Probably not even a word. But some things are and some aren’t. Subject to being finessed, that is.

What I’m trying to say is that you can solve some problems with the application of rather fine and subtle technique. Other problems, they just don’t budge. Most problems maybe.

Take public education, with which I was involved for quite a few years. If a population of students comes out of a social matrix which is indifferent (at best) or antagonistic (at worst) to academic achievement, the best teaching methods in the world will probably have negligible impact. That doesn’t mean that all those wonderful and data-driven “best practices” shouldn’t be tried. It means that thinking they’re going to really solve the problem of low academic achievement may, in my opinion, be regarded as (apologies to William Barrett) an “illusion of technique.”

Likewise, finessing the deficits caused by the proposed healthcare reform, you know, by finding all those Medicare inefficiencies and digitalizing medical records and such. Sounds very unlikely to me.

And I’m beginning to think, along with George Will and this guy, that maybe Afghanistan falls into the unfinessable category. Maybe it’s not unwinnable, but in surging against the insurgents, just how brutal are you willing to be? Like this Luttwak dude sez:

And, yes, it is possible for counterinsurgency to succeed, says Luttwak of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It depends on how much “blood and treasure” you put into it. Few people know as much about irregular warfare as Luttwak does — and he is not impressed by what he has seen in the Middle East. Luttwak, 65, who is the author of Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, says U.S. troops should pull out of Afghanistan. “What the fuck are we doing there?” he asks. “Much better to abandon it and do occasional punitive expeditions as opposed to counterinsurgency and its enormous costs. I’ve been to Afghanistan. Basically, you’d have to kill every single Afghan and take all the children and put them in boarding school, preferably in England.”

He goes further.

Luttwak has come to the conclusion that the U.S. doctrine of counterinsurgency is doomed, largely because nearly all counterinsurgency campaigns end in disaster.

I guess he’s probably right. But nice suggestion, those English boarding schools. Worth a shot anyway.


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