Author: Matthew Cancian

Rationality and Sarin Gas: What Social Science Tells Us About Assad’s Chemical Weapons Attack

If Assad wanted to know what would provoke Donald Trump to attack him directly, fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles gave the answer on April 6. Two days earlier, the town of Khan Sheikhoun southwest of Idlib was hit by a deadly nerve agent, likely sarin gas, killing over eighty civilians. This was the same nerve agent that Syrian armed forces used in a rebel-held area near Damascus in 2013, which triggered President Obama’s famous red line. While Russia insists the attack was a false flag operation, several factors indicate that the regime was behind the recent attack, despite their ostensible disarmament. First,...

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FM 3-24-2.0? Why US Counterinsurgency Doctrine Needs an Update

The Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, provided a much-needed course change for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by focusing the attention of commanders on factors that are not traditionally the concern of the American military. While many commanders had already recognized that conventional tactics were ill-matched to dealing with insurgencies and had adapted accordingly, others were still fighting the insurgents on an ad hoc and counterproductive manner in 2006. The “Neo-Classical” framework that underpins the FM 3-24, however, is based on political science about the revolutionary insurgencies of the Cold War. This “classical” school of Cold War–era counterinsurgency...

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Culture Wars

If we don’t recognize how culture influences why people fight, we won’t be able to recognize coming wars until it’s too late. And if we don’t see how cultures shape how people fight, we won’t be able to win those wars when they come.

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