The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Good critique of Exum’s COIN thinking.

Michael Cummings points out a good flaw in Andrew Exum’s reasoning here. Andrew’s work and thinking has changed some since 2006 (and the academic track which he finished up) when I was really upset about a WINEP paper he wrote on the July 2006 war. I was certainly a bit rude in my phrasing towards him, in my 8 page response, having not known him and being tired and angered by the war and the crap being produced from it by all sides, but especially in DC and Israel.

One major point that has emerged from andrew’s thinking is his correct rethinking of COIN within the context of underlying, political grievances. This is a more comprehensive approach, although I have not really kept up so much on the coin debates.

Here is the crit, which is right on:

“…The Chicago Schoolbelieves that humans always act rationally when it comes to money.

Turns out they don’t. And guess what? Humans don’t act rationally when it comes to war either.

Yet, when it comes to counter-insurgency, military theorists continue to ignore humanity’s underlying irrationality. Consider Andrew Exum’s article in the Daily Beast:

“Populations, in civil wars, make cold-blooded calculations about their self-interest. If forced to choose sides in a civil war—and they will resist making that choice for as long as possible, for understandable reasons—they will side with the faction they assess to be the one most likely to win.”

I dub this the “Chicago School of Counter-Insurgency”, the idea that in warfare–with death and subjugation on the line–mankind’s rationality trumps his unconscious thoughts and emotions.

Fortunately, plenty of journalists have written about the lack of human rationality. Like our greatest living conservative commentator, David Brooks, who wrote an entire book on unconscious thought and emotions. In a column a few weeks back he doubled down on this assertion: we don’t have rational explanations for many of our actions…”

Andrew rebuts on his blog!


Written by nickbiddlenoe

December 28, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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