Complex? You bet.

I’m sure, since you’re here, most readers have seen this slide. It was derided on its release for two main reasons. It is ridiculously complex and impenetrable, in the first instance. More importantly, those who could interpret it already knew what it was trying to say, anyway.

This is the problem with a lot of foreign affairs type blogs. It’s a very much an inside baseball conversation. People who understand the situation, its complexities and difficulties, talking to other people about those difficulties and complications.

Granted, there are some influential people in these conversations, but I think, for Outsiders at least, it is important, and perhaps an advantage of being on the fringes, to engage in discourse with people who are ignorant (in a non-derogatory way) of the situation. It’s important to help this section of society to understand the nuances of the situation.

It’s vitally important from a counterinsurgency point of view, if nothing else. It’s one of the reasons why COIN is simple, but simple is difficult. Without the public’s understanding, both at home and in Afghanistan, of why we are there and what we are doing there, it will be difficult to sustain any kind of momentum.

Counterinsurgency is very much a political fight. Arguably, it’s more important in COIN than in conventional war. It’s down to politics that the US failed in Vietnam. And politics could, although I hope and believe not, cause a failure here.

In related news, as I was writing this, I opened my Google Reader account to check on a quote, and was greeted with this:

Revealed! Pentagon’s Craziest PowerPoint Slide EVER


5 comments on “Complex? You bet.

  1. zenpundit says:

    Hi Joe,

    Much thanks for the link!

    Yes, that was a very inside baseball post on an academic journal article and you are correct that my target audience for that was really about a couple hundred people who are experts and have influence over COIN theory and policy.

    Is that the sort of post that can act as a “bridge” to hook the layman. No. You’re right, that requires a different type of post that is accurate in terms of concept but concise, free of jargon and probably supplemented with clear analogies.

  2. Joe Dixon says:


    Thanks for your comment.

    I wasn’t taking a pop at your post in particular. I linked to it because you linked to Thomas Barnett’s original post that contained the phrase “inside baseball” and the link in your post doesn’t go to that article anymore, since he moved his blog.

    My purpose here, although the blog is still pretty new, is to do exactly as you suggested and “act as a “bridge” to hook the layman.” I think that it’s vital that the general populations of all the nations involved should understand the reasons for and purposes of COIN operations, so that they support them. I think that this is important because we must demonstrate the strength of the kinds of governments we are hawking and attempting to set up.

    Therefore, I think that it is important that all people understand the situation, and that it is a largely positive one, so that they are behind the effort, by and large, and not constantly calling for the troops to come home, which would be massively counterproductive.

  3. […] for lameness.” Among the other elements to be jettisoned are the frequently maligned Power Point presentations, and the notion of brigade level […]

  4. […] of graphical thinking is necessary. Although, maybe not PowerPoint. We’ve talked about that before, haven’t […]

  5. […] a Comment Counterinsurgency is difficult. There’s no denying that. Counterinsurgency is complex. I’ve said that before, and will say it […]

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