and his general theory, but it does help when checking the English translation with the original German . . . Paret/Howard for instance translate "Spiegelfechtereien der Kriegsdialektik" (Book VI, Ch 8) as "shadowboxing in the dialectics of war" . . . the original idea comes across well enough, but the image – and vanity – of the actor who Clausewitz is mocking, is lost.  

  2. zen Says:

    Hi seydlitz89,
    Much thanks for the insightful background on Shy and Strachan – would not have known that otherwise nor would most of the readership here.

  3. onparkstreet Says:

    "PWS: We don’t seem to understand that strategy is not about identifying priorities, but setting them"
    Yowza. That’s pithy and thought-provoking, eh?
    – Madhu

  4. seydlitz89 Says:

    Checked Aron, and the assumed revision covers Books I (other chapters besides 1), VI & VIII, but not II and VII, and he doesn’t attempt to date the note, but compares what it says with the state of the "revised" books (I, VI, & VIII).  Sorry.

    I should know better than trust my memory ;-)>

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