Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Calm in a Stormy Sea

And his name is Thomas Rid. Go read Kings of War.

9 comments:

  1. http://kingsofwar.wordpress.com - sorry I'm having all sorts of tech problems.

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  2. This is the post I wish I'd written two weeks ago!

    (Rid's, I should say, not yours, Gunslinger.)

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  3. Yes, a brilliant piece. Should be read by everyone.

    But in the end, don't you read Rid as a pretty severe indictment of the Biddle/Exum/Cordesman side of the debate?

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  4. Bernard - I would say that he is slightly. I don't know that it was necessarily intentional in that regard. The simple beauty of this piece is that it is based on those things that we know. Most everything else out there is conjecture or opinion. I especially love his address of the idea of "winning" (which is what I assume you are referring to here). Policy is about compromise in optimizing the cost/benefit calculus. What on earth does winning have to do with anything? It's a vacuous term with no real (or realistic) meaning here. Rational argument devoid of emotion puts us in a scary place...

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  5. But in the end, don't you read Rid as a pretty severe indictment of the Biddle/Exum/Cordesman side of the debate?

    I read Rid as a pretty severe indictment of just about everyone involved in the debate, which is what I find so admirable. I think that those who are so certain and willing to dismiss the arguments of their interlocutors -- indeed, dismiss the very complexity of the whole situation -- are often driven by interests beyond those of national security. (Like being right.) This isn't to say that people with convictions are bad people, only that the polarization of the debate doesn't necessarily help us get anything closer to the truth. And I think Tom's post did exactly that.

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  6. Jesus, that comment was practically incoherent. Hopefully you understand what I meant.

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  7. Well, Gun and Gull, I don't hear people like Bacevich talking about winning or losing. I hear them echoing Rid's arguments -- that the costs of "defeat" are lower than many believe and the benefits of "success" more ambiguous. Bacevich is essentially arguing that we are fighting for too little. So, while it is true that Rid nails people on all sides for tone, I think in terms of the substance of his various assessments, he is much, much closer to a Bacevich than to a Biddle or a Nagl.

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  8. On yet another reading I think you're right, Bernard. In the second to last paragraph to be specific. It's an interesting point because even the most voracious hawks will have to accept that enough is enough - perpetual conflict is not an option. Hopefully this prepares them mentally for that inevitability.

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