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  1. #1
    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Post Transformation of the Discussion of Small Wars

    It's been a long while since I was active here, so the nature of the discussion fora may have changed. If this is the wrong area to discuss this, please kick it to the right one, mods.

    I was once very active in SWC, and have returned to a position where periodic review of the discussion could be useful, but I am noticing what seems to be a shift in type of posts and a drop off in traffic. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the change in warfare. However, there seems to be a relatively robust community on Twitter discussing similar issues, but in what is undoubtedly a worse forum.

    My prompts are, therefore, twofold:

    1. Have the changes in the social media environment fundamentally altered the role of groups like SWC?
    2. Has the changes in the nature of fora helped or hurt the study and practice of warfare


    To be clear I'm talking about over the last 15 years. Obviously war is different now from when we communicated by telegram/semaphore/horseback. I have some intuitions, and this is my area of study, but because I haven't been as active here as many others, I'd love to know what you think.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-27-2017 at 11:33 AM. Reason: 142v till 27th Jan 2017.
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    "Abu Suleyman"

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A reply in part

    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    It's been a long while since I was active here, so the nature of the discussion fora may have changed. If this is the wrong area to discuss this, please kick it to the right one, mods.
    I have moved this thread to this arena, where there are some threads on the theme, although none recently.

    I was once very active in SWC, and have returned to a position where periodic review of the discussion could be useful, but I am noticing what seems to be a shift in type of posts and a drop off in traffic.
    There has undoubtedly been change here. Exchanges of views do happen, but may be rarer. In part that reflects in my opinion as an "armchair" participant big changes in the audience, which to my knowledge remains primarily American. War weariness is one factor, plus people simply change career - so once regular posters have retired and work hard in new jobs.

    I do not have access to the site traffic data, but there are plenty of readers even if few posts in response. That is why I add in the 'last Edited by' the number of views and sometimes the number since the previous post. That is how I can judge the value of posts. See this thread as an example:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=8689&page=25 A thread where I was surprised at how many views there had been.

    We also have rivals. For example WoTR which takes a far broader viewpoint and a number of former Forum moderators pop up there as authors.

    Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the change in warfare. However, there seems to be a relatively robust community on Twitter discussing similar issues, but in what is undoubtedly a worse forum.

    My prompts are, therefore, twofold:

    1. Have the changes in the social media environment fundamentally altered the role of groups like SWC?
    2. Has the changes in the nature of fora helped or hurt the study and practice of warfare


    To be clear I'm talking about over the last 15 years. Obviously war is different now from when we communicated by telegram/semaphore/horseback. I have some intuitions, and this is my area of study, but because I haven't been as active here as many others, I'd love to know what you think.
    I only observe a tiny part of the professional debate on modern war, from a British viewpoint and cannot fully answer this.
    davidbfpo

  3. #3
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post

    1. Have the changes in the social media environment fundamentally altered the role of groups like SWC?
    2. Has the changes in the nature of fora helped or hurt the study and practice of warfare


    To be clear I'm talking about over the last 15 years. Obviously war is different now from when we communicated by telegram/semaphore/horseback. I have some intuitions, and this is my area of study, but because I haven't been as active here as many others, I'd love to know what you think.
    Just my opinion, but I think that the reduction in activity here has to do with the consolidation of ideas on small wars into set camps of thought. In the early days there was much debate about what would or could work. Now it seems like there are only those who think that Small Wars are a problem of culture (we cannot forcibly Westernize the world), or Small Wars are a problem of the ROE (if only we could kill everything that we think might be a threat, we can win), or that Small Wars are a waste of time (Gian Gentile et. al.). We end up having the same conversation with the same people.

    There is also the issue of competition, of which there is plenty. Places like WoTR and the Strategy Bridge, as well as blogs like Lawfare. Still, I really like SWJ for people who want to throw ideas out there and get a response from the field. It just seems that small wars and insurgency/counterinsurgency are not the hot topic. Nowadays, the areas of interest now are little green men and cyber.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Just my opinion, but I think that the reduction in activity here has to do with the consolidation of ideas on small wars into set camps of thought. In the early days there was much debate about what would or could work. Now it seems like there are only those who think that Small Wars are a problem of culture (we cannot forcibly Westernize the world), or Small Wars are a problem of the ROE (if only we could kill everything that we think might be a threat, we can win), or that Small Wars are a waste of time (Gian Gentile et. al.). We end up having the same conversation with the same people.

    There is also the issue of competition, of which there is plenty. Places like WoTR and the Strategy Bridge, as well as blogs like Lawfare. Still, I really like SWJ for people who want to throw ideas out there and get a response from the field. It just seems that small wars and insurgency/counterinsurgency are not the hot topic. Nowadays, the areas of interest now are little green men and cyber.
    I don't know about the camps, but agree there are other focus areas for those of us still working in this area. The COINdistas were incorrect in their assertions that war between states is a historical artifact and the future of conflict is COIN. Getting involved in some other country's internal affairs is always a choice, rarely a national security necessity. On the other hand, where I was wrong and the SWJ Eds were correct is that is we are at risk losing all the lessons related to small wars once again. We're off and running trying to implement the 3d Off Set Strategy, while the small war lessons have been sidelined. The balance that SecDef Gates pushed has never been achieved, instead we're on titter totter that doesn't titter. The fat guy is either small wars or conventional war, and the other guy is skinny whose feet never get to touch the ground. Until we see these two schools of thought as part of a greater whole instead of being antagonistic, we'll continue to struggle.

    Overall, and perhaps it is just me, we have discussed tactics at length. I have learned much from those discussions. However, there seems to be a growing sense of frustration that regardless of how skilled our men and women are on the tip of the spear, it often seems for naught when our political leadership is strategically adrift. It may even get worse as our national rhetoric approaches a level of hubris we haven't seen since Dick Cheney was VP.

  5. #5
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Lost Lessons & Fresh Thinking: a challenge for SWC

    This 2013 thread, in another arena, may be worth considering:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...847#post199847
    davidbfpo

  6. #6
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    1. Have the changes in the social media environment fundamentally altered the role of groups like SWC?
    2. Has the changes in the nature of fora helped or hurt the study and practice of warfare
    I'm running the ACIG.info (formerly ACIG.org) forum since exactly 18 years, meanwhile, and have experienced the very same development several times. Have never clearly defined my thoughts and experiences in this regards, though, so let me try to do so in reply to your - highly interesting - questions.

    I think it's similar to the team-building process: something like the 'usual first phase' is one where 'everybody' (involved, that's including the creators of the internet appearance and all of its visitors) is 'highly enthusiastic', 'happy to participate' etc.

    After a while, things start to sort out and become routine. Some get disappointed - for most different reasons - and leave. Other people come, or not at all. It all depends.

    Now, one of 'problems', or 'issues', is that over the time every internet appearance is 'entrenching' itself at a specific point of view. Its subsequent success is then depending on the popularity of the point of view in question. Probably also on the skill of its owners to 'forward their message' to the public too (see: 'advertising').

    The public is also increasingly 'entrenching': ever fewer people are interested in the depth of information, but easy to distract with literal nonsense (just see all the reports about celebrities).

    Means not there are less of those with genuine interest and readiness to go 'in-depth': however, such people tend to get overwhelmed by all the information offered, regardless how irrelevant 99% of the same is. This results in such people having it ever harder to find out what might be interesting for them, and what not.

    So, to get over to answering your questions:

    [*]Have the changes in the social media environment fundamentally altered the role of groups like SWC?
    I do not think they did. Or if, then in positive direction. There is more need for good, reliable, coherent and well-substantiated information than ever before. Platforms providing the information in that style might have less traffic, but those knowing about them are always going to return to them, and in turn 'drag/pull' other new visitors with them.

    [*]Has the changes in the nature of fora helped or hurt the study and practice of warfare
    Not to my knowledge.

    The wars have not changed the least. Quite on the contrary! The war are still the very same (usually bloody) mess of humans, sweat, ####, dirt and plenty of things that do 'bang' (and quite nasty things to the humans). I.e. the 'military realities' are very much still the same.

    What did change is the 'public perception' of the wars. Primary difference is the illusion of the mass of people that they can now 'follow' and 'understand' what's going on in some war - all thanks to the IT.

    In this regards, actually nothing changed over the last, say, 50 years. Even if 'watching over the shoulder' of some combatant thanks to go-pro cameras, the mass of people simply can't understand what's going on.

    What did change is that before the internet, we were all depending on a relatively limited number of acknowledged experts: people who seriously monitored specific conflicts, and reported about them.

    Nowadays, we're facing endless hordes of self-declared 'Messiahs' - ranging from all sorts of journos, to 'map drawers' and whatever other kind of 'war monitors' - who insist that they can explain everybody what's going on in some conflict.

    No doubt, more information is available about specific wars, and then 'in near-real time' - than ever before.

    However, it's the 'sort' of that information that matters more than ever before.

    In my experience, that 'sort' is what makes the difference: if an internet appearance can offer a good, 'easy to read' sort, it's attracting visitors. If it cannot... it's going to down, just like an entire mass of Messiahs on Twitter, FB and similar platforms is regularly disappearing after a while.

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