Weekend Reading: First Edition

July 12, 2013

Welcome to War on the Rocks’ Weekend Reading! Every week, we’ll round up the most interesting content about foreign affairs and national security from around the Web. We hope you’ll visit us on Fridays to see what our editorial team is reading over the weekend.

Here are this week’s picks.

The 17 officers transforming the Pentagon: What is Air-Sea Battle, exactly? The DoD’s new operational concept for countering next-generation threats is being run by just 17 staffers, none of them ranking higher than colonel or Navy captain. “It’s like being a start-up inside a great, big, rigid corporation,” one insider told Breaking Defense. There, Sydney Freedberg investigates ASB and the unplanned escalations that could be the inadvertent consequence of these new frontiers of warfare.

Could one man have shortened the Vietnam War? Malcolm Gladwell tells the fascinating story of Konrad Kellen, a German-Jewish emigre and cousin to Albert Einstein who joined the U.S. Army during World War II and later came to work for the RAND Corporation in 1960.  His work there on the Vietnam War is very much worth your time.

DC Egypt pundits, you’re doing it wrong: At NOW, Hussein Ibish takes aim at American commentators’ misguided attempts to explain the uprisings in Egypt. Ibish uses David Brooks, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and other mainstream sources of commentary to highlight shortcomings of the “looking-glass world of Washington punditry.”

Once upon an arms sale in Libya: A recently declassified cable sent from Tripoli to Belgium in 1975 sheds light on Moammar Qaddafi’s arms dealings with Europe. As C.J. Chivers chronicles in the New York Times, the cable’s author, Belgian ambassador Charles Loodts, stated frankly that Libya did not need the munitions that Belgium was selling it for great profit. Loodts also predicted that the weapons stockpiles would be “useful” to foreign fighters in a post-Qaddafi era. And he was right: as Chivers points out, the weapons stockpiles accumulated during this time have since migrated to other flashpoints like Syria and Mali.

At a glance: From Brussels to Bratislava,  this sleek, informative graphic by Ana Maria Luca of NOW depicts Hezbollah’s presence in a number of major European cities.

“A very bad war is coming.” A special report from Aleppo takes an inside look at the Syrian rebels. Reporting from the front lines, The Nation’s James Harkin explores the rebels’ work to create a parallel state apparatus, the ambiguous relationship between the Free Syrian Army and the Jabhat al-Nusra group, and the jarring ways in which ordinary life goes on for many in Aleppo despite the constant backdrop of war.  Next week, WOTR will be featuring some amazing commentary on Syria. Be sure to check in.

Stay tuned: Keep your eyes peeled for a new e-journal launching soon, the U.S. Military History Review. Visit their website to sign up to receive the first volume for free.

Was Egypt’s coup democratically legitimate? Zach Beauchamp of ThinkProgress examines the tension between rights and democracy on display in Egypt. He finds that the fact of military intervention in Egypt’s fledgling democracy complicates the effort to apply contemporary democratic theory to this example. Instead, Beauchamp suggests, new paradigms will need to be developed and applied as Egypt shapes its new political institutions.