Monday, February 8, 2010

Regrets, I have a Few

A couple of years ago, I was approached by a graduate student with ambition and an interesting idea--the US Dept of Defense was giving out huge amounts of money for social science research (Minerva), and he thought I should grab some of it.  My idea, spawned in part by my trip in Dec 07 to Afghanistan, was to figure out how to measure success in a counter-insurgency war. In the lingo: metrics. 

Well, as this post by Ricks indicates, this is still a big problem.  So, why didn't I go for it? 
  • Time was short.  I needed to assemble a team of scholars quickly.
  • It would be a significant diversion from my current research agenda: understanding the domestic politics of countries operating in Afghanistan, the next book on the IR of ethnic conflict (diaspora), the old project on institutions and ethnic conflict that is long overdue.
  • A realization that I was not really the right guy to be doing the project--I am no expert on counter-insurgency or in collecting data in war-torn societies.  I had a really good question, but I don't know if I could have developed any answers to it.  "A man has got to know his limitations."  Indeed.
So, I don't regret that I stopped the pursuit of this project before it got going.  Not really.  But I wonder sometimes, since I am apparently not the only one lacking an answer to this really important question.

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