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Thread: COIN -v- CT debate

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default COIN -v- CT debate

    I am sure amidst SWC threads, even before the current debate in the USA, there has been a discussion over the two alternative schools of thought Counter-Insurgency (COIN) and Counter-Terrorism (CT), but I cannot locate a suitable thread.

    Preamble aside.

    There is a fascinating debate on the Kings of War blogsite on the issue: http://kingsofwar.wordpress.com/2009...stan/#comments

    Since it is conceptual I posted here and not in the Afghan thread.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Hi David,

    I think there is a lot of non-logical thinking in this area - i.e., COIN vs(?) CT.

    Here I'm positing a "terrorist" as a member of a violent non-state actor, who does things that some define as "terrorism".

    Posit two different situations:

    1. A nation is beset by a domestic insurgency which, as part of its toolkit, uses "terrorism".

    In that situation, counter-terrorism is part of the incumbant's toolkit to defeat the insurgency. The incumbant's toolkit includes the military effort and the political effort. It includes an intellegence, counter-intelligence and criminal justice effort which can flop on either side of the military-political coin. In any event, while one can split up tasks, COIN and CT are intertwined.

    2. A world is beset by a transnational violent non-state actor, which acts through its own forces (sometimes doing things that some define as "terrorism"), but also acts through domestic violent non-state actors (case 1) via a loose or tight connection.

    This resembles unconventional warfare in the traditional sense, except that the violent groups may not be able to reach the stage where conventional forces arise and can conjoin with the irregular forces.

    To the extent that domestic violent non-state actors (insurgents) are involved, COIN and CT are intertwined as in Case 1.

    To the extent that we look at the TVNSA as something akin to a "SOF Base" and "SOF Teams", more direct CT is called for and COIN does not enter the picture. This can involve direct military intelligence and action (M), but also has to include civilian intellegence, counter-intelligence and criminal justice efforts, which provides a political aspect as well (DIE).

    All in all, the COIN vs CT debate is in itself a "red herring" (rotting from the head) and is likely to go nowhere good. In such cases as present Astan, it's a cover for other agendas, which are thought not to be as likely to sell politically.

    This, BTW, is strictly an opinion piece.

    What do you think ?

    Cheers

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 10-26-2009 at 01:15 AM.

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    Curious, what is the professional, serious argument for CT without counterinsurgency? The problem is stated simply enough. In the first order, your adversary is far more free to range, assemble and attack as he chooses, then scatter in the face of pursuit. The defender is already in his interior, with little to no depth to trade and responsibility for too many exposed targets to maneuver the enemy into concentrating for a defeat in detail. On top of that, insurgents get another handicap in that they're fighting newcomers on their native battlefield, amongst people who they share more in custom with and speak their language and theirs alone.

    The solution, elegant or inelegant, is obviously extemely frustrating to arrive at, with eight years in Afghanistan and six in Iraq having yet to produce truly satisfying results. But it seems plain on inspection that counterinsurgency doctrine at least attempts to mitigate the insurgent's advantage. It looks like the popular notion of CT just concedes them wholesale.
    Last edited by Presley Cannady; 10-27-2009 at 01:22 PM.
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    People who argue for CT are arguing for a total shift in strategy, where Afghanistan is basically written off. Who controls Afghanistan is not strategically important --- what is important is killing or crippling al-Qaeda.

    The Taliban, in this frame, are not relevant nor a threat to the U.S. homeland. We should attempt to split the Taliban from al-Qaeda, under the theory that the Taliban only want Islamic revolution in Afghanistan and have no interest in warring with the U.S.

    CT advocates posit that COIN is too costly and politically unsustainable, with amorphous, pie-in-the-sky goal. CT represents a much more sustainable and less costly method in fighting the real threat, which is identified as the AQ organization.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    A lot of people looking for an "easy button" solution out there.

    Like if your best friend comes to you and he is having some troubles in his marriage to the point where he feels he is nearing a divorce. And he asks you, Should I buy her flowers or kick her ass to solve this problem?

    Clearly neither will work in of itself, and he must take a far more holistic approach that will likely require major changes in his own behaveior if he is to be successful. Everyone understands that intuitively when it comes to a marriage relationship, yet in a very similar dynamic between a government and a popualce we seem to go completely brain dead.

    Bottome line, you can neither buy nor fight your way out of this one, you (your COIN buddy, as you surely can't do this for him and should not try) must actually take your role in the relationship seriously and perform.

    (And for those who enjoy exploring a good analogy further, you, as the buddy providing advice are conducting FID. Your buddy is conducting COIN, his spouse is the subversive/insurgent, and her lover or even her girlfriends who validate her every notion, are conducting UW. If you just go after the UW actor (the CT option on the table currently) you will do little to address the insurgency and the UW actor will be quickly replaced by others ready to fill that role. If you merely work to be the most effective spouse ever (though you possess no real history of being one) without actually asking your spouse what is bothering her and working to make changes in your behavior to addres those specific concerns regardless of how irrational you or your FID conducting friend think they are, you will likely fail as well.


    Maybe this is why COIN is so hard. We screw it up in our own daily lives constantly, what hope do we have of working it at a governmental level? But the principle dynamics are largely the same.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Bob's World, I think COIN is so hard because like LE there is a certain class of people that are going to be criminals(predators) no matter what. I think a lot COIN leaders fall into that category. Just like predators you could give them everything they want and they would still be causing problems.

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    Bob's World,

    Your analogy assumes that the husband wants to save the marriage or preserve through changing himself and compromise with the wife. It may be the case that the husband isn't interested in the marriage or is only interested for his own benefit. For Afghanistan I think the Afghan government is not only incompetent at governing but also isn't much interested in governing.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    When doing arraignments I got to meet a fair share of dysfunctional couples. Typically the husband was in the plexiglass box having the charges for assault being read to him, while his battered wife was in the gallery blowing kisses, vouching for the loser, and generally begging the judge to send her husband home. Meanwhile I would be reviewing a police record that often had a dozen such arrests over a span of years with the wife always refusing to sign the complaint.

    We know governments like this as well, and when we have national intersts within their borders and a friendly relationship, we tend to overlook their questionable domestic habits. "Control your wife." Better yet, let me train and equip you to control your wife if you can't do it yourself. Still struggling buddy? here, hold my beer while I show you how to really lay one on her...

    Its a new era, and those who have been historically powerless are growing more and more connected and empowered. Its time for a new approach to these problems, as they can no longer merely be overlooked or contained.


    Of course COIN is hard, because in its purest sense COIN is the day to day conduct of governing a populace in a manner that meets their needs both individually and collectively. Harder still if you think COIN is just the beat-down you deliver when the populace dares to stand up to your ineptitude.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default It still applies

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    Bob's World,

    Your analogy assumes that the husband wants to save the marriage or preserve through changing himself and compromise with the wife. It may be the case that the husband isn't interested in the marriage or is only interested for his own benefit. For Afghanistan I think the Afghan government is not only incompetent at governing but also isn't much interested in governing.
    You just need to do a better job of picking your friends. Family you are stuck with, but your friends are a choice.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    You just need to do a better job of picking your friends. Family you are stuck with, but your friends are a choice.
    I'm not so sure "friends" are a choice in international relations.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Smile Ok, "Mr Symantics"

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    I'm not so sure "friends" are a choice in international relations.
    Besides the fact that when one stops believing they have choices they start becoming a "victim," as I stated recently "friend" and "foe" are very limiting constructs, best to see all as "competitors."

    But again, irrelevant to the appropriateness of the analogy. In fact, I would go so far as suggesting that this analogy is a very good metric to see if someone has a grasp of the fundamental nature of these types of operations.

    If you give them the analogy and they go "Ahh" or "of course", then you can get on with discussions of the problem.

    If they instead simply can't see the connection, then, in my professional opinion, they really aren't prepared to discuss the problem at all, as they think it is something very different than what it actually is.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Projection rampant...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    If you give them the analogy and they go "Ahh" or "of course", then you can get on with discussions of the problem.
    IOW, if they agree with your analogy, you're willing to talk? If not, they're stupid? Good approach. I take it you're not in sales...
    If they instead simply can't see the connection, then, in my professional opinion, they really aren't prepared to discuss the problem at all, as they think it is something very different than what it actually is.
    Professional opinion? As a Psychologist? As a Lawyer? As a Soldier? If not the first, then a degree of irrelevance is introduced.

    Is it remotely possible that a particular focus blinds you to other possibilities?

    Take your analogy a step further -- think of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; put a mix of five Husbands and two Wives in the dock for assault. Then consider seven defense attorneys, one of whom is your Cousin and another of whom is a former law partner who is Godfather to your son. A third is a high national profile defense Attorney with an unlimited budget, a fourth is your Wife's brother. Have fun, Mr. Prosecutor.

    Your analogy this time, like many of them, leaves the political milieu out of consideration and the quality of all players. Every nation where there is an insurgency will pose different political considerations dependent upon the number of external players and their roles -- and there are always external players. Plus, luck of the draw ascribes different capabilities to own forces, opponents and others and the domestic political milieu behind them.

    In your analogy and in mine you get the advantage of breaking the case down to two individuals as with mine your response could be "I don't have to deal with seven defense attorneys at once, I can deal with each singly." True, however in dealing with nations, there is no dealing singly; there are always others with diverse interests involved to some degree -- to include the internal politics of your own nation. Also always present is the question of capabilities; own, opponent and interested parties. Those are real factors that will impact all you suggest and you cannot just wave all that away as you are prone to do. Not if you really want to be taken seriously.
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2009 at 05:03 PM.

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    BW,

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a completely bad analogy, but like any analogy, it will only get you so far.

    What I do like is the "dysfunctional couples" you mention and how such dysfunctional relationships go on for years and years. In such cases, though what influence can a friend/competitor really have?

    Here's a situation using your analogy which might be familiar: Suppose you, as the friend, come into the house, shoot the current BF/Hubby and boot him out because he killed your inlaws. Thinking he was mortally wounded (you followed the blood trail to the neighbor's yard), you help the woman find a new boyfriend who, it turns out, may let her watch some TV and listen to the radio but can't hold a job, buy groceries or pay the rent like the last guy could. More importantly, neither you nor the new boyfriend can protect her from the ex you shot but didn't actually manage to kill. He comes around from the neighbor's yard and gives her the good-cop/bad-cop treatment of threats + inducements when you and the BF aren't around, which is quite often. Then there's the new boyfriend's old-boys-network of friends who are fleecing and exploiting the woman so she can't even buy food with the little bit of money the new boyfriend hasn't squandered. The (probably feigning) sympathetic ex gives her a bit of money and a shoulder to cry on. The woman starts to think maybe the ex wasn't so bad after all and she blames you, the friend, for bringing about this course of events and screwing up her life completely. You, as the friend, can't catch the ex and finish the job and you can't seem to convince your buddy, the boyfriend, to change his ways. What are your options?

    Sounds kind of like an episode of Dallas. Maybe studying soap operas can give us some insights here!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    BW,

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a completely bad analogy, but like any analogy, it will only get you so far.

    What I do like is the "dysfunctional couples" you mention and how such dysfunctional relationships go on for years and years. In such cases, though what influence can a friend/competitor really have?

    Here's a situation using your analogy which might be familiar: Suppose you, as the friend, come into the house, shoot the current BF/Hubby and boot him out because he killed your inlaws. Thinking he was mortally wounded (you followed the blood trail to the neighbor's yard), you help the woman find a new boyfriend who, it turns out, may let her watch some TV and listen to the radio but can't hold a job, buy groceries or pay the rent like the last guy could. More importantly, neither you nor the new boyfriend can protect her from the ex you shot but didn't actually manage to kill. He comes around from the neighbor's yard and gives her the good-cop/bad-cop treatment of threats + inducements when you and the BF aren't around, which is quite often. Then there's the new boyfriend's old-boys-network of friends who are fleecing and exploiting the woman so she can't even buy food with the little bit of money the new boyfriend hasn't squandered. The (probably feigning) sympathetic ex gives her a bit of money and a shoulder to cry on. The woman starts to think maybe the ex wasn't so bad after all and she blames you, the friend, for bringing about this course of events and screwing up her life completely. You, as the friend, can't catch the ex and finish the job and you can't seem to convince your buddy, the boyfriend, to change his ways. What are your options?

    Sounds kind of like an episode of Dallas. Maybe studying soap operas can give us some insights here!
    Sounds more like the average Domstic Violence case I worked on. Which are very mapable using Warden's 5 ring system which I used often.

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    More importantly, neither you nor the new boyfriend can protect her from the ex you shot but didn't actually manage to kill. He comes around from the neighbor's yard and gives her the good-cop/bad-cop treatment of threats + inducements when you and the BF aren't around, which is quite often. Then there's the new boyfriend's old-boys-network of friends who are fleecing and exploiting the woman so she can't even buy food with the little bit of money the new boyfriend hasn't squandered.
    This analogy is excellent, and I don't think any of the most effective short-term solutions are ones that we would want to do.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default You can't do calculus...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    IOW, if they agree with your analogy, you're willing to talk? If not, they're stupid? Good approach. I take it you're not in sales... Professional opinion? As a Psychologist? As a Lawyer? As a Soldier? If not the first, then a degree of irrelevance is introduced.

    Is it remotely possible that a particular focus blinds you to other possibilities?

    Take your analogy a step further -- think of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; put a mix of five Husbands and two Wives in the dock for assault. Then consider seven defense attorneys, one of whom is your Cousin and another of whom is a former law partner who is Godfather to your son. A third is a high national profile defense Attorney with an unlimited budget, a fourth is your Wife's brother. Have fun, Mr. Prosecutor.

    Your analogy this time, like many of them, leaves the political milieu out of consideration and the quality of all players. Every nation where there is an insurgency will pose different political considerations dependent upon the number of external players and their roles -- and there are always external players. Plus, luck of the draw ascribes different capabilities to own forces, opponents and others and the domestic political milieu behind them.

    In your analogy and in mine you get the advantage of breaking the case down to two individuals as with mine your response could be "I don't have to deal with seven defense attorneys at once, I can deal with each singly." True, however in dealing with nations, there is no dealing singly; there are always others with diverse interests involved to some degree -- to include the internal politics of your own nation. Also always present is the question of capabilities; own, opponent and interested parties. Those are real factors that will impact all you suggest and you cannot just wave all that away as you are prone to do. Not if you really want to be taken seriously.

    ...Until you have your basic math, agebra and geometry down pat
    (Which I learned quite painfully when Dr. Stacy gave me an "F" in integration calculus the first time I took it. I wasn't "stupid", I was just in over my head and did great the following term.)

    Its a metric (which I know you are a fan of). We'll talk, we just won't begin the conversation with "What should the strategy in Afghanistan be." We'll probably begin more with "tell me what you think AQ is really all about," and then from your answer we will begin exploring the many interconnected pieces of the problem. Never know where the really good idea is going to come from.

    Many think because they have an opinion it is also an informed opinion; good to have some metrics to sort out if that is true or not up front. We all do it informally in every aspect of life.

    Oh, and when you find a psychologist that is also versed in insurgency let me know, we probably have work for him/her.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Air Force study from 1997, go to chapter 3 and you will find good 5 rings analysis of a basic CT/COIN organization.



    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...uote=1&p=85693

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    Here is an attachement of a real 5 rings analysis for a real DV case I worked.

    This is one of the first models so ring 5 was called the Fighting mechanism. Anyway if you look at all the variables it is a lot like what Entropy talks about.

    The penciled in squres were my targets I used to develop my campaugn plan.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Default Some call it "terrorism"

    My reason for saying that is: a commonly-accepted definition of the tactic called "terrorism" does not exist that does not have one or more holes in it. Still, like pornography, we tend to recognize it when we see it.

    1. The various small groups in the 70s that practiced "terrroism" are examples of nearly pure "terrorism", which had no clear political effort. Their apparent strategy was disruption of the existing systems of government (except for those with which they were temporarily allied), and thus, in some not clearly identified way, to result in a system acceptable to them. Of course, they also rented themselves out to other groups to do their dirty work.

    2. An insugency, whether totally homegrown or whether supported or instigated by an external power (which is then waging a form of unconventional warfare), is a totally different animal, because the political effort (in effect, a populace-centric approach) is equal to or exceeds the military effort (in "best practices insurgency"). The tactic of "terrorism" is often part of that toolkit.

    3. AQ is another animal, as to which COL Jones' unconventional warfare concept finds a home with me - others may not buy it. Our (US) waging counter unconventional warfare is not new. We waged it against the KGB and GRU throughout the Cold War in the many brush fires which were supported or instigated by those organizations (or by us, where the roles reversed).

    The critical difference then was that they were part of a government with which we could also engage (not only using "M", but also using "DIE"). Another difference was the unwritten rule that the KGB & GRU and the CIA & US Mil would not engage directly. Because of that, we and they were forced into a series of brush fire, proxy wars (Vietnam and Astan I being the classic examples).

    We do have more freedom of action with AQ because we can attack AQ directly (via a number of avenues, not necessarily kinetic); or we can engage AQ in the various brush fires that they support or instigate.

    The latter can be addressd by what is primarily a military effort ("best practices COIN"); or by what is primarily a civilian effort (some form of "nation building", whether in James Dobbin's classic models, or Bob Jones' non-military solutions - which I confess to either not understanding, or by looking on them as too Utopian, where I do).

    Ironically, by engaging in the brush fires, we are continuing to employ the Cold War models for "COIN" and "nation building". Are those brush fire models the better course for us to follow today ?

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 10-27-2009 at 08:05 PM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default At this point I'm about to give up thinking anyone is really versed in insurgency...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    ...Its a metric (which I know you are a fan of). We'll talk, we just won't begin the conversation with "What should the strategy in Afghanistan be." We'll probably begin more with "tell me what you think AQ is really all about," and then from your answer we will begin exploring the many interconnected pieces of the problem. Never know where the really good idea is going to come from.
    No problem with any of that, though I would suggest that AQ really has little to do with Afghanistan and vice versa (at this point). I agree with most of your theories, I merely contend that your bulldozer approach on this forum (which I realize may not be how you interface in person -- this is not really a good communications medium) is not going to win you as many converts as you'll need to embed your good ideas...

    Allegories, even simplistic ones that eliminate nuances one knows or should know are present to make a more pithy tale may sway juries but they're unlikely to sway most Politicians or hardly any soldats. Good logic and full answers can make a difference. That's not a knock, just stating a perception.
    Oh, and when you find a psychologist that is also versed in insurgency let me know, we probably have work for him/her.
    Umm, you should already have some. If you don't, then perhaps...

    That is if anyone is really versed in insurgency. As I said, I am really beginning to wonder about that...

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