Some of you may have seen that as of a few weeks ago that I had been looking for new work as the company I was with ran into some hard times. Since then I've joined War on the Rocks part-time as our member engagement director. The most public-facing part of that is that I now host WOTR's members-only podcast The WarCast. If you like to hear me talk to interesting people, now would be a good time to become a member.
This is an ideal arrangement for me at the moment. First, because now that I'm through my comps I can focus on my dissertation better. Second, I can jump on individual research projects as they come up instead of chasing things that I don't really have any interest in.
The coming weeks will be all dissertation proposal, all the time that I'm not working. In other news, my article with Joe Young on American anti-ISIS foreign fighters is out and the link on my research page provides free copies for the first 50 clicks.
David Ucko, at the National Defense University, and I wrote a critique of a recent International Security article on counterinsurgency. We weren't fans of the piece for a number of reasons, and I hope you give it a read (as well as the original piece for context - I'm not linking because it's behind a paywall, but it's easily found if you have access to IS). ISSF was an ideal outlet for our critique as the journal's correspondence section limits word count to a significant degree.
I don't write much on COIN these days, and I think these were my last pieces on the topic. The entire endeavor had become futile and there didn't seem much point. Too much of the debate, such as it remains, still sits in the pro- and anti-COIN camps like it's still 2009. But reality is much more complex than this, in understanding what our doctrine says, what the scholarship says, and what actually happened on the ground. Indeed, the COIN debate seems to still be entirely too self-reflective, instead of incorporating other fields of study. Like the literatures on civil war, state repression, state-building, or even selectorate theory. Instead, it's the same citations (Galula, Nagl, Gentile, etc) over and over again. It's very frustrating that the conversation goes in circles instead of progressing.
Which is all to say this was an interesting piece to co-write. But it also doesn't mean that I'm stepping back into the conversation. Or rather, I'm moving on to a different conversation: trying to understand the nuances of COIN -- as espoused by doctrine as well as viewed by scholars -- and examining new research for it's contribution to a progressing dialogue. Like my last COIN pieces 4 years ago, I suspect some perspective on what's been written is more useful than new theories based on broad brushes.