Weekend Reading, August 9

August 9, 2013

Photo Credit: Jack Somerville


Happy Friday and a slightly belated Eid Mubarak to our Muslim friends from everyone at WOTR! Here is this weekend’s recommended reading list. Check it out and be sure to send us your recommendations next week by tweeting us at @WarontheRocks.

Media redeems itself in Watchdog role: Pew Research’s Center released a new report yesterday evaluating public opinion of news organizations’ performance, with feedback on accuracy, fairness, and independence. Results show public opinion continues to drop, nearly hitting all-time lows. However, there is a bright spot among these dismal ratings: in the wake of revelations about certain government activities, broad majorities agree that the press acts as a watchdog by preventing political leaders from doing things that they shouldn’t do, a view that has been widely held over the past three decades. The report also indicates that the Internet is now the main source for national and international news for those under the age of 50. Be sure to read the report for more media-related updates and figures.  We are offended that Pew didn’t even mention the War on the Rocks launch last month, but whatever…

Women and war: Foreign Policy looks at why women are less inclined to start wars by examining the underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions responsible for the use of military force. Money line: “The time-honored connection between looking ‘tough,’ masculine, and bombing others endures, which makes military force the appealing default solution for so many U.S. foreign policy problems.”  We agree with the author, Micah Zenko – there is something terribly wrong with this picture.

A question of principles: Jay Rosen takes on the question of whether there can be an informed public and consent-of-the-governed for decisions regarding electronic surveillance, or should these principles be discarded for purposes of national security. In this piece, Rosen draws out a great analysis as to why secrecy threatens our democratic system. His post is then cited in an article posted on the The Atlantic on Rep. James Sensenbrenner, author and longtime advocate of the Patriot Act, who has recently been reborn as one of the Act’s biggest skeptics, voicing concern that the law is being used (and abused) to violate the right of U.S. citizens. We’re recommending you read both pieces.

Three-for-one deal: The Armed Forces Journal has revamped their web site and posted three articles that we’re particularly excited about this week.  First is Peter Singer’s feature discussing lessons for leaders from the interwar years on what the QDR should be asking, but isn’t.  The second piece outlines the Global Horizons study, launched by the Air Force in order to identify science and technology areas that offer the best promise for revolutionary capabilities in the future. Author Mark Maybury calls it a “blueprint” for finding ways that the Air Force can benefit from the $1.4 trillion spent each year on global R&D efforts.  And last, but certainly not least, WOTR contributor T.X. Hammes takes a wack at another U.S. Navy golden calf – the aircraft carrier.

A history lesson: Check out this very cool article with photos on how modern art helped win WWII. In the 1940s, ideas about visual perception from the art world were transplanted directly from salons to barracks. Had a bunch of pre-era hipsters not been so intent on figuring out how humans perceive the world around them, “Allied forces wouldn’t have been so adept at concealing and detecting it.” And on the entertainment front, check out this fun trailer for The Monuments Men, a film starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray that tells of the story of “a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.”  It is based on the book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel.

The Information War: Al-Qaida-1 | America 0: In this National Journal article, Sara Sorcher argues that in the war of information, and misinformation, al-Qaida is winning. After intercepting a call allegedly between senior al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the head of Yemen-based AQAP, the Obama administration closed nearly two dozen diplomatic missions and essentially issued a global travel alert to the world due to the heightened potential for a terrorist attack. Whether this is a legitimate threat or simply a ruse, al-Qaida has successfully spread fear throughout the West through the extensive media coverage of the call and disrupted U.S. operations as the government scrambles to prevent any potential attacks. In the battle between us and them, a piece of well-placed information can still weaken our entire country, even without any exchange of fire.

An Interview with the big guy: Proceedings magazine has a great interview with the newly retired Admiral James Stavridis. Stavridis talks about his former challenges as SACEUR, the caliber of today’s junior officers and enlisted, and the U.S. Naval Institute, where he’ll be taking over as its Board Chair this summer.

WOTR Highlight of the Week: This week we are encouraging everyone to re-read Jason Fritz’s great piece on the human instinct that makes us crave peace and the problems with this craving. There’s nothing like a good dose of Foucauldian to start off the weekend.


We’d also like to give a shout out to our Editor-in-Chief, Ryan Evans, who celebrated his birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, boss!



Lauren Katzenberg is an Assistant Editor at War on the Rocks.