Weekend Reading, October 4-6

October 4, 2013

It’s Friday again, and we’re enjoying the Hobbesian reality of a government shutdown! Amidst all the shutdown drama, there’s been plenty going on in the world. Take a look at what we’re reading this weekend.

See you on Monday!

Planning for a U.S.-China showdown: It’s been a banner week for analysis of U.S. strategy toward China – if you missed Jason Glab’s tour de force on blockading China, be sure to give it a look. We also enjoyed Sydney Freedberg’s take on the reverse – that is, China’s strategic approach to the U.S. Freedberg argues in Breaking Defense that Chinese planners may have a psychological disposition to resort to preemption. Read the piece for an interesting look at how exactly China might adopt a preemptive strategy, including a quote from WOTR’s own Dean Cheng.

(Want more? Here are five misconceptions about China’s military,  by Lt. Col Dennis Blasko).

A reflection on war reporting: We love this LRB piece by Patrick Cockburn, which discusses some of the pitfalls of reporting from a combat zone. Cockburn looks at Iraq, Libya, Syria, and other conflicts and suggests that war reporters too often get distracted by the drama of combat or of horror stories from one side or the other, and fail to take into account the complexity of the big picture. Readers who have been there, we’d love to hear your take on this.

Photo gallery: From TIME.com, here’s a series of striking images capturing the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

Economic Warfare is Scary: That’s how you feel after you listen to our new podcast with Tom Quiggin, Marc Tyrrell and their friends.

The ultimate #slatepitch: Nick Baumann, writing in Slate, makes the contrarian argument that Neville Chamberlain has been unfairly maligned by historical memory. Baumann takes a close look at the political and military situation confronting Chamberlain, concluding that the so-called appeaser had no choice but to keep Britain out of war.

(Want more? Apparently Chamberlain revisionism is in this week. Here’s historian Robert Self arguing, similarly, that Chamberlain’s decision-making was the best it could have been under the circumstances. The history dorks in us loved the shot of Chamberlain’s planner from September 1939).

“We are prisoners here:” Yochi Dreazen has a disturbing story in Foreign Policy about a group of American contractors marooned on bases in Kuwait due to a nasty legal dispute. With both the U.S. Army and the government seemingly powerless to get these U.S. citizens out of Kuwait, 19 of them are waging war in court, in the hopes of being allowed home. Several members of the WOTR team have spent some time on military bases in Kuwait, Ali Al Salem in particular, and none of them have anything nice to say about it.

Not sure how we feel about this: A new book by Diane Francis makes the case for the U.S. and Canada merging into one giant economic juggernaut…or something. Read what Francis had to say to Foreign Policy, and check out an excerpt of the book. (Editor’s note: if this ever happens, we’ll consider ourselves ahead of the curve since, as we mentioned, we recently expanded our podcast operations into the Great White North.)

Charm offensive from Tehran? There’s been a flurry of commentary on Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, and whether he represents a shift in U.S.-Iran relations. Here’s Gary Sick, who served in the NSC during the Iranian hostage crisis, weighing in on Rouhani’s conciliatory performance in New York last week and what recent history can tell us to expect from his administration.

(Want more?  Kaveh Waddell points out in Defense One that the logistics of rolling back sanctions on Iran, even if negotiations get us to that point, are much trickier than we might expect.)

If you thought the shutdown was rough…Try running out of toilet paper. That’s what’s going on in Venezuela, where economic turmoil and a dearth of consumer goods is hitting the toilet paper supply pretty hard. Disgruntled Venezuelans blame the Chavistas, the left-wing followers of the late Hugo Chavez. If you’re going to make bathroom jokes on Twitter about this (we certainly are), we dare you to outdo the hashtag mentioned in this story:  #LosChavistasSeLimpianElCuloConLaPatria (#ChavistasWipeTheirBehindsWithTheFatherland).

WOTR highlights from this week: Don’t miss the latest in T.M. Gibbons-Neff’s great series on representations of war – this one explains why war is not like a video game. And check out Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Bridget Moreng on Al-Qaeda vs. the Sahwa, as well as Mark Stout on the metrics of war.


Usha Sahay is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks.


Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr