Why We Blog
Welcome to Bellum, a new media project of The Stanford Review. Conceived in January 2009, this collaborative blog brings together a team of Stanford alums who, despite having entered professional fields quite far removed from war, have nevertheless retained a passion for international security affairs and geopolitics. Ideally, Bellum will serve as much as a creative outlet for us as a useful resource for you.
We would like to extend our appreciation to the other blogs that provide coverage to this space. Particular stand-outs include James Dunnigan and Al Nofi at Strategypage.com, Noah Shachtman and his team of contributors at Wired.com’s Danger Room, Dave Dilegge and Bill Nagle at Small Wars Journal, and Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal. We look forward to joining the important discussions already ongoing, as well as sparking some new ones.
Finding a niche will admittedly take time, but we enter the fray with a few strongly held beliefs that we hope will generate some uncommon insights. The first is a pronounced suspicion of theoretical frameworks that strike us as either too complicated or too simple. Ohio State University military historians Williamson Murray and Mark Grimsley encapsulated this rather well in their anthology, The Making of Strategy (Cambridge University Press, 1994):
While models and categories may assist analysis, they can offer no formulas for the successful framing of strategy or conduct of war. Theories all too often aim at fixed values, but in war and strategy most things are uncertain and variable. Worse, such approaches deflect inquiry toward objective factors, whereas strategy involves human passions, values, and beliefs, few of which are quantifiable…Reality is far too subtle and complex to accomodate mere theory. At best, theory can provide a way of organizing the complexities of the real world for study.
The second is a pronounced worry that some of the thinking prevalent in today’s discourse not only obscures reality but positively promotes fantasy. Debates are all too often reduced to point-counterpoint affairs, dissenters from orthodoxies are hounded and maligned, and some topics are declared off-limits altogether. If pieces of the global puzzle are shoved off the table simply because they are unseemly or otherwise inconvenient, we can never hope to solve it with any degree of satisfaction. On this concern we remember Hoover Institution senior fellow Robert Conquest’s words just a month after September 11th:
How can a citizen be called educated if he has been trained to misunderstand the world?
The third and final is a pronounced desire to elevate the role of logistics, geography, economics, and history in discussions about military affairs. As Williamson Murray has frequently lamented, asking the right questions is paramount. Whether American troops can deploy to Darfur is as important a question as whether they should.
Thanks for reading. We hope you visit often.