Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.
The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Nathniel Flick And The Limits Of Social Networking

Jonathan Stray, an energetic blogger, has constructed a social-network chart detailing the connections between the so-called Counterinsurgents. It has some

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jan 28, 2009

Jonathan Stray, an energetic blogger, has constructed a social-network chart detailing the connections between the so-called Counterinsurgents. It has some errors — I’m assuming ‘Nathniel Flick’ is Nate Fick of the Center for a New American Security — and as Abu Muqawama says, “a better graph than the one this dude came up with would have been far more extensive and incestuous.” But a few rounds of crowdsourcing from the comment threads of AM or Small Wars Journal can probably fix that.

Still, there’s kind of a broader question: what does a social-network chart really tell you?

Here’s what Stray says he found:

The resulting network shows that the Obama administration is relying heavily on the talents of a group called the Center for A New American Security (CNAS), which has close ties to the authors of the most recent US Army counterinsurgency manual. This means that Obama is unlikely to break with the current military strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan — but even if he wanted to, could he?

That just doesn’t follow.

First, it presumes that there’s anything approaching a counterinsurgent consensus about what to do about Afghanistan. (Let’s leave Iraq aside for the moment.) Some people in the chart, including the aforementioned Flick/Fick, have some ideas; but even if you asked this crowd, “Should we get all counterinsurgenty up in Afghanistan?” you would still have obscured more than you’ve clarified.

Some argue that the biggest COIN principle to follow in Afghanistan is attention to local concerns; others privilege specific tactical approaches. There’s not much of a consensus about what to do going forward. (I guess adding more troops is an exception, but that’s anecdotal.) Furthermore, there isn’t much of a “current military strategy” in Afghanistan, as the war has heretofore been defined more by drift than design, so it’s hard to see the COINdinistas arguing for more of the same. (If the effect is the same, it’ll probably indicate that Afghanistan is hopeless more than anything else.)

And then there’s a further concern. What does it really reveal to note that Colin Kahl has been palling around with Nathniel Flick? Eli Lake of The Washington Times has been palling around with Spencer Ackerman for six years, but it hasn’t made him, for instance, favor withdrawal from Iraq. You can’t really overlay areas of policy agreement based on frequency of contact. One of the most inspired parts of Bart Gellman’s book, “Angler,” is where he notes that if you thought that way, you’d probably have to conclude that former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had worked together for more than 20 years, were bureaucratic allies instead of bitter rivals.

I don’t mean to pick on Stray. The truth is that the military and intelligence apparatuses use these kind of org charts frequently when trying to map terrorist networks or tribal ties. And it’s never been clear to me why, or even indeed whether, the social cartographers really have faith in such a flawed model or if, instead, there’s a recognition that the social networks operate as a placeholder for actual information about the different nodes on the chart. I’m also not saying that it’s a mistake to try to understand the counterinsurgents as a distinct cohort — that would be pretty stupid and hypocritical of me. All I’m saying is that viewing the Network itself tells you deceptively little.

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


MA-Sen: A Text Message From Scott Brown

BOSTON -- Having signed up for Scott Brown’s text message service for election day, I just got this text: Are you about to have lunch? It’s a great time to

MA-Sen: 150 Conservative Bloggers Fan Out, Looking for Scandals

BOSTON -- The mysterious Election Journal blog, which first released the infamous 2008 video of two bumbling New Black Panther Party members waving nightsticks

MA-Sen: Brown Wins

BOSTON -- At 9:20, the first rumors of Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race started to work around the room. A moment later, Doug Flutie

MA-Sen: 66 to 19

BOSTON -- That, via Alex Isenstadt and Josh Kraushaar, is the number that defined the Massachusetts Senate race more than anything else. From the primary

MA-Sen: Out-of-Staters for Brown

BOSTON -- A surprising discovery at yesterday’s People’s Rally in Worcester was just how many people had traveled into the state to assist, in whatever way,

MA-Sen: Loyal Democrats Grouse About Coakley

BOSTON -- A little while after noon, a steady crowd of Democratic voters streamed into the Cathedral High School Gymnasium to cast votes for their party’s

MA-Sen: Republicans Celebrate Coakley’s Gaffes in Worcester

WORCESTER, Mass. - By the way, said Curt Schilling. One more thing. I am not a Yankees fan. The overflowing crowd at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on

Menendez, Lautenberg to Continue BP-Lockerbie Investigation

Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, both New Jersey Democrats, will continue to seek details about BP’s alleged involvement in the release last year of

Net Investors Bullish on Palin’s Prospects for Staying on Ticket

Just for fun, the Internet prediction Website Intrade has opened a contract on whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be withdrawn as McCain’s running mate.

No Experience Necessary

Gov. Sarah Palin’s a middle-class hockey mom, but does that really qualify her to be vice president?

© Copyright 2022 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |

Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.