It was a great pleasure to have an occasion to think through how my previous work on counterinsurgencies connects to my current work on logistics. The occasion was an invitation to lecture at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. The abstract is as follows:
It is a banal cliche of military thinking that the deployment of coercive forces to the battlefields requires a substantial commitment in logistical support for the transport of goods, materiel, and personnel to the war-zone, the maintenance of forces there, and their eventual withdrawal from there. In counterinsurgency warfare, which is predicated on the deployment of large numbers of forces, persuasion or coercion of civilian populations into supporting the counterinsurgent force, and the transformation of the civilian milieu as much as the military space, this logistical function becomes even more crucial. In this talk I will be thinking through the ways in which the making of logistical infrastructures -roads, ports, warehouses, and transport- has been crucial to the wars the US has waged since 2001 in Southwest Asia, and how these infrastructures in turn transform the social, political, and economic lives of the region they leave behind.
The lecture can be seen here:
Update (added on 11 May): Upon watching the opening clip of the lecture (the famous “What have the Romans ever done for us” scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian), Prof Barnett Rubin writes that
It is not widely known that this scene is based on a passage from the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, 33b:
R. Judah, R. Jose, and R. Simeon were sitting, and Judah, a son of proselytes, was sitting near them. R. Judah commenced [the discussion] by observing, ‘How fine are the works of this people [the Romans]! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.’ R. Jose was silent. R. Simeon b. Yohai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them.’ Now, Judah the son of proselytes went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Judah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted. Jose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Simeon, who censured, let him be executed.
I absolutely love this, because of course the original Talmudic text even better confirms the argument I make in the lecture.