Friday, July 16, 2010

16 JULY: A year ago on Ink Spots

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that I was going to inaugurate a new "Last year on Ink Spots" feature. Then I linked to one post and forgot about the whole thing for two weeks. But really, this is a better idea: seeing as we're pretty low traffic (read: basically no traffic) on the weekends, I figure I'll post a "last year" update every Friday to give folks some old stuff to hash over while we're playing golf and drinking beer and [whatever French people do on Saturdays]. So for this edition, I'll point you back to some things we wrote about in the first half of July last year.

This time last year, the Afghan presidential elections hadn't yet happened [/been stolen]. We told you about James Carville heading over to Kabul to advise Ashraf Ghani's campaign. I wonder if Carville had anything to say about the way the whole deal shook out (even though Ghani didn't end up being particularly competitive).

Gunslinger started a trend with a little piece metrics and assessments (through the lens of Robert McNamara's analytical obsession), a subject we'd return to later. Alma also chimed in on the former Defense Secretary in the week of his death. And I took a look at the LA Times' effort to reconceptualize Donald Rumsfeld as a latter-day McNamara.

Just as a reminder of how long people have been complaining about our Afghan confusion: last year Gunslinger gave kudos to Michael Cohen for his "Afghan Mission Creep Watch," a feature that continues to this day (if not under precisely the same title).

Lest you think this whole looking-back exercise is just a vehicle for me to say, in true Herschel Smith fashion, "look how right I've been all along!", here's an example of a position I took that has changed pretty significantly: I wrote a skeptical piece about the effectiveness of drone strikes as part of the broader strategy, coming down on the side of restraint. Not sure I feel the same on that subject these days.

But look, sometimes we have been right, like when I wrote about how stupid the F-22 program is. And Alma summarized Rory Stewart's pessimism about Afghanistan, concerns that have largely been borne out over the last year. Oh yeah, and in the midst of complaining about everybody wearing ACUs all the time, I used the occasion of GEN McKiernan's retirement to tell people criticizing him for "not getting it" to STFU.

And finally, two other noteworthy bits: comments on a pretty hilarious article about a fervent young American Baptist advising and mentoring a middle-aged Afghan Army mullah, and Gunslinger with a much-needed call for sanity in the COIN-versus-conventional-versus-hybrid-versus-whatever debate. (We'd be well advised to heed it today.)

Ok folks, no more complaints about not having anything to read this weekend!


  1. This site is an internet treasure, whether we agree on topics or not (when I've time, I'll flesh out a response to my last comment on the other thread and then I'll leave it alone.)

    Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but I've learned so much from all of you.

    I wish this technology had existed when I was a student. I disliked formal education (and yet, spent so many years in college and med school and fellowship! No wonder my personality sucks) but I love this form of education and dialogue.

    You are good teachers, young people.

  2. Madhu -- That's a great compliment, so thanks.

  3. What French people do on Saturday: how about have long meals with friends and drink good wine (and go for a walk in the park or a bike ride).

    and Madhu--thank you!