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Old 01-26-2017   #1
Abu Suleyman
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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.
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-27-2017 at 10:33 AM. Reason: 142v till 27th Jan 2017.
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Old 01-27-2017   #2
davidbfpo
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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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.
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Old 01-28-2017   #3
TheCurmudgeon
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Default

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.
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Old 01-28-2017   #4
Bill Moore
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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.
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Old 01-30-2017   #5
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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
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