Weekend Reading, November 22-24

November 22, 2013

Hopefully everyone has survived another crazy week and is officially counting down the days until Thanksgiving (we are at least). Here is our recommended list of reads that were published over the past week.

Enjoy the weekend!

Remember John F. Kennedy, 50 Years Later: Marking the 50th anniversary since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Adam Gopnik, writing for the New Yorker, reviews the JFK conspiracies and their authors through the generations.  He concludes that the problem with the “truth” behind the JFK shooting was not an absence of intelligence, but rather having too much intelligence to add up intelligently.  Gopnik writes: “Oswald’s life reminds us that modernity in America, with its rootless wanderings and instant connections, permanent dislocations and endless reinventions, is a kind of coincidence machine, generating two or three degrees of separation between the unlikeliest of fellows.”

Also, to remember JFK today, we’re including this video embedded by NPR of his 1961 inauguration speech, which still resonates with American culture half a century later. And be sure to listen to Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman’s recent lecture in Washington, DC on what we can learn from JFK’s strategy.

Another Fifty-Year Milestone: Also celebrating a 50th anniversary is the Peace Corps. The Small Wars Journal article examines the Peace Corps’ contribution to national security making the argument that it is one of the DoD’s best values for money and should be spared the budget axe.

Myths and Misconceptions: The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ blog has a post this week breaking down the many of the myths that have been constructed around the Snowden links and NSA. Author Nigel Inkster tackles misconceptions on both sides of the debate deriving from views that the United States is the world number one rogue actor, to those who consider U.S. legislation in the digital age to be out date.

Using Big Data to Prevent or Intervene: This week, peacebuilding practitioner and blogger, Helena PuigLarrauri, wrote about the Global Data on Events, Location and Tone (GDELT) dataset, which is being used to measure the global news tone of the press around the world, summarizing combined views on the likely outcome of a particular event. UNDP is using GDELT in a pilot study as a conflict early warning system; however, Larrauri asks the question, what kind of data on the potential conflict is a system like DGELT providing in the face of potential conflict? She points to using these types of big data tools to better understand the intervention points in potential conflicts, rather than trying to prevent them.

The Cold War in Asia in 15 Minutes or Less: The Washington Post featured a fun and easy-to-follow video tracing the history of the Cold War in Asia. Viewing friendly for kids and adults!

Washington’s New Wealth: Also from the Washington Post this week, Greg Jaffe and Jim Tankersley examine the new rich in Washington, who have profited from a surge in government spending over the last decade. However, now as the government tries to drastically cut spending costs, business-owners and Washington’s highly educated workforce will have to look outside of federal spending to maintain their success.

Miscommunication within the Muslim Brotherhood: The Nervana blog has an interesting piece this week on recent statements issued by the Muslim Brotherhood that seem to contradict one another. Author Nervana Mahmoud lays out the potential explanations for MB’s new stance on negotiating, demonstrating how volatile the group is in the current climate.

War on the Rocks Roundup: WOTR had some great pieces this week, including the contest winners of are our defense spending and strategy essay contest. In case you missed it, be sure to give these pieces a read:

The winners of our essay contest answered the following question in 1000 words or less, Congress has dramatically reduced funding for the DoD under sequester, but has not allowed the Department to cut base structure, benefits, or end strength to anything like the same degree. The Department has done the only thing it can in this situation, cutting operations and maintenance to the bone, but still can’t balance the books. What should the Department of Defense do?

Also don’t miss the latest from Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “The Anatomy of an Evolving Threat: Publication of Classified Information” and Robert Haddick’s article “Crisis Management Needs a Makeover”, which questions whether U.S. crisis management strategy is still up to par.

Finally, be sure to check out what books are sitting on the night stands of our editorial team. Tweet us your thoughts or recommendations or comment here:

John Amble: White House Years by Henry Kissinger

Ryan Evans: Life’s Good, Brother: A Novel by Nazim Hikmet

Lauren Katzenberg: The Price You Pay by Somnath Batabyal

Usha Sahay: Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late by Joe Cirincione

Stephen Tankel: Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding by Husain Haqqani


Lauren Katzenberg is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks


Image: Richard West, Flickr