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CITIES IN THE 21st CENTURY: A Primer

Book Review

John Matthew Barlow reviews John Lorinc's new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide. Last year marked the first time that the majority of the world's population lived in cities; Lorinc's introduction to the subject offers a timely, and lively, critique of the issues confronting cities and humanity as a whole as we confront this radical restructuring of our way of living in the urban century.

Read more...

  • Cities: A Guide

    Book Review

    John Matthew Barlow reviews John Lorinc's new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide. Last year marked the first time that the majority of the world's population lived in cities; Lorinc's introduction to the subject offers a timely, and lively, critique of the issues confronting cities and humanity as a whole as we confront this radical restructuring of our way of living in the urban century.

    Read more...

  • The Hurt Locker

    Review

    Eric Randolph reviews Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and notes a shift in film-making sensibilities from the war-as-heroics paradigm of earlier Hollywood, towards the everyman's war-as-hell model that has now lodged itself in Western cultural consciousness.

    Read...

  • Architecture & Biopolitics

    Interview

    Berlin-based writer Daniel Miller's October 2008 interview with Swedish philosopher and SITE Magazine Editor-In-Chief Sven-Olov Wallenstein, on his new book Biopolitics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).

    Read...

  • Wired For War

    Symposium

    The second symposium in CTlab's 2009 series, focused on Peter Singer's new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009), ran from 30 March to 2 April. Singer and half a dozen scholars from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Austria debated the use and ethics of robots in war.

    Read...

  • DEFCON 17

    Current Intelligence

    Tim Stevens reports back from the DEFCON 17 conference in Las Vegas: are hackers thinking meat isn't just meat anymore?

    Read...

CONTRIBUTORS

Editor: Michael A. Innes // posts // web
Contributor: Matthew Barlow // posts // web
Contributor: Christopher Albon // posts // web
Contributor: Charli Carpenter // posts // web
Contributor: Bradley Evans // posts // web
Contributor: Eric Randolph // posts // web
Contributor: Tim Stevens // posts // web
Contributor: Marisa Urgo // posts // web
Alumni: Kenneth Anderson // Marc Tyrrell

From the Bookstore
Comments
Monday
04Jan2010

COIN-Love Redux

Alternate title: "why smart people diversify, and why those who don't go splat face-first into the pavement". An interesting piece in The New Republic from Senior Editor Michael Crowley, on COIN-love. Crowley writes about how CNAS has staked its claim as guru-central for counterinsurgency, and throws a few subtle barbs about the quality of its salesmanship vice the gloss of its ideas.

Excerpts:

Washington’s current enthusiasm for counterinsurgency is based largely on its apparent success in stabilizing Iraq--even though it’s not clear that the doctrine’s sophisticated tenets deserve all or even most of the credit. Indeed, an argument is brewing in military circles about whether the doctrine’s potential has been oversold. What happens next in Afghanistan could settle it.

and 

Though CNAS is loath to be known as a one-trick pony--it recently completed a report encouraging U.S. cooperation with China and runs an energy and climate-based “natural security” program--it is effectively cornering the market on counterinsurgency thought.

and 

The stakes for the United States in Afghanistan are enormous. But, in a more parochial sense, so are the stakes for CNAS and what you might call the cult of counterinsurgency.

and 

... if Afghanistan doesn’t turn around soon, the Democrats who founded and support CNAS, and who have come to embrace the Petraeus-Nagl view of modern warfare, may find themselves wondering whether it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Or they could just read some history. Yes, yes, of course I mean Algeria, Malaysia, and Vietnam. But really I mean that decade between the end of the Cold War and 2001 that everyone ignores. You know, the 1990s, the decade that offered reams of lessons learned about civil-military cooperation, good governance, official corruption, armed non-state actors and the like, before we decided to reinvent the wheel - again (Ed's Note: Gasp... blasphemer!) for Afghanistan and Iraq.

I mean no ill will to the CNAS crowd. A smart and accomplished group of people, just a little too smug, smarmy, and overinflated about their special understanding of the nature of conflict and the poor schmucks who just don't get it (not to mention their own qualifications for proclaiming how others don't get it). In my unkinder moments, I think of COIN obsession as the fetish of those waaayyyyy too young for Vietnam and pissed off that they missed such a groovy fight (and able to claim a really great soundtrack as their own, in the bargain). Or of those dissatisfied with the prohibition on proactively killing things absence of bona fide warfighting that was part and parcel of.... wait for it... peacekeeping. Remember that? 

Next time you read a current or ex- military bio that includes the words "fought" or "combat" in relation to service in Bosnia, give it some thought. Only a handful of individuals can actually claim it with integrity, and only if they were in this placedid this, or participated in the rare mission of this kind that actually resulted in a shot fired (there weren't many). Kosovo was much the same, except for a short bit in 1999, and that was mostly air power at work. Short version: it just wasn't that kind of intervention. But I've been seeing some revisionist verbiage creep into some biographical characterizations of Balkan deployments as late as 2004 and 2005. That, and COIN-fetishization, reinforce a sneaking suspicion that we're stuck in the midst of a convoluted memory hole and positively deluded about at least two things: the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of what we think we've learned about them and the lessons of "the past". 

Rant over. Go read the rest of Crowley's article here

Reader Comments (2)

Wow, boss, for a second there, I thought you were muscling in on my turf, talking about history and the long-view and all of that.

Jan 5, 2010 at 1:44 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Matthew Barlow

Well, I wasn't really referring to history or the long view, since it was only the 1990s. If anything, I was arguing against taking the wrong long view vs. having an appropriately focused short-term memory...

Jan 5, 2010 at 3:23 | Registered CommenterMike Innes

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