SWJ, New Media and COIN

Recently Andrew Exum (a.k.a. Abu Muqawama) noted that Tom Ricks’ book, The Gamble, had neglected to examine the role of New Media in the Surge’s success. That led Dave Dilegge of Small Wars Journal to send out a call for comments. I was very flattered to be invited to contribute my thoughts, then humbled by the company: Dave Kilcullen, Janine Davidson, Tom Barnett, Exum, Spencer Ackerman, Michael Yon, and more. The entire document can be found here (.pdf), and Dave is also compiling an updated list of responses from around the web in this SWJ blog post. (Josh Foust’s comments over at Registan are worth a close read.)

A lot of the comments center on the technical aspects of the military’s “lessons learned” process. And when the definitive history of the Iraq War is written (if it ever makes it onto paper), online sites like SWJ and AM, and online journalists like Ackerman and Yon, will certainly warrant a chapter or two on that subject. I offered my own civilian perspective, which focuses on the way in which the New Media military sites made the internal military debates over COIN doctrine accessible to civilians, and also invited civilians into that process.

I neglected to mention that while the accessibility might have to do with technology, the inclusiveness has more to do with Dave Dilegge’s and Bill Nagle’s approach. They made sure that Small Wars Journal was always an open forum for respectful debate and pointed criticism, from both civilians and military professionals alike. As such, SWJ has been central in my own “lessons learned” process, helping me understand the Iraq War as well as the transformations in American military doctrine that it has provoked.

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