The Incoherence of COIN Advocates: Stephen Biddle Edition - Bernard Finel, ASP Flashpoint.
Stephen Biddle is the single best defense analyst working today. His arguments are usually carefully considered and well supported empirically. For a generation of younger defense intellectuals, he is very much the gold standard, the model to emulate.
His recent essay in the American Interest (Is It Worth It? The Difficult Case for War in Afghanistan) has been widely cited as the best defense for expanding the American commitment there. The problem is that while Biddle claims that the decision is a close call, it is only close by virtue of what can only be described as sloppy reasoning.
There are three key problems with Biddle's essay. First, his definition of American interests in Afghanistan is incoherent. Second, he bolsters his case by arguing against a strawman. Third, he makes the bizarre assumption that being better at counter-insurgency (COIN) is the same as being good enough at it to win. I will deal with all three in turn...
Much more at ASP Flashpoint.