Weekend Reading: November 15

November 15, 2013

It’s Friday again! We hope you’re as excited for the weekend as we are. Here’s what our team has been reading this week.

Have a great weekend!

New this week: We were excited to see some great content in POLITICO Magazine, the new venture launched this week with former Foreign Policy editor-in-chief Susan Glasser at the helm. Check out Rosa Brooks’ “Obama vs. the Generals,” which explores the relationship between the commander-in-chief and the military. Is the “White House-Pentagon relationship in crisis,” as some of Brooks’ sources allege? We’d love to hear what you think.

Death of a(nother) jihadist: Last week, our own Stephen Tankel analyzed the implications of the killing of Pakistani militant Hakimullah Mehsud. This week, read Joshua Foust in Defense One on the shooting of Nasiruddin Haqqani. Foust offers thoughts on what this will mean for the Haqqani Network as well as for peace talks with the Taliban.

The making of the Snowden affair: In an essay in the latest New York Review of Books, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, offers his take on his publication’s role in the Snowden controversy and, more broadly, the role that the press does and should play in modern society. Plus, there’s already a back-and-forth going between the author and one critical reader who wrote in. We’re sure many of you will have strong feelings on Rusbridger’s piece – write them up for us!

(Want more? WOTR’s Mark Stout weighed in this week on the long-term implications of the Snowden affair, suggesting that he’s an example of the ‘super-empowered individual’  whose capacity to do societal harm is only going to increase.’)

Executing the Order: This fascinating Reuters report on Iran’s Supreme Leader zooms in on Ayatollah Ali Khameini’s little-known “economic empire.” This empire, whose name translates to “Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam,” is the nexus of a shocking amount of wealth that moves within Iran’s shadowy system – $95 billion, by one estimate. This powerful organization, Reuters finds, “built its empire on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians.”

Just when you thought the Cold War was over: In a long essay for The National Interest, Nikolas K. Gvosdev writes that Russia is making a major push to modernize its nuclear forces. Gvosdev describes what the upgraded Russian nuclear force might look like, and delves into the strategic relevance of Russian nuclear weapons – both in Moscow and closer to home.

Africa not rising yet: Rick Rowden writes in The European that the oft-touted ‘Africa Rising’ narrative has a key flaw: the colonial legacy. He argues that markets haven’t changed as much as we think they have in the past few decades, and that Africa won’t be able to industrialize until it’s able to break out of the cycle largely set by wealthy, industrialized nations. 

Doesn’t bode well: In a piece for the New Yorker, May Jeong describes how years of foreign involvement have created a wartime economic bubble that is sure to burst as NATO troops prepare to leave. Jeong interviews a number of ordinary Afghans to learn about how the shifting economic sands are affecting them, and what worries they have about the end of the ‘war boom.’

Trump card: In The Diplomat, Zachary Keck reports on China’s quest to establish air and sea control in the South China Sea. Keck posits that the comments of Senior Colonel Du Wenlong may be significant – they appear to suggest that Air-Sea Battle could become the go-to plan for the People’s Liberation Army in the South China Sea.

(Want more? In our own virtual pages this week, we had Frank Hoffman discuss AirSea Battle and how the concept should be thought about closer to home as the Quadrennial Defense Review is rolled out. And Mark Safranski points out that the real way to avoid war with China is to understand Chinese strategic thinking. Or as Sun Tzu put it so many centuries ago: “know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles.”)

“What was the point?” Writing in The Atlantic, Brookings’ Shadi Hamid questions why the Obama administration bothered to cut off aid to Egypt at all. He argues that the administration’s “heart wasn’t in it” and that what we ended up with was a half-measure that “seemed to capture the worst of both worlds.”

WOTR roundup: We had plenty of interesting coverage on WOTR this week. In case you missed it, be sure to give these pieces a read:

  • Not just sanctions: Iran’s negotiating posture has clearly changed, but it’s not only due to economic pressure. Afshon Ostovar describes the broader shifts in the strategic sands that are underway in the Persian Gulf.
  • A missile deal gone awry? In his excellent debut piece for our site, Joshua Walker looks at the ebb and flow of US-Turkey relations through the lens of a contentious new missile deal.
  • On the all-volunteer force: This week, we welcomed Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. to our editorial team. His first piece was a Veterans’ Day reflection on the all-volunteer force and the message that ongoing defense budget debates send to our men and women in uniform.