Monday, May 9, 2011

"COIN Stars": Columbia Journalism Review

A few weeks ago, I answered some questions over email for an Afghanistan-based freelance journalist working on a piece about the rise of the COIN blogs. The piece that resulted -- which quotes Old Blue, Tim Lynch, Josh Foust, and the gents of SWJ, but apparently needed to include at least one dilettante -- went live last week. A taste:
Ideologically, the “COIN Commentariat” can generally be split into two groups: What some call the “COINdinistas,” those that supported the military’s adoption of counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq and believe fundamentally in COIN doctrine; and “COINtras,” who are skeptics of COIN or its applications in Afghanistan. But no matter where they fall on the spectrum, most members of the COIN blogosphere seems united in their disdain for the mainstream media’s coverage of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. “Most journalists wouldn’t know the difference between good COIN and bad COIN when they saw it,” said Old Blue of Afghan Quest. “The mainstream media has largely if not completely missed the opportunity to bring accountability through the wider conversation.”
Newspaper opinion pages too often give platforms to influential people with definite political agendas, according to some. “It’s 90 percent boosters of COIN, and a few cranks, and no substantive discussion,” said Joshua Foust. Others criticize the media for having accepted what they see as a facile explanation of counterinsurgency doctrine that emphasizes “winning hearts and minds” over the more aggressive or coercive tenets of counterinsurgency strategy.
Gulliver at Ink Spots, however, thinks that the popular understanding of COIN might finally be evolving. “There seems to be a general consensus settling over both the policy world and the media,” he said. “We have a better idea of how to do COIN well than we used to, and that understanding has helped to convince us that we ought to do it as rarely as possible, and only when it’s absolutely necessary.” So long as the war in Afghanistan continues, debate and dialogue over the counterinsurgency will undoubtedly thrive in the blogosphere. As the founders of the SWJ Blog write, “We do this in our spare time, because we want to. McDonald’s pays more. But we’d rather work to advance our noble profession than try to super-size your order or interest you in a delicious hot apple pie.”
Read the rest here. Most of what's covered will be familiar to our readers, but it's definitely worth a look. Especially since we're so, um, costive these days.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats for being in on the list! Well deserved.