Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gates vs Auerswald & Saideman

Ok, Bob Gates has taught us a few lessons about how to promote a book..... leak copies to the NYT, WashPo and Wall Street Journal where they excerpt the most critical things you say about folks you worked closely with over the years.  Well done!

But since our book on Afghanistan (and Libya) is coming out at the same time as Gates's book on Afghanistan (and Iraq and other stuff), let me highlight a few differences that make the Dave and Steve book a better use of your book-buying dollar.
  • Gates's memoir has all that nasty finger-pointing gossip that is fun to read but makes you feel dirty for enjoying it.  Our book has almost none of that, so it has none of the bitter after-taste.
  • Gates's book is just going to provide a heap of confirmation bias as people will read into his book whatever they want to see--criticisms of Bush, criticisms of Obama, that Gates was flawed, etc.  Our book has none of that--just cool social science that will create new biases.
  • Gates focuses on one country, whereas we focus on ten and cover more in shorter cuts.  So, if you like American exceptionalism, buy his book.  If you like keen comparative analyses, then buy ours. 
  • Gates's book is more than twice as long and has pictures; our book is punchy, concise and has cool tables and figures.
I will eventually post my own reactions to Gates's book.  Thus far, all we have are juicy quotes and excerpts.  My reactions now are mostly focused on his views of the National Security Staff (used to be and will be again NSC): that they were too involved in military matters.  Which sounds a whole lot like complaints by the Canadian military folks about civilians who mucked about with Afghan policy.  The reality is in both cases that counter-insurgency requires "whole of government" efforts, which means that no single department gets to run the show and that most governments will need somebody close to the executive to oversee such stuff.  This does not mean that it will go well or that people will be happy, but it does mean that Ministers and military leaders will be upset with people looking over their shoulder. 

Anyhow, Gates's does look to be quite interesting although you already have my recommendation on what to read....

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