Released at the height of the 2010s anti-ISIS campaign, The ISIS Solution is a short book by several SOFRep authors, which include such familiar names as Jack Murphy and Peter Nealen. It offers critique and recommendations, and since I knew their books well, I wondered how their nonfiction commentary would go. As commentators, they’re pretty good novelists.
As the saga of “Mean” Joe Greene’s transformation from the best defensive lineman to the worst football commentator ever attests, being good in one field doesn’t translate to being successful in another. Granted, some of this is due to the book being short and aimed at a much broader audience than actual security analysts. But more of it is due to a phenomenon I’ve seen sadly too often.
I call this Fire Joe Morgan-ism (not surprisingly, Morgan was another athlete who went from brilliant player to dubious commentator). There a group of spicy screenwriters (seriously) who dabbled in baseball analytics took pride in dogpiling on all the old crusty baseball hacks who didn’t know any stat beyond batting average. It basically amounts to going ahead of the absolute worst baseline (sportswriters in that case, network talking heads in this one) by showing that you do have genuine knowledge of it (military operations/baseball stats), and then doing a little dance and a victory lap because you’ve overcome such an easy target.
Granted, this probably wasn’t as surprising as I’d thought. Murphy’s books ranged from “blatantly political even when good” to “unironic Metal Gear Solid plotline”, while Nealen’s commentary attempts in Maelstrom Rising sank it a lot compared to the far more apolitical Blackhearts series. But it’s still disappointing, and there are a lot better sources out there.