Weekend Reading: Labor Day Edition

August 30, 2013

Happy Friday, all! It’s been another big week in international affairs and we’ve rounded up the top stories for your weekend reading pleasure. While you’re sitting in the sun enjoying one of the last weekends of the summer, be sure to check these out.

Given, what’s happening in the world, we’re kicking this off with our top picks on what to read on Syria:

  • First, don’t forget to check out the British Joint Intelligence Organization (JTI)’s report claiming “a limited but growing body of intelligence” showed that Assad’s regime was behind the August 21st attacks, which left at least 355 people dead.
  • The XX Committee’s most recent blog post shares some strategic insights into how the Obama administration should approach its line of attack for Syria.
  • Tom Nichols lays out his brutally honest, top seven reasons to engage in military action against the Syrian government.
  • The Bulletin offers a disturbing multimedia slideshow tracing the history of the chemical weapons allegedly used in Syria.

Mapping out CIVMIL Roles: At Small Wars Journal, Edward J. McDonnell III reviews a new bill before Congress intended to mobilize the hard lessons learned Iraq and Afghanistan into a body of working knowledge to suffuse the planning and ethos of future stability operations.  He proposes some enhancements to the law-in-waiting, which I am sure Congress – being as effective and functional as they are – will take up.

“Analogies from history must, of course, be treated with care…”: This piece from The Diplomat makes a counterargument to the viewpoint that a South Korean nuclear arsenal—as based on the U.S.-Soviet Cold War model of nuclear deterrence—would prevent future aggression. Rather, the authors point to the antagonistic experience of India and Pakistan, two new nuclear states in South Asia, as a more realistic model for comparison for those calling for South Korea to go nuclear.

Snowden Strikes Again: Yesterday, the Washington Post released details of the $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013—also known as the National Intelligence Program Summary — obtained from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The information maps out how the intelligence community used the money, as well as how it performed against the goals set by the president and Congress (Spoiler alert: not well). While the Post did not release the 178-page report in its entirety, the piece offers multimedia visuals of the spending and the capacity to skim through select pages of the actual document.

Cartels—A New Trend in Academia: For our scholarly audience, this Atlantic piece examines the problems with “impact factors” that are used to measure how often papers published in one journal are cited by other journals. The first of these problems is the emergence of “citation cartels” (obviously in South America) to increase journal impact factors. The second is the limitations placed on publishing results of real-world impact studies in within a set of limited-circulation journals. WOTR’s verdict: get a blog.

Egypt, Past and Present: The Nervana blog has a new post comparing the events of 1981 after President Sadat’s assassination to the present, following the forced ending of the Pro-Morsi sit-ins.  While the current crisis has a different context and narrative, it nonetheless poses the same questions that many Egyptians were asking in 1981, “How will Egypt’s Islamists deal with the leadership’s brutal crackdown?” The author draws on Algerian and Turkish models to offer insight into how the current standoff will end between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military.

At a Glance: Think Progress posted a graph demonstrating why it’s easier to buy an assault weapon than to vote in the United States.

The Kremlim and Wikileaks: Joshua Foust makes the case that Wikileaks may be infiltrated by Russian intelligence in this piece for War Is Boring. Foust traces the history of Wikileaks’ relationship with the Russian government, Snowden’s journalists, and Snowden himself to demonstrate that in this long chain of events, coincidence seems a little too convenient.

Technology Companies vs. the Government: Patrick Gray’s piece for Wired argues that there is a looming standoff between technology companies and the government over NSA’s information collection programs, even though much of the recent focus has portrayed the two as being in the same camp. With angry customers now demanding greater privacy options, technology companies now have the motivation and opportunity to meet these demands.

A Feel-Good Read. Not: Buzzfeed’s list of 22 facts about politics that will make you feel old. Read it and weep, people.

And be sure to check out WOTR’s Syria commentary:

  • Contributor Jack McDonald uses the Melian dialogue to argue that Assad is in control and exerting power over the United States.
  • Ryan Evans explains any U.S. attack in Syria should be aimed to impose costs that outweigh any benefits of using chemical weapons.
  • Michael Noonan offers his three “realist” rationales for U.S. intervention.
  • Phillip Carter makes his case for the need to build a legal foundation for armed intervention.
  • John Amble highlights the international response to the looming U.S. attack on Syria. He also takes on the disproportionate number of Canadians fighting alongside rebels in Syria.
  • Al Mauroni examines how the U.S. government is preparing to handle Syria’s chemical weapons.
  • Brian Fishman looks at the resurgence of AQI in the Middle East and what its influence in Syria may mean for the United States.
  • And some of D.C.’s finest get together to debate Syria and government secrets in our most recently released podcast.


Lauren Katzenberg is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks. In between delivering mind-blowing national security reads, she raises baby baboon orphans on a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia. True story. 


Photo Credit: Andrew Mason, Flickr