Weekend Reading: October 18

October 18, 2013

It’s Friday again, and here at WOTR we’re most excited that the government is open for business and that we surpassed EIC Ryan Evans in Twitter followers.

Here’s what our team is reading this weekend:

What’s behind the Nobel: The best analysis we saw of the OPCW’s Nobel Prize came from Jeffrey Lewis at Foreign Policy, who took a close look at the nearly century-long effort to ban chemical weapons and their usage. He makes a poignant comparison between chemical and nuclear weapons, asking why efforts to eliminate one form of WMD have been so much more successful than the other.

“It’s going to be special:” It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: the Army is looking to create a real-life version of the Iron Man suit. The TALOS, or Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, unfortunately won’t fly like Tony Stark’s suit did. Still, this particular brainchild of Admiral McRaven looks pretty sweet. Sign us up for the waitlist.

Pinprick nitpick: In The Atlantic, Lionel Beehner argues that, contra President Obama’s remark that the U.S. doesn’t engage in ‘pinprick’ strikes, the U.S. has in fact engaged in pretty much only in pinpricks and other smaller-scale interventions in this century. He situates this within a broader trend away from formal declarations of war and toward smaller, more discrete operations that receive less oversight and serve political, rather than strategic, purposes.

(Want more? The article is a nice round-up of a lot of important arguments made during the Syria debate about how the U.S. wages war. In particular, it reminded us of Ryan’s earlier critique of Secretary Kerry’s suggestion that strikes on Syria wouldn’t be war).

“A national synonym for fear:” From National Geographic comes a fascinating longread about how the Islamist group Boko Haram affects not just daily life in Nigeria, but also the national psyche. James Verini’s beautifully reported piece zooms in on the city of Kano, detailing the complex ways in which residents deal with the ever-present threat from Boko Haram.

There’s an idea: We couldn’t stop reading this piece in The Atlantic by Douglas Birch of the Center for Public Integrity. Birch details the surprisingly rich – and unsurprisingly controversial – history of the idea that we could counter an asteroid strike with nuclear warheads. From arms control treaties to the interests of weapons labs to the role of the Russians, we guarantee there’s a ton in this article that you never knew before. 

 Metternich, lovesick: Do lust and love influence international relations? Franz-Stefan Gady thinks it does. In a fun piece for The National Interest, he looks at statesmen from Marc Antony to Thomas Jefferson whose actions on the national and international stages were influenced by love affairs. Gady focuses on Klemens von Metternich, whose love life in the months leading up to the Congress of Vienna is worthy of its own soap opera – and may have changed the course of history, too.

Counterintuitive counterterrorism: Our very own Will McCants has a fascinating piece in Foreign Policy on a new fund to counter extremism around the world. McCants suggests that programs like these often neglect, for political reasons, the need to reform “fanboys,” or law-abiding citizens who sympathize with terrorist groups, at the expense of serious progress on counter-radicalization.

On a different note: WOTR readers have been hearing a lot about naval strategy as it pertains to China. Here’s WOTR friend Robert Farley with a look at China’s quest for air power. Farley argues that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is actually in a good place, given the close relationships between the services, suggesting that this will help the air force support China’s increasing focus on the seas.

(Want more? If you want to dig deeper, here’s the full version of the paper that Farley analyzes in his short piece). 

Not just headless goats: A feature on modern Kazakhstan in the Australian magazine The Monthly delves into the country’s efforts to enter the modern era. Sheila Fitzpatrick chronicles in rich detail the attempt to craft a unique Kazakh history in the post-Soviet era. The Kazakh sport of kokpar, in which players throw around a headless goat, is just one of the many new things we learned reading this fun piece.

WOTR weekly roundup: If you’re only just catching up on this week’s WOTR posts, make sure you don’t miss these:

Usha Sahay is an Assistant Editor at War on the Rocks.