One book I find myself thinking about a surprising amount is Phony Communism is Dead . . . Long Live Real Communism by Revolutionary Communist Party Chairman Bob Avakian, originally published in 1992. Not because I spend a ton of time thinking about Communism per se, but because arguments in the style of its title are surprisingly frequent.
In particular, in recent American national security policy we’ve seen an awful lot of energy go into arguments about why we don’t have to rethink our strategic concepts. This is what the incompetence dodge argument on Iraq was about, and as Joshua Foust argues we’re starting to see a version of it emerge with regard to “counterinsurgency” in Afghanistan:
A fascinating undercurrent to this discussion is the descent of counterinsurgency as an unstoppable force for the betterment of war to a troubled theory we haven’t really figured out how to do right, if ever. Many of the boosters of COIN, who see the McChrystal implementation literally blowing up in our faces, seem eager to cast what is wrong with the war on refusing to follow the theory, rather than the theory’s inherent unworkability.
I think that’s about right. That’s not to say that actual practice in Afghanistan over the past two years has been 100 percent perfect implementation of counterinsurgency theory. But you can’t initiate a large complicated undertaking that involves coordinated action by hundreds of thousands of individual human beings and then make success contingent on perfect implementation.