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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Overcoming the Dangers of Insular Communities

This excerpt from a guest post on Marc Lynch's blog caught my eye. Brian Katulis writes:

There are several must-read blogs out there - the COIN nerds have some interesting insights, but let's face it, their musings tend to be a bit blinkered by self-referential navel gazing with an overemphasis on the U.S. military and what U.S. boots on the ground do. That's a limited perspective and doesn't lend itself to a complete analysis of the political, social, and economic trends happening out in the real world.

Speaking as a fan of and participant in that community, I've been thinking the same thoughts for a while now. My love affair with the COIN community began when the dissidents took over the Iraq war, and I realized they actually knew what they were doing. After years of growing disillusionment with some of my leaders, I finally found a community of competent, intelligent military professionals I could trust. I can't overstate how important that was to me personally. Over the past year I've been drawn deeper and deeper into the COIN community. I follow its blogs, read its recommended books, and study the debates among of its members. The contributions of this community are extraordinary and I am constantly learning from it.

However, I've become attuned to some insidious dangers in my participation. First, my reading has become much too specialized. Over the past few months I've found myself reading the exact same thing as every other member of the COIN community. I read multiple reports on Iraq and Af-Pak each day, but have a stack of issues of The Economist and Foreign Affairs that I've never opened. In the past couple months I've read books like Fiasco, The Gamble, The Unforgiving Minute, This Man's Army and Dereliction of Duty (all excellent books) but I haven't touched m