Afghanistan: respecting expertise, seeking knowledge

The problem with war coverage is just this: we are given a simplistic view of a complex situation.
Consider, for example, counterinsurgency. Most people have probably heard the term. They might even have an idea that it’s about “winning the hearts and minds of the people”. If they’ve chosen to actively pursue the subject, they might know about “Shape, Clear, Hold and Build” — but few will reach even this level of knowledge. This is perfectly excusable; not everyone needs to be an expert on tactics or strategy — but those who are writing about Afghanistan, particularly those strongly advocating positions, surely do.
Far too many people, including interested generalists, have no idea exactly what the plan is in Afghanistan. It’s out there, for everyone to read. Blogs such as the Long War Journal ably describe it. The principles of counterinsurgency, applied in Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan today, have long been in the public domain. David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla is probably in your local library, and his more down-and-dirty summation, Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency, is just an internet search away. Even the US military’s official counterinsurgency manual is on WikiLeaks. Yet many commentators remain startlingly ignorant. Read more