An Update and Other Links

This past Wednesday, I heard Bing West give a talk about Afghanistan and his new book The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. When I get a chance, I will write up a post. He is a very good public speaker: energetic, lively, clear.’s The Big Picture has some truly horrifying photos of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. Here is the American Red Cross link. If our readers and commenters have additional links or sites they think important, please leave them in the comments section.

I think the following two articles might be of interest for our readers:

Bryson has pulled off a marvelous feat. He devotes almost every chapter to a room in his Victorian house in England. He then considers why the room is the way it is and what preceded it. In doing so he produces an important economic history, only some of which will be familiar to economic historians and almost all of which will be unfamiliar to pretty much everyone else. A large percentage of it is important, for two reasons: One, you get to pinch yourself, realizing just how wealthy you are; and two, you get a better understanding than you’ll get from almost any high school or college history textbook of the economic progress that made you wealthy. Not surprisingly, given that I’m an economist and Bryson isn’t, I have a few criticisms of places where he misleads by commission or omission. But At Home’s net effect on readers is likely to be a huge increase in understanding and appreciation of how we got to where we are.

David R. Henderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

The disturbing truth that modern Western COIN theory is built on a handful of books based upon practitioner experiences in a handful of 20th-century conflicts is not mitigated by the less famous but broader COIN works. Country studies by lesser known writers are similarly restricted. The core texts cover Vietnam (French Indochina), Algeria, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, and Malaya. The less-well-known writers will go on to discuss Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador, or Afghanistan under the Soviets. Only the most adventurous writers and theorists braved traveling as far as Kashmir or India to look at what could be learned there. Subsequently, the modern study of counterinsurgency and the doctrine it gave birth to are limited to less than two dozen conflicts in a century that witnessed more than 150 wars and lesser conflicts, domestic and interstate (see table 1).

Sebastian L.v. Gorka and David Kilcullen, Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ)

Bing West at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs March 9

On the Afghan frontlines, soldiers are feeling the strain of General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy as it has forced them to become nation-builders as well as warriors. Bing West argues that the American military’s three current objectives in Afghanistan – protect the population, provide money and projects to stimulate patriotism, and link the population with the central government – have weakened the warrior ethos of the troops and prevented the U.S. from developing a winning approach. With the imminent withdrawal of NATO troops by 2014 and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call to negotiate with the Taliban, is winning even possible for the Allied forces? Join The Chicago Council as Bing West discusses his perspective on a U.S. exit strategy and why Americans cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan.

I just bought Bing West’s The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. So far it’s very good, if disconcerting. He will be giving a talk this Wednesday at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and I plan to attend. Bing West is appearing earlier the same day at the Chicago Pritzker Military Library (which has moved to 104 S. Michigan Ave., across the street from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.)